The Drama of Reason
Chapter 3: ‘Judgement’s gorge’: T. H. Green and Speech! Speech!
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‘Judgement’s gorge’: T. H. Green and Speech! Speech!
I concluded the previous chapter outlining Coleridge’s shift from a conception of the imagination as a power able to dissolve and reconfigure seemingly fixed determinants in history, to the imagination as a source of consolation detached from the public sphere. Reverberations from this shift account for some of the contradictions in Hill’s attitude to art’s diagnostic and transformative power, and these contradictions are only ramified by a change in Hill’s position vis-à-vis the role of the poet in society. The following two chapters will examine this trajectory from an impersonal to a more subjective poetics, by considering two books from Hill’s late period: Canaan and Speech! Speech! Both volumes, I will argue, are concerned with judgement – theological, aesthetic and juridical – and bear the marks of Hill’s reading in post-Coleridgean nineteenth-century philosophy. Two beneficiaries of Coleridge’s brand of German Idealism – T. H. Green and F. H. Bradley – occupy a surprising amount of Hill’s critical work, especially where questions of moral and aesthetic judgement are under consideration. By focusing on Hill’s reading of these two philosophers, another aspect of the drama of reason is brought to light, wherein poetry and philosophy submit rival claims as arbiters of objectivity.
What Christopher Ricks, in a recent essay, calls ‘the possibilities and impossibilities of reconciliation’ are intimately bound up in Geoffrey Hill’s imagination with the ethical and prosodic paraphernalia of judgement.1 The rivalry between...
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