Coleridge's Submerged Politics: The Ancient Mariner and Robinson Crusoe

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University of Missouri Press, 1994 - 419 pages
Coleridge's Submerged Politics explores Coleridge's response to several crucial issues of the revolutionary and post-revolutionary age: the rise and suppression of English radicalism during the decade of the French Revolution and the tragic questions of slavery and the slave trade. The book consists of two distinct but intimately related sections. Starting with omissions in Coleridge's annotations on Robinson Crusoe, Part I traces his positions on race and slavery, connecting Defoe's novel and the slave-trading of its hero with the spectre-bark of The Ancient Mariner considered by several earlier critics as an abolitionist's allusion to the horrors of a slave ship. Keane discusses the numerous similarities that link these two haunting texts: their intertwined motifs of sea, sin, and existential solitude, of transgression, punishment, and at least partial redemption. More important, however, is Keane's treatment of the transfigured but recognizable domestic politics in and beneath the text of Coleridge's poem. Part II argues that imagery and plot developments in The Ancient Mariner reflect political events between November 1797 and March 1798, the months when Coleridge was writing and revising his poem and contributing anti-Pittite verses and essays to the widely read opposition newspaper the Morning Post. Keane steers a balanced course, insisting on the significance of the poem's sociopolitical context without reducing it to a token of its genesis. Though the book is part of the increasingly widespread movement to reinstate historical context as a ground of literary interpretation, Keane does not claim that The Ancient Mariner "says" one thing and "means" another - or is really about either Western guilt regarding the slave trade or Coleridge's own dangerous political voyaging during the months he was working on the poem. By treating The Ancient Mariner as a work of artistic transformation rather than political allegory or an "evasion" of politics, the author allows us to see the poem with an eye that is neither anti-historically "aesthetic" nor necessarily "ideological." As a result, The Ancient Mariner emerges with its interpretation-defeating mystery intact and as a poem to be read, re-created, and wondered about anew.


Parts of the Truth or Negotiating Common Ground in
Reflections on Lacunae
Crusoe Defoe and Friday
Coleridge Crusoe and The Ancient Mariner
Submerged Politics
Critical Introduction
The Political and Philosophic Context
Pestful Calms and Whirlwinds Rumbles and Earthquakes
England a Dungeon
Enforced Love in
The Mariner Prometheus and the Yeatsian Self
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About the author (1994)

Patrick J. Keane is Francis Fallon Professor of English at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. He is the author of numerous books including A Wild Civility: Interactions in the Poetry and Thought of Robert Graves, Yeats's Interactions with Tradition, and Terrible Beauty: Yeats, Joyce, Ireland, and the Myth of the Devouring Female.

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