Coleridge and the Uses of Division

Synopsis

Coleridge repeatedly announced the merits of unity, while experiencing the truth of division. A visionary drawn to the numinous, he was also a spontaneous connoisseur of the sensory life; a metaphysician inclined to idealism, his thought was permanently way-laid by a tenacious realism. Such double-mindedness frustrated his ambitions for system, and has often been criticised as a sort of incapacity; but the capability of entertaining equally necessary or valuable kinds of perception, which yet prove ultimately incompatible, might alternatively be thought a kind of virtue - even, perhaps, the secret of his paradoxical, self-defeating genius. The study examines Coleridge's formative double-vision as it manifests itself in his profound self-analysis, his philosophy of mind, his reflections on love and ethics, his descriptions of imagination, and his literary criticism. The focus of many of these mixed feelings is the ambiguous figure of Wordsworth: his momentous and often troubled partnership with Coleridge is examined in detail. Throughout, close attention is paid to Coleridge the writer, the metaphor-maker and stylist, exhibited across the wide range of his oeuvre, in public and private works, prose and poetry. A coda offers a reading of The Ancient Mariner, tracing back the central threads of the study to Coleridges early and surprising masterpiece.