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Title: Coleridge : the aesthetics of the fragmentary and the romantic imagination
Author: Thomas, Sophie
ISNI:       0000 0000 8483 6040
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1994
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Recent work on the fragment, prompted in part by the disruption of totalities in contemporary theories of writing and textuality, has returned the fragment to legitimacy in literary studies. Literary critics have begun to hail the fragment as the quintessential Romantic "form"-- one which, as D.F. Rauber claims, embodies Romantic ideals and aims more fully than any other. The fragment (in unmistakably high Romantic terms) is said to figure forth the infinite and the indeterminate in a finite, discrete, sequential medium--engaging, furthermore, in an organicist relation with the whole of which it partakes. The fragment, like the symbol or the organic part, is thought to be capable of indicating or implying the absent whole. By identifying itself with the organic part (or being so identified by readers), the fragment even usurps the ideal place of the whole by offering access to its essential nature--access that is, ironically, less materially compromised by the possibility of fragmentation than if it had become a complete whole. In this way the fragment comes to be seen as the most appropriate signifier of sublime, visionary excess--as the best possible representation of the impossibly ambitious work that the mind aspires to but is unable to sustain or carry out. This study examines the problem of the fragment in Romantic literature and poetic theory, and investigates the reconstruction of "Romanticism" through the phenomenon of the fragment in contemporary literary criticism. The Romantic canon is highly susceptible to reconstruction along "fragmentary" lines since so many of its central texts are fragments in at least one sense. In spite of the broad nature of the problem (a pervasive aesthetic and epistemological difficulty), this study brings two specific areas (romantic aesthetics and current literary criticism) to bear on three major, fragmentary, Coleridge texts: Biographia Literaria, "Kubla Khan," and "Christabel." In each case, arguments are made for or against the "unity" of the work. For Biographia Literaria, these turn on the viability of Coleridge's theory of imagination; in "Kubla Khan," on the relation of the preface to the poem; and in "Christabel," on its truncated two-part structure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature