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Hearkening to the Voices of Women

  • Anya Taylor

Abstract

In his aesthetic criticism, Coleridge divides the art of language into “poetry of the ear, or music; and poetry of the eye.” This distinction between eye and ear also involves the location of personhood in other people: the eye sees the face, which could be blank or angry and therefore unreliable or repugnant, and the ear hears the voice, which comes from within the other person and reverberates with breath and heart beat. Throughout Coleridge’s writings, gazing and listening—faces and voices—alternate. Particularly in his efforts to understand women as persons, Coleridge makes a significant aesthetic and ethical transition when he shifts from seeing women to hearing them.1 He consciously learns to listen when he tells Thelwall, “I am an immense favorite, for I pun, conundrumize, listen and dance” (Feb. 6, 1797; CL 1, 308). By underlining the word “listen” he points to the peculiarity of his doing so and to his deliberate intention to cultivate that skill. He listens to women’s voices in their poems and in their singing, and comes to associate music with women.

Keywords

Line Compose Literary Woman Music World Opera Singer Orchestral Music 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    SWF 1, 358. This is the movement from “Behold!” to “Listen!” to apply the later 1805 formulation in Wordsworth’s “The Solitary Reaper” and to anticipate John Hollanders division of poetry in Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jonathan Ree, I See a Voice: Deafness, Language and the Senses—A Philosophical History (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt, 1999), p. 61. Ree quotes Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, 401: “‘It is primarily through the voice that people make known their inwardness, for they put into it what they are.’” The voice objectifies subjectivity (p. 60). I thank Professor Elisabeth Gitter for this reference.Google Scholar
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    Iain McCalman, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) has done a great service to the field in enumerating these divas.Google Scholar
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    In the version of the poem printed in the Morning Post, Sept. 24, 1799, three additional stanzas of irregular length turn this accomplished music toward political activism, marching together “with trump and timbrel clang, and popular shout, / To celebrate the shame and absolute rout,” perhaps, E. H. Coleridge conjectures, at the battle of Novi over Napoleon’s troops led by Joubert. See Ernest Hartley Coleridge, ed., The Poems (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), pp. 324–325.Google Scholar
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    Zachary Leader, Revision and Romantic Authorship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 138; for revisions from Letter to Ode, see pp. 150–154.Google Scholar

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© Anya Taylor 2005

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  • Anya Taylor

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