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John Beer has aptly observed that the Opus Maximum is not the magnum opus, Coleridge’s grand plan for a complete written system, “but a series of manuscripts associated with that dream” (2006, 288). Since the Opus Maximum (OM) is a part of that lifelong dream for Coleridge, modern readers need not be surprised if the work is, in several ways, challenging to characterize. Philosophical and biographical contexts to help introduce OM are not too difficult to come by. But what is the relationship between Coleridge’s successive plans for the complete work and the fragments published in the edition in the Collected Works (CC)? What is the nature of the manuscripts that scholars now call the Opus Maximum, and why has it seen publication so belatedly in 2002? Thomas McFarland’s 200-page “Prolegomena” to the CC edition of OM help to address these topics. I am indebted to his work for much of the material in this chapter. The length of his introduction, however, can deter some readers. My aim is to assemble selective background information that will begin to orient readers to the text.
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