Is it possible, fruitful, or confusing to view Coleridge’s aesthetic ideas as fragments (parts) toward the composition of a kind of larger theoretical poem (whole)? In other words, can one use Coleridge’s art criticism to comment upon his practice as a theorist? Are his aesthetic ideas applicable to his practice as a critic of the practice of poetic composition? Is it possible that some leverage could be obtained by torquing Coleridge’s theoretical statements about poetry in particular and art in general to comment on his own compositional practice as a critic? Quite simply, is Coleridge’s theory true to the ideals of his critical practice? The caveat here is that it is precisely my intention to answer these questions indirectly. The idea is to use these problems as the hub of a wheel of a widening set of questions whose fragmentary sections, like the spokes of the “old coach wheel,” radiate outward from a central ambiguity (Genial 472). The method is guided by Adorno’s thoughts on the subject of the essay itself, which he suggests “incorporates the anti-systematic impulse into its own way of proceeding and introduces concepts unceremoniously, ‘immediately,’ just as it receives them. They are made more precise only through their relationship to one another” (12). Though the argument appears to be circular it would be more accurate to say that it circulates, and thus reflects upon a process of reciprocal exchanges. One might say of Coleridge that his intuition unfolds over thinking, rather than under-standing.
The presentational aspect of the work of art works form. Form is never static, it is always forming and being formed (“forma informans”– shaping form). Imagination takes on, spreads out and ove…
… the problem between the poles of activity and passivity through the “intermediate” faculty of the imagination. Perhaps it is obvious to state that this nuances the distinction between immediate and mediate. Somehow the poem is then the aesthetic object of mediation in which immediate intuition is made manifest through the intermediate faculty of the imagination.
Adorno, Notes to Literature. vol. I. New York: Columbia UP, 1991.
Benjamin, Walter. The Origin of German Tragic Drama. London: New Left Books, 1977.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Biographia Literaria. London: Everyman, 1991.
On the Principles of Genial Criticism. Critical Theory Since Plato. Ed. Hazard Adams. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. 471-76.
The Statesman’s Manual. Critical Theory Since Plato. Ed. Hazard Adams. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. 476.