The Drama of Reason
Chapter 1: Coleridge, Imagination and the Parenthetical
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Coleridge, Imagination and the Parenthetical
‘“The Conscious Mind’s Intelligible Structure”: A Debate’ situates its reader amongst a series of rather abstract planes: the ‘primary objective world’, the ‘objectivity’ that it is the artist’s task to attain, and (borrowing from Newman), a ‘grammar of assent’ grounding diverse subjectivities.1 In the first of the encounters I will stage between Hill and his precursors, Samuel Taylor Coleridge will emerge as one of the key cartographers of this nebulous collection of objectivities. Like Coleridge, Hill sees art’s task to reconcile a fragmented manifold of objective facts: ‘To reconcile’, wrote Coleridge in a notebook entry, ‘therefore is truly the work of the Inspired! This is the true Atonement – i.e. to reconcile the struggles of the infinitely various Finite with the Permanent’.2 Hill’s essay ‘Poetry as “Menace” and “Atonement”’ describes Yeats’s description of ‘a poem com[ing] right with a click like a closing box’ as one which grasps Hill’s idea of atonement with a ‘beautiful finality’ (CCW 4). But it is exactly Coleridge’s confident invocation of ‘the Permanent’ which is lacking from Hill’s authorship, and this diffidence – which is never more self-aware than when Hill takes the measure of divinity – comes into productive conflict with Hill’s conviction that the technical perfection of a poem is a kind of atonement.
This crucial difference notwithstanding, Coleridge’s influence over Hill’s critical and poetic authorship is hard to overestimate. Nineteenth-century intellectual culture is second only to...
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