Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

Research, Reviews, Conferences

Posts Tagged ‘Goldsmiths College

Coleridge’s Chrysopoetics: Alchemy Authorship and Imagination


From: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

  Coleridge’s Chrysopoetics: Alchemy, Authorship and Imagination
Author: Kiran Toor
Date Of Publication: Feb 2011
Isbn13: 978-1-4438-2656-3
Isbn: 1-4438-2656-1

 This book is an attempt to assess the creative potential of alchemy as a master trope in Coleridge’s conception of authorship and imagination. It begins with a challenge to the idea that an autonomous author is at the centre of a literary work. This idea is crucial to the reception of literature and to the way in which concepts of “originality” and “authorship” are typically understood. Against this marking out of an author as a singular, autonomous, and uniquely privileged “self,” it is posited that, for Coleridge, authorship occurs in a transformative or alchemical interspace between the desire for self-expression and the necessarily other-determined nature of creativity. Offering an alternative trajectory for the author, Coleridge elaborates an imaginative strategy in which the dislocation of the self from itself is the truest path to self-expression, and the author must become other in order to become more fully himself. Demonstrating a unique link between plagiarism and creativity, this book suggests that alchemy, better than any other system, accounts for Coleridge’s propensity for plagiarism and for an aesthetic of artifice. In an attempt to trace Coleridge’s familiarity with Hermetic and alchemical discourses throughout his life, it has been necessary to review works as varied as those of Plato, Marsilio Ficino, Ralph Cudworth, Jacob Boehme, Herman Boerhaave, and F. W. J. Schelling. It is then suggested how Coleridge appropriates alchemical terminology to his own aesthetic and imaginative ends. Unable to resolve the desire for aesthetic autonomy with the impossibility of asserting the self in one’s own voice, Coleridge “plays” in the hermeneutic interspace between selfhood and otherness, creativity and counterfeit, authority and artifice in order to arrive at an entirely unique strategy of alchemical self-exposition. Arriving at authorial selfhood through the odyssey of alterity, Coleridge’s “play”giarisms, in this view, do not violate the principles of originality, but redefine them. The book ends with a consideration of the necessarily negotiated fiction of all acts of imagination and authorship.

Dr Kiran Toor is a university lecturer in English Language and Literature at Goldsmiths College, London, England. She is also the chief sub editor for Myrtle Press, and was most recently appointed deputy editor of Spectator Business magazine.

%d bloggers like this: