All posts by Seth Wilson

Eucatastrophe in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

First, let me say that I’d love some constructive feedback on this post. This is a sort of companion piece to my last post, in which I examined Coleridge’s influence on J. R. R. Tolkien’s conception of the imagination and its pivotal role in the creation of fantastic literature. But my long-term plan for my dissertation entails developing a critical theory of fantastic fiction (a loaded term in and of itself, I realize) from Longinus’s conception of the sublime as it relates to language and rhetoric, Romantic ideas about the imagination, and higher-order “big picture” ideas about the role of fantasy from Tolkien and, to a lesser extent, C. S. Lewis. Continue reading Eucatastrophe in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Coleridge’s Imagination through the lens of J. R. R. Tolkien

fairystories6As a writer of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien hardly needs an introduction. Even before the success of the film adaptations of his work turned Tolkien into a household name, he had won first the hearts of children with The Hobbit in 1937 and, some twenty years later, the hearts and minds of adult readers with The Lord of the Rings. But, like Coleridge and MacDonald before him, Tolkien thought deeply about his craft as a writer and creator, and it is by largely virtue of this thought that his art has achieved such timeless success. His 1939 lecture “On Fairy-Stories,” subsequently published as an essay in the 1964 book Tree and Leaf, is, as the editors of the recent authoritative edition of the essay put it, “Tolkien’s defining study of and the centre-point in his thinking about the genre (of fantasy), as well as being the theoretical basis for his fiction” (Flinger and Anderson 9). In this seminal work, he addresses all the points about the imagination raised by Coleridge and, following the Victorian writer George MacDonald, defends their application in the literary arts. Continue reading Coleridge’s Imagination through the lens of J. R. R. Tolkien

Review: The Theory of the Sublime from Longinus to Kant by Robert Doran

sublimeAny scholar in any discipline with even a passing familiarity with the Romantic era knows how central the idea of the sublime is to Romantic thought. But exactly what is the sublime? The sense of awe and terror that overwhelmed Percy Shelley’s mind and spirit upon first looking at Mont Blanc? Wordsworth’s epiphany of cosmic truth upon his return to Tintern Abbey? Any number of wondrous and terrible events that befell Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner on his adventures? Well, yes and no. For these are merely descriptions of sublime events, and do not in themselves provide any sort of qualitative definition. Before reading Robert Doran’s sweeping and erudite study, I’m not sure I could have answered this question. To be honest, I still don’t know if I can answer it satisfactorily, since by its nature the sublime has a way of both transcending and subverting things. But Robert Doran’s The Theory of the Sublime from Longinus to Kant at least provides a rich and detailed map of the the subject, and even if the map isn’t exactly the territory it’s still invaluable to a scholar of Romantic ideology. Continue reading Review: The Theory of the Sublime from Longinus to Kant by Robert Doran