08 June 2012

Coleridge Materials Glut

Well, things have changed since my last post on Coleridge, wherein I was confined to consulting the critical edition of Tolkien’s essay on fairy-stories and Bowra’s study of the ‘Romantic imagination’. If anyone has paid attention to the comments there, they will have seen that not only did I receive a kind gift of Owen Barfield’s What Coleridge Thought (San Rafael, CA: The Barfield P, 1971) from the generous Dale James Nelson, but a goodly sized box of supplies from my lecturer friend, followed by a lone volume that he was earlier in the process of reading but which can now be lent as well. Listing these, and wondering aloud how I am ever to sort through all of this, is the raison d’etre of this post.

To begin with the most recent arrival, a week or two ago I received on loan a work entitled Coleridge, the Bible, & Religion (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), by Jeffrey W. Barbeau, who at the time of publication was Associate Professor of Theological and Historical Studies at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK. Interestingly, the one reference to the imagination/fancy distinction in the index to this book is from an endnote where Barbeau quotes Thomas McFarland arguing that—

the dilettante will invariably think that the distinction between imagination and fancy is the most important of all the binary distinctions that Coleridge proposed. The true Coleridgian, however, will know that the polarity of imagination and fancy...is incomparably less decisive for an understanding of Coleridge’s mind than is the distinction between reason and understanding. [1]

Duly noted! I do of course aspire to be a true Coleridgian, so I will at the very least recall henceforth that the imagination/fancy distinction is by no means decisive for an understanding of Coleridge’s mind.

The box I received back in the early Spring included the following:

1) James S. Cutsinger, The Form of Transformed Vision: Coleridge & the Knowledge of God (Macon, GA: Mercer, 1987). This volume features a foreword by Owen Barfield. James Cutsinger, for those who do not recall, is the perennialist religion scholar who edited Reclaiming the Great Tradition from IVP (I wonder if the Inter-Varsity folks know about his perennialism) and who was academic dean of Rose Hill College, the short-lived Orthodox liberal arts college in South Carolina. I know Cutsinger is fairly crucial to my friend’s understanding of Coleridge on the imagination, so this seems a likely source. He is also more likely than the others to perhaps make some reference to the Fathers.

2) J. Robert Barth, SJ, Coleridge & Christian Doctrine (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1969). I realize a Jesuit in 1969 may be a very different thing from a Jesuit now, but according to the index there are only three pages that deal with the imagination in this one. We’ll see...

3) Mary Anne Perkins, Coleridge’s Philosophy: The Logos as Unifying Principle (Oxford: Oxford, 1994). A photocopy bound in a three-ring binder, I think this one may be more useful than the last as I understand that the Logos as ‘unifying principle’ is pretty central to what my lecturer friend believes may be Coleridge’s position on the imagination. The latter subject also shows up more in Perkins’s index than in Barth’s. I also see one reference to Fr Andrew Louth. Well done!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, before I had thoroughly explored the contents of the box, I came across a print-out of an e-mail correspondence between my friend and some other gentlemen wherein reference was made to an article entitled ‘Coleridge’s Definition of Imagination & Tolkien’s Definition(s) of Faery’. [2] The article is authored by, of all people, a friend of mine from the Oklahoma City-held C.S. Lewis & Inklings conference (2010) [3] as well as MythCon of the same year [4]—Michael Milburn. Michael is a very gracious young Roman Catholic gentleman and a student of the great Ralph Wood at Baylor. Furthermore, I believe his article may be the piece that relates to my claim about Coleridge and Tolkien (here) most directly and, if I am not mistaken, unwittingly proves me much mistaken. At any rate, I e-mailed Michael to ask him for a pdf of the article, which I soon received, and only then discovered a copy of the article already stuck inside one of other items in the box—the three-ring binder, I believe. [5]

So the question now is, when if ever will I get a chance to go through all of this stuff, in between finally getting to do some reading for pure pleasure and beginning to formulate ideas for a paper on Dickens which I hope to present at school this Fall? [6] Perhaps more importantly, when I do get a chance to go through all of this, how much sense will I be able to make of the question? I don’t know. But soon I hope to at least read carefully through Michael’s article (since it seems the most pertinent, aside from being the shortest work of the lot), and then perhaps I can begin poking around in Barfield’s book, since I did promise Dale I’d make an effort to do so.

[1] Barbeau, p. 202, n. 9.

[2] Michael Milburn, ‘Coleridge’s Definition of Imagination & Tolkien’s Definition(s) of Faery’, Tolkien Studies: Vol. 7, ed. Douglas A. Anderson, Michael D.C. Drout, & Verlyn Flieger (Morgantown, WV: West Virginia UP, 2010), pp. 55-66.

[3] Where I presented the paper posted here, just now greatly expanded and extensively revised in hopes of publication in the conference anthology. The editors told me the original was incoherent and too informal. I guess that’s what happens when your primary outlet for writing is a blog.

[4] Where I presented the paper mentioned here.

[5] I should perhaps mention that the box also included Barfield’s Coleridge book as well as Verlyn Flieger’s Splintered Light: Logos & Language in Tolkien’s World. I have my own copies of these books, however.

[6] A post setting out some ideas for this, to be presented as part of our school’s symposium in honour of the Dickens Bicentennial, may be coming soon.

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