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Shandeanism, the Imagination, and Mysticism: Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria

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Abstract

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria (1817) is an iconic work in the history of English Literature, which uniquely draws on contemporary German thought. Coleridge attempts to replace arbitrary critical judgements with principles based on a philosophical argument about human psychology. This chapter first explores Coleridge’s digressive, “Shandean” method and then traces his rejection of associationism. Coleridge replaces the latter, empiricist theory with an idealist conception of the “imagination.” The chapter considers both how Coleridge’s fragmentary definition of the imagination responds to the rival account of William Wordsworth, and its affinity with the approach of “mystics” such as Jacob Böhme to whom Coleridge professes a spiritual and intellectual debt.

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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen Mary CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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