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Plastic Intellectual Breeze

The Contribution of Ralph Cudworth to S. T. Coleridge’s Early Poetics of the Symbol

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Cristina Flores Moreno

This work offers a new perspective on the study of the sources of S. T. Coleridge’s poetics. The author argues that the philosophical system endorsed by the Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth significantly contributed to the genesis of Coleridge’s concept of the symbol and its related symbolic knowledge.
After an initial view on the different articulations the symbol acquired in Coleridge’s theorizations over his career, the book reverts to the poet’s formative years from 1795 to 1798, in order to reveal the roots of the concept.
Apart from discussing Coleridge’s direct readings of Cudworth’s The True Intellectual System of the Universe in the years 1795 and 1796, the author explores the reception of Cudworth’s ideas in a number of philosophers’, scientists’, poets’ and literary theorists’ works of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which were, in turn, read by the Romantic author. The study also provides new insights into Coleridge’s lectures and poems in which the Coleridgean notion of symbol was born: Lectures on Revealed Religion, «The Destiny of Nations», «Religious Musings» and the Conversation Poems in the light of Cudworth’s philosophical tenets.
Contents: British Sources of English Romantic Platonism – The «new» Romantic symbol – S. T. Coleridge’s concept(s) of symbol – The Philosophy of the Cambridge Platonists –Ralph Cudworth’s notion of plastic nature in The True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678) – The Reception of the Cambridge Thinkers’ philosophy in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – S. T. Coleridge’s early poetics (1794-1798) – The Neoplatonic background of Coleridge’s Lectures on Revealed Religion, «Destiny of Nations», «Religious Musings» and the Conversation Poems.