Thursday, 29 November 2012

Biographia Dialogia

What's with all the Biographia Literaria stuff, Adam?

I'm glad you asked. This term, I'm running a BL reading group at my university; we're going through it chapter by chapter. Accordingly, I'm refreshing my memory of the book, chapter by chapter, working through it. I'm struck, as I do so, how many of Coleridge's myriad references and quotations have never been traced or sourced. So I'm doing that as I go.

To what end?

I'm pulling together some academic something on Coleridge, plagiary and the BL.  Conceivably I'll published a new edition of the book, if I can find an academic publisher interested in such a thing. Maybe a monograph.


I know! It's one of those texts, foundational as far as literary criticism is concerned. I studied it as a student, and re-read it when I started academia (bits of it, anyway) in order to teach it.  But going through again in detail has been an eye-opener.

You realise that I'm a figment of your imagination? There's not actually a third-person asking you these questions?

Two things in particular have struck me.  One is just how massively the plagiarism issue is hidden in plain view; how much STC goes on about it, how centrally 'plagiary' defines 'fancy', and the extent to which the 'imagination' is a process of using the tools of plagiary against it, making something new out of the orts and scraps of --

Nobody cares, you know.

-- literary tradition.  The second thing is: how little other art there is in the book.  It's all: poetry, poetry, poetry (and, of course, metaphysics, metaphysics, metaphysics).  One reference to a painting is the only other mode I've come across: where's music? Dance? Sculpture? I always thought of Coleridge's aesthetic theory as an aesthetic theory that discussed all the arts; but now I'm wondering if it isn't much more specifically logocentric than that. And for Gospel-of-St-John religious reasons.

You done?

Sure. For now.

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