The Fallen World in Coleridge’s Poetry

University dissertation from Lund University Press, Box 141, 221 00 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: This study examines the motif of the Fallen World in Coleridge’s major poems The Ancient Mariner, Christabel and Kubla Khan . The use of Milton’s Paradise Lost as an intertextual foil throughout allows themes and metaphors inherent in the Fallen World motif to emerge in Coleridge’s poetry. A Fall presupposes a standard from which one has been separated downwards. Primarily, it is understood as man’s separation from perfection and wholeness. Consequences of a Fall are evil in all its manifestations, as well as repercussions on psychological, ontological and epistemological levels. However, in the displacement from unity to fragmentariness, man undergoes a change from a static to a dynamic state. Made out of fragments, his creations, while never perfect, can be splendid in parts. The text itself is the focus of interest here, and it forms the starting-point of explorations. Factors involved at the moment of our setting about interpreting a text are considered. Knowledge of the given (tradition, convention, codes) and self-knowledge are taken into account. Coleridge’s images draw on Christian tradition and on conceptions that abound in English literature, notably in works by seventeenth-century poets concerned with religious themes. Biblical associations and the Christian tradition in general, including its terminology, imagery and liturgical elements, are considered not primarily in order to stress or define what is religious, but in order to comprehend man’s situation and relation to Nature. The ancient concept of a Fallen World is closely linked to ideas and terminologies in both Romantic and modern literary theory.

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