Imaginary Conversations: Weiskel Versus Coleridge

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Shouvik Narayan Hore


From Robert Southey's prima facie mockery of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798, expanded 1834, also alternatively spelt The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere) in the October 1798 issue of the Critical Review, to John T. Netland transfixing the religious sublime on the poem, the Coleridgean Sublime, vis-à-vis his arguably classic piece, has walked a perilous way.Whether Southey contests (not unreasonably) the arcane elevation of a poetical theme Germanized by an inwoven philosophical texture, or Netland hinting at the antithetical, if not antinomial (I use it in the sense of unresolved) tension between the supernaturally acquired Sublime (hence heathenic, taking its deus ex machina into consideration) and its counterpart, the residual sublimity accessed, or rendered accessible after the spoils of civilization, it remains clear, adequately enough, that The Rime's erhabene traverses sublimes, or sublimities, instead of being cooped up within one. This assertion, as it now stands, receives its necessary share of emphasis from Thomas Weiskel who, in Chapter Four ('The Logic of Terror') of The Romantic Sublime (1976), contends with its broader argument, projecting Romantic Sublimity across genres of rhetoric, aesthetic and moral enhancement. I take my cue from Weiskel in this essay, expatiating through a Landoresque dialogue (if not a discourse), on how the Coleridgean Sublime, both consciously and unconsciously, walks its ideological path from Longinus to Kant, and why. I shall also contest how the “Logic” (I shall interchange it with limits, the reason being self- explanatory) of terror slowly winds its way from the terror of rhetorical annexation, to the terror of an infinite antithesis, culminating in the terror of moral imperialism, as opposed to superiority. Unless otherwise mentioned in-text, the 1798 edition of the Rime has been accepted as the standard text by the author, instead of the 1834 text.

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