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The tragic Coleridge : the philosophy of sacrifice in the life and works

By Chris M. Murray


I identify Coleridge‘s tragic vision as his engagement with catastrophe in search of a redemptive meaning. I examine Coleridge‘s plays, critical lectures, and commentaries on Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, and I reinvestigate some of his most famous works, such as 'The Ancient Mariner' and 'Christabel'. Chapters: 1). Introduction: Romantic Tragedy and Tragic Romanticism: I establish my interpretation amidst other theorists. I assess the presence of Classical tragedy in Coleridge‘s education, and the important changes that occurred in scholarship on Greek tragedy in Britain during the Romantic period. I acknowledge the important influences of Greek, English and German tragedians. 2). Transgression and Suffering: I suggest that Coleridge intends his reader to experience suffering vicariously for the purpose of moral benefit, fulfilling the same function that he identifies in Greek tragedy. 3). Real-Life Tragedy: Coleridge interprets events around him as tragic cycles of suffering and catharsis for political purposes, suggesting that the hardships of the French Revolution, and even the deceit of an innkeeper, are exemplary misfortunes. 4). The Tragic ‘Impulse’ and Coleridge’s Forms of Incompletion: Analysing Coleridge‘s use of the excerpts from his rejected play Osorio to form new poems, I argue that this instigates lifelong patterns of reinventing doomed literary projects, with reference to such concepts as synecdoche and the fragment. 5). The Lear Vocation: Coleridge’s Tragic Stage: I challenge a popular notion that Coleridge was prejudiced against theatre by demonstrating that, in his staged dramas, Coleridge exploits as well as criticizing the conventions of the contemporary stage and calls for reform in theatres. 6). The Tragic Sage. I claim that Coleridge made lifelong efforts to establish himself as a sage, dramatizing his own hardships to enhance his authority as an advisor. From youth Coleridge depicts himself as an embattled, prophetic figure, likening himself to Cassandra. Drawing on W.B. Yeats‘s comparison to Oedipus, I examine the various techniques Coleridge employs to establish himself as a survivor of and commentator on catastrophe. 7). Failed Sacrifices and the Un-Tragic Coleridge: Finally I argue that Coleridge, having settled into orthodox Christianity, abandons the tragic philosophy, expressing fears that suffering might be in vain, and therefore that catastrophe should be avoided in reality and as a literary theme. Ironically, this point is clarified in a lecture on Aeschylus

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