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Romanticism Roadshow: Biographia Literaria

The publication of Lyrical Ballads, co-authored by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, was a literary milestone, commonly given as the inauguration of the Romantic movement.  In later life, Coleridge helped inspire the American Transcendentalists with his English-language redactions (if not "borrowings" (if not "plagiarisms")) of 19th century German philosophers--particularly Schelling, Kant, and Fichte.  Before the experimental communes of Brook Farm or Fruitlands, Coleridge was making plans for Pantisocracy, a utopian society modeled on Plato's Republic.  His theory of literary criticism was also highly influential and introduced the notion of "suspension of disbelief."

Biographia Literaria is a semi-autobiographical account of Coleridge's life and thought.  The "philosophical center" of the work (Chapters 5 through 13) traces his evolution from materialist to associationist to transcendentalist, culminating in a "total and undivided philosophy" wherein "philosophy would pass into religion, and religion become inclusive of philosophy."

For this meetup we will be reading chapter 12 and 13 of Biographia Literaria.  (Alternative link to a kindle edition is here.)

"[In materialism, t]he soul becomes a mere ens logicum; for, as a real separable being, it would be more worthless and ludicrous than the Grimalkins in the cat-harpsichord..." Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Chapter 7.


Orson Welles recites The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Benedict Cumberbatch recites Kubla Khan.


This is the second in a planned series of meetups on Romanticism and its evolution.  Past stops along this "tour":

[masked]: Bacon and the Idols of Thought

For this meetup we will be reading chapter 12 and 13 of Biographia Literaria.  (Alternative link to a kindle edition is here.) 

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  • Brian

    Good podcast episode on romanticism and organic form - go to 2009 archive

    1 · April 6, 2014

    • Brian

      Here is the poem about colors rebuilding the rainbow after newton:­

      April 6, 2014

    • Chad B.

      Yes, but scroll up for: "The ocular harpsichord, designed to play colors instead of musical notes, was part of the Enlightenment craze for science that included the air pump and the cat piano."

      1 · April 6, 2014

  • Rick O.

    Two favorite sentences so far (the farther I get the more I find):

    "...preserve your human nature, the depth of which was never yet fathomed by a philosophy made up of notions and mere logical entities." "In the existence, in the reconciling, and the recurrence of this contradiction consists the process and mystery of production and life."

    The first resonates (for me) with Heidegger, the second with Hegel. Or, interestingly, the obvious is that all three resonate together, since they are all asking similar questions. I think they get at similar answers? - by different paths? - which to me is more interesting. . .

    If there is at least a little truth (not the primary kind) to what I think, then this is another example of why we should read Hegel.

    1 · April 5, 2014

    • Brian

      no, the chapter we were assigned

      April 5, 2014

    • Chad B.

      Yes, I know. :)

      1 · April 5, 2014

  • Ann

    I'm waitlisted. I guess I'll come anyway and sit at the "bad" table.

    1 · April 3, 2014

    • Ann

      LoL Jenny! Oh...someone dropped out! I don't have to sit at the bad table now.

      2 · April 3, 2014

    • Chad B.


      2 · April 4, 2014

  • Chad B.

    Coleridge trivia: he is the 57th most frequently quoted source in the OED, with a total of 4563 quotations. The OED credits him with the first recorded usage of over 600 words. Here is a list:

    April 2, 2014

  • Chad B.

    "...until you understand a writer's ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding." --S.T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria

    2 · February 14, 2014

13 went

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