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Samuel Coleridge

Major Romantic English writer/poet/thinker

intellectual (schooled at Cambridge) but also radicalattracted to political radicals
(William Godwin and Joseph Priestly) and artistic radicals (William Wordsworth)
Best known for his work with Wordsworth on Lyrical Ballads; also known for Christabel
and Other Poems, Poetical Works, and Biographia Literaria (his major contribution to
literary criticism)
sought to integrate literary analysis with the insights of other disciplines (Leitch, et al.
drew on German philosophers translated their texts and ideas for an English-speaking
world: his critics saw this as plagiarism at worst
Biographia Literaria
distinction between fancy and imagination
creative work of every poet springs from an imaginative power at once available for
analysis yet mysterious in its sources (Leitch, et al. 582)
Theory of primary and secondary imagination creative capacity of every individuals yet
sees God as the source of that creativity
Mixture of modes and genressome autobiography, literary theory, philosophy, literary
criticism, memoir of Wordsworth (Leitch, et al. 581)
a poem is organic--true to itself, acquiring its shape like a plant from a seed and
thereby growing according to its own internal law of development (Leitch, et al. 582)
Coleridge pays little attention to the social networks of signification in which an
authors work takes shape author and his imagination is of primary concern (Leitch, et
al. 582)
(1) those poems to which we return possess genuine power and (2) poetrys power lies in
its inability to be translated (584)
under-current of feeling, admiration for poet: everywhere and nowhere simultaneously
fancy and imagination are not synonyms fancy: mode of Memory emancipated from
the order of time and space [that. . .] must receive all its materials ready made from the
law of association, derivative (586); imagination (the privileged term for Coleridge):

creative, vital, living, has force - it dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create [. .
.and/or] to idealize and to unify (586)
power of poetry: exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth
of nature and giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination
definitions of poem and poet codependent (588)
Poem: one, the parts of which mutually support and explain each other; all in their
proportion harmonizing with, and supporting the purpose and known influences of
metrical arrangement (589) (see also the oppositions needing to be reconciled on bottom
of page 590 to top of 591)
Poet: brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties
to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity (590)

poet, educator, public advocate for his ideas
inspector of English schools from 1851-1883
Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1857-1867
saw schools as the best site for civilizing societysaw literature and literary critique as
that civilizing device/method
Lived at a crucial time when the larger population of England was gaining the right to
vote; major questions that concerned political thinkers and social critics of the time:
Who shall inherit England? (Leitch, et al. 692) and what kinds of power could they be
trusted with? What forms of education should they receive? (Leitch, et al. 692) these
questions concerned Arnold, and he grappled with them in his major works: Essays in
Criticism and Culture and Anarchy
provided literary criticism with an important social function and paved the way for its
institutionalization in the academy (Leitch, et al. 691)
Culture and Anarchy
literature is vitally connected to society and culture (Leitch, et al. 691) [as we read
Wollstonecraft for Wednesday and Marx/Engels for Friday, consider how Arnolds
explanation of the relationship between literature and culture differs from theirs]

Three groups of English society as Arnold saw it: Barbarians (aristocracy), Philistines
(middle class), and Populace (working class)
moral betterment and social renewal, achieved through the appreciative reading of the
best literature (Leitch, et al. 692)
does not concern himself much with specific texts
Poetry, according to Arnold, equipped men and women to perceive authentic value in
the workings of the society and culture around them (Leitch, et al. 693)
In this work, he defines culture as a study of perfection, an internal condition [that]
mandates a sharp yet supple movement of mind, a vigilant guard against an excess of
commitment to a single point of view, and a refusal to accept the alluring power of
extreme, polarizing judgments (Leitch, et al. 693)
Criticism is the function of society that establish[es] an order of ideas and seeks to
make the best ideas prevail (Arnold qtd. in Leitch, et al. 693)
Culture is then properly described not as having its origin in curiosity, but as having its
origin in the love of perfection; it is a study of perfection (715)
But this study, according to Arnold, is also very ethically engaged: It moves by the
force, not merely or primarily of the scientific passion for pure knowledge, but also of the
moral and social passion for doing good (715)
culture is considered not merely as the endeavour to see and learn this, but as the
endeavour, also, to make it prevail, the moral, social, and beneficent character of culture
becomes manifest (716)
sees this as in opposition to what he terms the mechanical or external concerns of the
political, economic, technological forces of the day
Equates the role of religion with the role of culture (or criticism), but he even ultimately
privileges the role of culture (because, he suggests, that theres a tendency for people to
fall into habit with religiositythen it would, too, be merely mechanical as are the other
less important concerns of man, mentioned above): And when we rely as we do on our
religious organisations, which in themselves do not and cannot give us this idea [of
beauty, harmony, and complete human perfection], and think we have done enough if we
make them spread and prevail, then, I say, we fall into our common fault of overvaluing
machinery (721)
Questions about Coleridges Biographia Literaria and Arnolds Culture and Anarchy
Coleridge seems to claim on one hand that a poems continued relevance and popularity
from generation to generation evidences its greatness (seems to be a subjective standard

based on audience reception); on the other hand, he argues for an objective definition
of poetry (reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities). Do these conclusions seem
at odds with one another? Or are the reconciliable?
What does Arnold mean by sweetness and light being characters of perfection (page
720); how can culture and/or criticism achieve this or uncover this sweetness and light?
From what you understand, is Coleridges argument about poetrys power of unifying
oppositions (pages 590-591) similar to and/or different from Arnolds argument that art,
at its best, combines the idea of beauty and of a human nature perfect on all sides with
a religious and devout energy (721)? Explain.
Do you find Coleridges poet (driven as he is by imagination, which, according to
Coleridge, derives from Gods creative power) similar in social function to Arnolds critic
(driven as he is by curiosity, which, according to Arnolddrawn from Montesquieu, is
the desire to augment the excellence of our nature [715])? Explain.
On what authority does Arnold build his argument? In other words, what types of
evidence, sources does he draw from? How is his source material different and/or similar
to Wordsworths?