Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination


Fascinated by his own imagination, Coleridge secretly wrote that its characteristic blend of power and desire made him a 'Daemon': a being superstitiously feared as 'a something transnatural'. Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination examines this simultaneous experience of exaltation and transgression as a formative principle in Coleridge’s poetry and the fabric of his philosophy. In a reading that spans the breadth of Coleridge’s achievement, through politics, religion and his relationship with Wordsworth, this book builds to a new interpretation of the poems where Coleridge’s daemonic imagination produces its myths: 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', 'Kubla Khan' and 'Christabel'. Gregory Leadbetter reveals a Coleridge at once more familiar and more strange, in a study that unfolds into an essay on poetry, spirituality, and the drama of human becoming.

'This is a subtle and erudite meditation on Coleridge’s poetry, making frequently brilliant connections with his notebooks, essays, and letters. The theme of the ‘transnatural’ running throughout Coleridge’s work (what we might also call the pagan, the transgressive, or the subversive erotic) is explored with zest and confidence, most particularly so in the ballads. Altogether this is an excellent study, fully alive to previous Coleridge criticism, but not afraid to strike out on its own, and even to adventure into mysterious and forbidden territory, the "far countree" of Coleridge’s imagination.' ~ Richard Holmes, biographer of Coleridge and author of The Age of Wonder

'Leadbetter's method is to probe ideas and explore their resonance: a kind of ultrasound imaging that traces currents of emotion, thought, and morality moving within the whole span of Coleridge's writing. His new book draws on resources that have recently entered the public domain with sympathy and intelligence, and sets out clearly what so many of us have either not been able to see or not quite able to say before. He brings fresh insight to age-old questions and familiar poems, resulting in a clarified sense of the contradictions that moved a great creative mind. This is an exciting book and necessary not only for readers of Coleridge and Wordsworth but also for anyone interested in how poetry is made.' ~ Professor J. C. C. Mays, University College, Dublin, editor of Coleridge's complete Poetical Works (Bollingen edition)

'Leadbetter's book offers us a new way into Coleridge, presenting a writer and thinker who repeatedly found his truest genius in the experiences that made him most uneasy. It is a compelling and encompassing account of a powerfully heterodoxical mind. Leadbetter has penetrating things to say across the whole range of the great career.' ~ Professor Seamus Perry, Balliol College, Oxford, author of Coleridge and the Uses of Division

'Gregory Leadbetter's Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination offers a fascinating and compelling new reading of Coleridge's thought, with a particular emphasis on his poetry . . . Leadbetter writes fluidly and clearly, but his style also bristles with excitement. This is a thoughtful, imaginative, and often daring new account of the poet.' ~ The Year's Work in English Studies

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