Coleridge: the Gothic as a means to instruction
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This study has as its subject how Samuel Taylor Coleridge utilises the Gothic as a means of instruction in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Christabel”. That is, it aims to identify a coherent instructional purpose or project evident in each poem, whilst indicating how Coleridge “converses” with the Gothic by intermittently adhering to and/or transcending many of the formulaic conventions of the Gothic topos. To accomplish the latter this study relies considerably on an historicist method, whereby Coleridge’s prose writings, such as Aids to Reflection, Table Talk, the Biographia Literaria, his letters and notebooks, and contemporary interpretations thereof, are utilised in order to identify his instructive projects in these poems, as well as his interactions with, and responses to the Gothic. The unique state of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth British literary sphere and its acquaintance with and – often hysterical – responses to Gothic romance further historically informs this study. The implicit argument of the study is that Coleridge not only realized the unique properties of the Gothic genre (including its popular appeal), which made it suitable as a means of instruction, but that he consciously utilised it as such, thereby mending its principal faults, for which he himself often derided the genre in reviews, letters and lectures. From this perspective, Coleridge not only imbues these poems with an instructional purpose, but he also offers them as a Gothic aesthetic alternative to the often base, popular productions belonging to the genre, which at the time generated considerable anxiety amongst literary critics.
- Humanities