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Organic Unity in Coleridge’s Poetic Creation and Critical Vision

Author HaoZuo
Tutor LuoYiMin
School Southwestern University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Coleridge organic unity poetic creation critical vision
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Samuel Taylor Coleridge has been considered as the only literary theorist who combined the philosophical depth with the ideologies of romantic poetics among the English romantic poets by Sino-foreign literary critics. His critical theory and creative practice have an active exploring value in the western intellectual tradition, and his views are referred, explained and extended by later generations.During the 2000 year’s development of western literary criticism, organic unity has always been an important critical thought which is always highly valued by critics. Aristotle firstly summarizes the general principle of organic unity. According to his Poetics, the action of a narrative or drama must be presented as "a complete whole" Coleridge inherits this idea of Aristotle and absorbed the quintessence of the fine tradition of the unity of western literary theory, but he researches the constitutive reason of principle of organic unity deeply from the aspect of literature creation psychology. He believes that a work of art should be treated as an organic whole, while the so-called organic unity actually is the form of life we are talking about currently. The creative composing process of poems should be a natural growing process of an organism, and the nature and the art are not opposite, but could be combined together, the ability and the responsibility of a poet is to combine all the different and opposite factors to form a harmonious whole eventually.Coleridge’s poetic creations present his principle of organic unity. His two famous poems Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner perfectly reflect his principle of organic unity. The two poems are the perfect organic unity of form and content, and a concern for opposites and their reconciliation is a major structural device which is evident in the two poems. Therefore, they are always regarded as the grandest poems among the few poems of Coleridge. In addition, the principle of organic unity serves as a criterion for him to evaluate literary works. As one of the famous Shakespearean critics, his principle of organic unity is the most important aesthetic feature of Coleridge’s Shakespearean criticism. The whole of Coleridge’s contribution to Shakespearean criticism could be quite safely described as the application of the principle of the organic unity to the plays. His principle of organic unity has a profound influence on the later western literary critical theory, and has significant reference for the present poetic filed.The thesis firstly inquires the tradition of the principle of organic unity, and especially explores the core of Coleridge’s notion of organic unity. Then it aims to make Coleridge’s two influential poems Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1817 version) as the targets to analyze how the two poems successfully attain organic unity to present his poetic principles. Lastly, the thesis will study Coleridge’s Shakespearean criticism from the perspective of principle of organic unity.

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