Coleridge Critical Ideas and theory
Coleridge’s ultimate gift to human thinking lay in his capability for double perception. He had a wider thinking, a concept that one has to appreciate if they are to grasp the full nature of his continuing influence. He endorsed contemporary respect for the human will and knew from personal experience how unreliable a resource could be (Newlyn 240). Ted Hughes, a twentieth century writer, in his admiration for Coleridge’s theory states that every poet had his own ‘fountain’, which he or she needed to discover so as to release what he had to give. Hughes finds it right for the value of Coleridge’s legacy in his power to rouse in others a dance of imagination similar to his own. After all, it is the most valuable respect in which he lives on for his readers (Newlyn 242).
Imagination in poetry entailed the inspired aspects at the time of composition. The familiarity in normal life ceases to be useful the moment it loses its apparent character. The selfish solicitude is always intent on maintaining the distinction between persons and things since it is a separating or dividing force. This is contrary to social ends and to the sociability of the species. The central doctrine of Coleridge’s theory is that poetry is purely human; for all its materials are from the mind, and all its products are for the mind. It is the nature of the fine arts to express intellectual purposes, thoughts, conceptions, and sentiments, which have their origin in the human mind. The imaginative activity helps to realize this function. Coleridge had extraordinary gifts, both as a poet and as a reader. In Chapter XV of the Biographa, he comments upon the perfect sweetness of the versification in the ‘Venus and Adonis’ as a characteristic of original poetic genius remarks that “the sense of musical delight with the power of producing it is a gift of imagination’’ (Armstrong 6).
Coleridge and the Expressive theory on Imagination
According to Hughes, it is undeniable to state that there was a division between Christianity and paganism in Coleridge’s personality. Many pieces, if brought together, shows how his Christian preaching self was constantly undermined by the work of imagination that attracted him into other parts of discourse and only to retreat unceremoniously when their fuller implications loomed. Hughes further notes that his own imaginative powers gave him an unusually privileged entry into the sphere of poetry. Such powers are most fruitfully at work when he could enter the dance of Coleridge’s imagery and create his own pattern, but they also encouraged him to concentrate on little regarded aspects of the other poetry. Such include contributions to Southey’s ‘Joan of Arc’ later used for the unfinished ‘Destiny of Nations’ which displayed his interest in myths (Newlyn 242).
Primary Imagination, Secondary Imagination and fancy
Coleridge defines imagination in contrast with fancy .He considers primary imagination as a pillar to the living power and a key agent of all human insight. He views it as a recurrence in the finite mind. This Supreme God is the everlasting act who is a special design of the infinite.
He views secondary imagination as a repetition of primary imagination, coexisting with the conscious will. Coleridge asserts that secondary imagination is similar to primary imagination in the way of its agency and different in the level and manner of its operation. It dissolves and diffuses in order to create a meaning. At all events, it strives to to unify and to idealize. Coleridge considers fancy as a form of memory and implies that perception itself is a form of imagination in its primary or fundamental sense. He holds that secondary imagination involves the work of artistic creation because it acts on perception. Coleridge appraises the organ and vital power of imagination, figuring it even as a version of the creativity of God.
Coleridge further argues that the best way to resolve a dispute is to define the term to which the disagreement depends. He asserts that words are living powers and not mere uttered air. This is a connection between truth and language derived from his theory of language. In contrast to the claims of one tradition, his philosophy does not set limits for the free play of literature’s imagination. Language expresses and records our knowledge through words, which not only signify ideas and things, but the relation between ideas and the perceived objects.
A given work of art embodies beauty and tends to evoke certain sensations and emotions. In explaining fine arts, Coleridge takes up pleasure and emotion as the subjective counterparts of the objective beauty. The response of the reader is aesthetic because it conforms to a generally accepted law. The difference between primary and secondary forms of imagination is basically a distinction of the unconscious from the conscious activity. The secondary imagination operates within a limited field. The universals that are beyond this power fall under the action of the primary imagination. Even though the secondary idealizes and unifies, it cannot unify the universals. Its field is restricted to those objects, which as objects; they are essentially fixed and dead. It has been ever active, creative power directed to the physical phenomena. The two forms are in essence forms of perception and apprehension .Coleridge used the term perception in this context to denote the direct responsiveness of the reason.
During the most elementary acts of perception, there is imagination. This is the primary imagination present in the perceptions of daily life (Barth 22). That form of the creative power, which gives individuality to the rational insight of the universe, is the primary imagination. The primary imagination is the basic condition that seeks to explain why we have a world of experience .He argues that through the confluence of our recollections we establish a center, as it was, a sort of nucleus in the reservoir of the soul.
The imagination present in the perceptions of the creative artist is secondary. The will intensifies and directs imaginative activities. It is voluntary and therefore free. This secondary imagination is the basic condition, which seeks to explain how the world of experience exists in a fuller unity so that we can have the most vital experience of reality. It grasps the whole meaning in which it functions purposefully. Both secondary and primary levels are constructive, but only secondary imagination is destructive.
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