Coalescence of Subject and Object in the Greater Romantic Lyric

Coalescence of Subject and Object in the Greater Romantic Lyric

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M H Abrams: Coalescence of Subject and Object in the Greater Romantic Lyric i) Coleridge’s reaction against the Lockean separation of mind from world In the opening chapter of his Literary Life , Coleridge introduces Bowles's sonnets not on their own account, but as representing a stage in his total intellectual development—"as introductory to the statement of my principles in Politics, Religion, and Philosophy, and an application of the rules, deduced from philosophical principles, to poetry and criticism." Hence he moves from his account of the shaping influence of Bowyer, Bowles, and Wordsworth into a summary review of the history of philosophy, as preliminary to establishing his own metaphysical and critical premises, of which the culmination was to be the crucial distinction between fancy and imagination. In the course of his survey of the dominant philosophy of the preceding age, it becomes clear that Coleridge found intolerable two of its main features, common both to philosophers in the school of Descartes and in the school of Locke. The first was its dualism, the absolute separation between mind and the material universe, which replaced a providential, vital, and companionable world by a world of particles in purposeless movement. The second was the method of reasoning underlying this dualism, that pervasive elementarism which takes as its starting point the irreducible element or part and conceives all wholes to be a combination of discrete parts, whether material atoms or mental "ideas." Even in 1797, while Coleridge was still a Hartleian associationist in philosophy, he had expressed his recoil from elementarist thinking. The fault of "the Experimentalists," who rely only on the "testimony of their senses," is that "they contemplate nothing but parts —and all parts are necessarily little—and the Universe to them is but a mass of little things. " "I can contemplate nothing but parts, & parts are all little —!My mind feels as if it ached to behold & know something great —something one & indivisible. . . ." And he wrote later in The Friend about that particular separation between part and part which divides mind from nature: The ground-work, therefore, of all true philosophy is the full apprehension of the difference between . . . that intuition of things which arises when we possess ourselves, as one with the whole . . . and that which presents itself when ... we think of ourselves as separated beings, and place nature in antithesis to the mind, as object to subject, thing to thought, death to life. As to Coleridge, so to Wordsworth in 1797-98, "solitary objects . . . beheld/In disconnection" are "dead and spiritless," and division, breaking down "all grandeur" into successive "littleness," is opposed to man's proper spiritual condition, in which "All things shall live in us and we shall live/In all things that surround us." Absolute separation, in other words, is death-dealing—in Coleridge's words, it is "the philosophy of Death, and only of a dead nature can it hold
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