Composed most likely 1797-98, though not published until 1816
Preface includes reference to "The Pitcher," a poem composed
A poem about the creative process?
Kubla Khan as poet?
David Hogsette, "Eclipsed by the Pleasure Dome: Poetic
Failure in Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'"
Thesis: "'Kubla Khan' offers its readers a series
false poetic figures, ultimately demonstrating that the ideal
and redemptive imagination lies beyond the grasp of the mortal
an external and unobtainable other."
Preface: Rhetorical device foregrounding the poem's
"Second section of the preface establishes the poem proper as
of imaginative failure."
Xanadu: creative realm that "represents the creative
cognition and phenomenal
Biographia Literaria (1817) (see 631-34, esp. 634)
Fancy: Khan (1st Stanza)
"a non-creative faculty that is more empirical than the
It is a lower cognitive faculty related to and influenced
by the will, but
not dependent upon the will for its operation."
"For Coleridge, fancy is a distinct faculty, dependent
for its materials
on the primary IMAGINATION and confined to manipulating,
arranging phenomenal materials but incapable of the
creation of materials.
Fancy is , therefore, the lesser faculty by far" (H &H
"The romantic critics conceived the imagination as a
blending and unifying
of the powers of the mind that enabled the POET to see
such as the identity of truth and beauty. . . .
Leslie Stephen stated
the distinction briefly, 'FANCY deals with the
and imagination with the deeper truths that underlie
them.' . . .
Imagination is usually viewed as a 'shaping' and
ordering power, the function
of which is to give art its special authority" (H&H 250).
Khan's kingdom--finite--symmetrical dome, rigid towers,
an imaginative, ideal realm in which the individual can
unite with the
Khan is isolated, like the Ancient Mariner, Christabel
"who is separated
from her dead mother and becomes estranged not only from
her lover Geraldine
but also her father."
Author "on brink of poetic genius, is interrupted by a
his surrounding community and ironically loses the
"It is ironic that an agent from the poet's
community--an agent who
attempts to conduct business and, thus, to include the
poet in the (commercial)
workings of that community--effects disunity of the
resulting in further isolation from the community."
"They are separate only insofar as they serve vaguely
Primary Imagination: Alph (2nd Stanza)
Enacts "a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal
act of creation
in the infinite I AM."
Alph: The beginning [i.e. alpha], signifier of original
The River Alph is the source of the poet's prophetic
powers that are
achievable only by the primary imagination which unites
the finite poet
with the 'infinite I AM.'"
Secondary Imagination: Fountain
Echoes River as Seconday Imagination echoes Primary.
"The secondary imagination is a reflection of the primary
a preliminary sensory processor that attempts to unify
disunities into understandable perceptions before
presenting them to the
"Objects in themselves are fixed, dead, indeterminate
the powers of the imagination are life-giving in the sense
that they transform
the indeterminacy of objects in themselves into discursive
"The Khan is a failed poet of the fancy who attempts to
primary and secondary imaginative faculties, as his walls
attempt to enclose
the river, only to be left eternally isolated from his
and human community and from the imagination that makes all
By focusing on the Khan and the dome, "The author clearly
faculties of the active primary and secondary imaginations
in favor of
an unconscious, passive process that is antithetical to
Like Khan, the author becomes isolated, "a contained
failed poet like
the Khan who is girdled with towers."
Without the preface, it would be impossible not to identify
the poet/seer at the end of the poem as ideal agents of the
. . . . [In fact,] Coleridge actually represents the
as failed poets."
"Becoming the poet of the imagination for Coleridge is a
in process that cannot be obtained."
"The goal of becoming the sublime imaginative poet for
a desire he could not fulfill. . . . Thus he focused his
on proclaiming the imaginative authority of such poets as
and Wordsworth and establishing his intellectual authority as
critic, metaphysician, and theologian."