|Imagination in Coleridge|
|John Spencer Hill|
The entire text of this book is available below.
The jacket-design is taken from Snow Storm:
Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps (1812)
by J.M.W. Turner (Tate Gallery, London).
COLERIDGE'S theory of Imagination is the most widely discussed and exhaustively studied aspect of his criticism -- and yet readers have long been handicapped by the fact that his many pronouncements on Imagination lie scattered in unsystematic profusion throughout the whole body of his work. Imagination in Coleridge is a comprehensive "source-book" which collects together these various statements on Imagination (and Fancy), ranging from brief hints and tantalising adumbrations in letters and notebooks to the full-dress discussions in Biographia Literaria and The Statesman's Manual. When brought together they present a body of material which represents Coleridge at his best and which demonstrates both the scope and depth of his thinking about Imagination. Much of this material has become available only recently in accessible form, through the publication of notebooks and letters; some of it has long been out of print; most of it still lies buried in editions which are either unindexed or insufficiently indexed for thematic reference.
In Coleridge's organic system, the functioning of Imagination is not restricted to the sphere of artistic creativity. Rather, its operation is to be discerned in all processes of human cognition and thought, and it serves as an instrument of enquiry in philosophy, psychology, science and technology, as well as in literature and art. For this reason, passages are also included which delineate the role of Imagination in science, education, philosophy, and so forth -- as well as extracts which explicate other seminal terms and aspects of Coleridge's system (e.g., Reason, Understanding, Symbol).
The value of this collection is enhanced by an introductory essay on the genesis and early development of Coleridge's theory of Imagination, by detailed editorial annotations for each of the extracts (designed to guide the reader safely through the erudite complexity of the Coleridgean labyrinth), by numerous cross-connections between separate entries and many cross-references to other sources in Coleridge and elsewhere, and by a comprehensive bibliography of twentieth-century criticism.
'THIS book brings together from a variety of sources what Coleridge had to say about imagination. The 51 extracts range from the celebrated passages in Biographia Literaria and the Statesman's Manual to the hints and guesses in the notebooks, letters and marginalia; and because it allows Coleridge to do most of the talking, this book is quite the best introduction to Coleridge on imagination which is likely to be published. The introduction, though short, is admirably concise.... The editor's commentary is thorough, up-to-date, and perceptive; and my only criticism is that the excellent index contains no specific entry under "religion," and few cross-references to what Coleridge himself referred to as the "union" of "reason and imagination." In spite of this deficiency, here is an essential source-book which should be in all school and college libraries.'
John Coulson, Tablet (!979)
Coleridge in 1795 by Peter Vandyke (National Portrait Gallery, London)
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