Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators

By Joseph C. Sitterson Jr. | Go to book overview

2
The Rime of the
Ancient MarinerDistinguishing the Certain
from the Uncertain

The issue of narrative point of view in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has until fairly recently surfaced only intermittently as a problem for, rather than a solution to, reading the poem. This might seem odd, since although the poem's narrator is almost invisible, the gloss in the 1817 poem embodies the problem openly. It might seem even odder given formalism's sustained and principled interest in point of view. The most likely immediate cause is the influence of Robert Perm Warren's New Critical reading, which emphasized not point of view but unity in the poem, which unity Warren described in terms of Coleridge's philosophy of sacramental vision and his theory of the imagination.1 This terminology invites an ideological analysis showing how Warren's Christian reading of the poem dominated other formalist responses in although it shared with much New Criticism the commitment to a unity that was a sometimes covertly displaced theological belief; the invitation has been taken up by Homer Brown and McGann, who in dlis way have explained persuasively Warren's importance and influence.2

But I want to emphasize for a theoretical purpose a remark Brown makes for an ideological one, that “Warren's explication of the poem consists of elucidation of the text by reference to Coleridge's critical and

-34-

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