Silence and the crisis of self-legitimation in English Romanticism
My thesis depicts the crisis of self-legitimation that has accompanied the onset of modern hermeneutics, with its historicised and organicised version of the Enlightenment's 'universal perspective.' In this it follows the lead of the contemporary hermeneuticist Hans- Georg Gadamer in resuscitating the notion of prejudice, but contrasts it with Hannah Arendt's discussion of the human condition. She implicitly locates the problem in modern hermeneutics, the aporia, in the very philosophy of life that Gadamer embraces as its solution. Gadamer confuses the task of the humanities as a search for truth with what it ought to be, a search for meaning. I begin with his depiction of Kant's attack on the sensus communis; I conclude with an examination of the consequences of this attack on the orientation and interpretative practices of current schools of literary criticism with specific reference to Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn. In the central chapter, I focus upon Coleridge's attack on Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802) in the Bioeraphia Literaria, reading it as a fundamental defence of prejudice based on the very fact that man has been made in imago Dei. The consequent logocentricity of humanity that Coleridge insists upon opposes Wordsworth's emphasis upon a transcendental idea of 'feeling.' This fundamental notion forms the basis of Coleridge's definition of the primary imagination. I argue the distinctiveness of his definition from that of the other Romantics and maintain its necessity to escape the aporia. This point is proved negatively by Shelley's Mont Blanc, which seizes upon the radical consequences of Wordsworth's poetics, presenting both heresy and obscurity in the poem. The word 'crisis' thus reflects the urgency with which I advocate the need to re-adopt Coleridge's emphases in contemporary literary criticism.