Monday, November 10, 2014

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Gregory Sturges
A Short Biography on the Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The poet, critic, and philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on October 21, 1772. Following the death of his father in 1782, he was sent to Christ Hospital, a London charity school, where he met Charles Lamb. In 1792, Coleridge entered Jesus College, Cambridge, but left to enlist in the Royal Dragoons in 1793. Following his discharge from the Royal Dragoons, Coleridge met Robert Southey. In 1795, through Robert Southey, Coleridge was introduced to Sara Fricker, the woman whom he would later marry. Within the same year, Coleridge would meet William
Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Peter Vandyke, 1795
Source: National Portrait Gallery, London
Wordsworth. The two formed a close friendships and, in collaborative effort produced, “Lyrical Ballads”. Lyrical Ballads was Coleridge’s most comprehensive poetic achievement. It included his most notable poetic works, “Kubla Khan” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. However, conflict surrounding authorship over “Lyrical Ballads” caused rift between the two. Coleridge’s most notable friends: Southey, Thomas de Quincy, and Dorothy and William Wordsworth all describe Coleridge as temperamental and inconsistent, perhaps the effect of his drug addition to laudanum. Coleridge use of laudanum was the result of depression and a chronic rheumatic pains that plagued him throughout most of his adult life.
Coleridge’s philosophy and literary career were undoubtedly influenced by the works of Shakespeare and Milton. While traveling in Germany, Coleridge was captivated by the German transcendentalist movement involving Immanuel Kant and Jakob Boehme, and also the literary critic Gotthold Lessing. Coleridge was also religious, and wrote and produced works that demonstrated his belief in God and Judeo Christian laws, using them as a template to support his claims made against the British monarchy. Coleridge was much more of a philosopher and student of life than he was a poet. He was reverend by his contemporaries for his shrewd intelligence. His ideas and philosophies would influence many young Romantic and Gothic writers. Keats, Shelly, Byron are of the many writers who revered Coleridge’s philosophies, applying to their poetry the principles of the Primary and Secondary Imaginations.
With his health declining, Coleridge, sought relief abroad. He was a prolific traveler, but assumed it would alleviate his worsening condition. He also traveled to escape his unwanted marriage from Mrs. Coleridge. In the year 1806 the couple abstained from their marital commitment. Financially destitute, Coleridge spent the remainder of his life with James Gillman, a physician. From 1816 until his death, Coleridge was known as the sage of Highgate. He died on July 25, 1834. Coleridge, although his literary achievements suffered from his obsessive drug use and difficult personality, Coleridge managed to help found an entire literary genre. He redefined how poets and authors interpret reality. Coleridge, a figure of the past, still lives on through his literature.

Literary Book Review
In Modern Critical Interpretation: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Harold Bloom provides an eclectic assembly of perspectives on one of Coleridge’s most notable works of poetry. The selections Bloom chooses represent what he describes as the best criticisms devoted to Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in the past quarter century. In the section entitled Editor’s Notes, Bloom establishes the range of criticisms and there relation to other critics listed, and describes the contrasting and refuting elements within their arguments. The principle interest of the book appears to be didactic, as the contrasting views on Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner provides different methodologies and interpretations with which to address a work of literature. He notes that his introduction, “argues that the Rime is a parable of the Primary Imagination, rather than an allegory or ironic narrative of the Secondary Imagination,” which he claims, “is directed implicitly against” Robert Pen Warrens Christian symbolic interpretation. Bloom highlights the varying ranges of the differences, which can be expanded to include psychoanalytic, structural, and historical influences that are presented as themes suggested to have been instrumental when Coleridge’s conception of the poem. Structurally, Bloom is refuting them all on some level, but maintains the communal academic relationship that, when followed successively, reveals the social network supporting academic scholarship.
Bloom has provided his readers with a scholarly view of Coleridge, a shared view in which the differing themes presented across different perspectives collectively provide even greater insights into the professional and personal life of Coleridge. Thus, Bloom’s book is biographical in nature, but only when all of the individual works are viewed as a collective whole. Initially, I assumed that the selection process was random, perhaps even biased to a default, yet I could not deny the feeling of being informed of the major conventions inherent to Coleridge’s works. One learns not only of the differences governing the thought processes of scholars, but how effective academic writers treat their subject matter. The fact that he places an emphasis on delivering the best criticisms informs the reader that he means to provide a template that contrasts against ineffective academic scholarship.  Because Bloom presents an assortment of different scholarly opinions with very little commentary as to their relationship to each other, saving the editor’s notes, this review has had to focus on the selection process. This book is guideline, but it also demonstrates a process, an evolution of thought that is dependent on social interaction. In Blooms editorial notes, he highlights the process, summarizing the differing points of views that converge within academic scholarship on Coleridge, which reinforcing creativity and academic exploration.
My only complaint with this book is that Bloom does not conclude or tie the different elements together. He asserts and alludes to this application of the text, yet he does little in the end to follow up this expectations. The redder is forced to assume a greater deal on their own, which could lead to misinformed interpretations.

Works Cited
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