(selections from Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 674-82)

  1. What distinction does Coleridge make between poetry read with pleasure and returned to with pleasure? Can you think of examples of each? (675)
  2. How should we judge lines which can be paraphrased without losing some of their significance? (defective in diction, 675) For example, can the works of Shakespeare or Milton be altered slightly without loss?
  3. What does Coleridge see as a distinction between seventeenth-century poets such as Donne and Cowley and eighteenth-century poets (whom he calls “moderns”)? (in the former the thoughts are fantastic but the language is pure; in the latter the thoughts are commonplace and the language is “fantastic and arbitrary,” 675).
  4. To what type of language do you think he is referring?
  5. Why should we distinguish between imagination and fancy? (676) Are their differences of degree or of kind?
  6. What purpose is served by understanding the distinction? (may help poets, 676) What is meant by his claim that “To admire on principle, is the only way to imitate without loss of originality”? Do you think this is true?
  7. What is Coleridge’s definition of the primary imagination? (repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM, 676) What do you make of this?
  8. What is his definition of the secondary imagination? Of the fancy? (memory emancipated from the order of time and space)
  9. What principles motivated the composition of “Lyrical Ballads,” according to Coleridge? (677) What particular topics had motivated him? (truth of the emotions presented through supernatural incidents)
  10. Which aspects of Wordsworth’s preface to “Lyrical Ballads” does he seek to qualify? (poetry must use language of real life, 678)
  11. How does he define a poem? Is any rhymed verse a poem? Any rhymed verses intended to create pleasure?
  12. What further distinction is necessary? (must contain within itself the reason why it is so, 680) What does it mean to say that it proposes to itself “such delight from the whole, as is compatible with a distinct gratification from each component part”? What should be the relation of the parts? (mutually support and explain each other)
  13. Do you think this is a good or adequate definition of poetry? Are there aspects of poetry which it fails to mention or include?
  14. What should carry the reader forward in the reading of poetry? (pleasurable activity of mind excited by the attractions of the journey itself, 680)
  15. What is Coleridge’s opinion of Greek homoerotic poetry? (disgusting, 679)
  16. On what grounds can Plato’s writings or the book of Isaiah be considered poetry? What does it mean to say that a poem of any length cannot be all poetry? (681) What can then hold it together?
  17. What sorts of critical judgments would be affected by such flexibity? (opens the way for prose poetry)
  18. How does he define the poet, and the poet’s task? (creates unity, 681)
  19. What qualities should be added to imagination to make the poet? (good sense, motion, fancy, 681)
  20. How do Coleridge’s ideas resemble those of Kant? Do you see resemblances or differences from those of Aristotle?