About Me

About Me
I am a writer, editor and gardener living in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. I have a degree and masters in Literature and Philosophy undertaken while living in London. I obtained a PGCE in English and History and taught for two years in a secondary school in England (age range: 11-18). My writing credits can be viewed here. I have had two poetry books published and am co-translator of Alain-Fournier:Poems (Carcanet, 2016). I am an editor and associate publisher at The High Window Press.

(See:thehighwindowpress.com)

18.7.16

The Eyes of Coleridge (2)

Extract...

Throughout his adult life Coleridge's writing questions the nature of seeing. A century before Coleridge was born developments in the science of optics and the use of the camera obscura to view the world had thrown into question the veracity of what the human eye actually sees. Both scientists (Galileo) and artists (Vermeer) experimented with the new technology and apparatus (lenses, microscopes, telescopes) to offer new perspectives on the world. Samuel Harlith's comment that 'everything...should be placed before the senses, everything visible should be brought before the organ of sight' is a view echoed by Francis Bacon who said: 'the microscope enables us to perceive objects not naturally seen'. (3) The truth and certainty of 17th Century science was enhanced by the invention of the microscope and the microscopic life revealed through the magnifying lense. But for Coleridge, living a hundred years later, optics and lenses didn't really improve seeing, the microscope puts boundaries around sight and distorts attempts at true seeing. Coleridge turns Bacon's 'not naturally seen' into an  advantage for his alternative theory. Coleridge is interested in the bigger picture and (even) a seeing beyond or behind the picture, the initial visual image of the world perhaps only a Platonic representation of the real. The way to see through the initial sense impressions of sight is via the imagination, the mind's eye, a view of the world that relies on the notion of diffusion (a word with both artistic and scientific connotations, a word both theoretical and practical). For Coleridge, a dreamy reaction to the clouds above Delft would  be more revealing than a close analysis of a milk jug. Coleridge's poems address the unseen world as an objective reality and imagination is God-given. Sight is, ultimately, prioritised above all the senses, perhaps most revealingly and convincingly when he considers blindness...

The prompt for this section of the essay (including citations) was The Eye of The Beholder by Laura S. Snyder