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Coleridge's Marginal Method in the Biographia Literaria

  • Author(s): Christensen, Jerome C
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Coleridge's mode of composition in the Biographia Literaria is best considered as marginal discourse, and here the chapters on Hartleian association are analyzed from this point of view. Coleridge's previous attempts to refute Hartley depended on a proof of the free will, a proof that he did not complete and that, for moral purposes, he does not hazard in the Biographia. Instead, Coleridge proffers a subsidiary criticism that he had formed years before, affixing his comments to borrowed arguments. Although Coleridge's marginal rhetoric persuades that Hartley's model is insufficient, it also illustrates that there is no coherent alternative principle. The text vanishes beneath the burden of its marginalia. Coleridge's criticism subverts a partial truth only to substitute a rhetoric partial to the demands of a desire too restless to abide in any principle or text.

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