The Challenge of Coleridge

Ethics and Interpretation in Romanticism and Modern Philosophy

By (author) David Haney

Paperback - £24.95

Publication date:

15 September 2001

Length of book:

328 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271027869

Interweaving past and present texts, The Challenge of Coleridge engages the British Romantic poet, critic, and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge in a "conversation" (in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s sense) with philosophical thinkers today who share his interest in the relationship of interpretation to ethics and whose ideas can be both illuminated and challenged by Coleridge’s insights into and struggles with this relationship.

In his philosophy, poetry, theology, and personal life, Coleridge revealed his concern with this issue, as it manifests itself in the relation between technical and ethical discourse, between fact and value, between self and other, and in the ethical function of aesthetic experience and the role of love in interpretation and ethical action.

Relying on Gadamer’s hermeneutics to supply a framework for his approach, Haney connects Coleridge’s ideas with, among others, Emmanuel Levinas’s other-oriented notion of ethical subjectivity, Paul Ricoeur’s view about the other’s implication in the self, reinterpretations of Greek drama by Bernard Williams and Martha Nussbaum, and Gianni Vattimo's post-Nietzschean hermeneutics.

Coleridge is treated not as a product of Romantic ideology to be deconstructed from a modern perspective, but as a writer who offers a "challenge" to our modern tendency to compartmentalize interpretive issues as a concern for literary theorists and ethical issues as a concern for philosophers. Looking at the two together, Haney shows through his reading of Coleridge, can enrich our understanding of both.

“For those who are already well versed in Romanticism and contemporart theory, the book will be a welcome addition to ongoing discussions, for it continues to develop, even while refining Haney’s project of exploring the relationship between hermeneutics and ethics initiated in William Wordsworth and the Hermeneutics of Incarnation (1993). For those unfamiliar with such matters, it situates Coleridge within a fresh and provocative new set of contexts and raises some important questions concerning the relationship between ethics and interpretation, as well as rethinking the nature of imagination and its susceptibility to critique. A thoughtful and often illuminating study, the book brings Coleridge’s writings into a fruitful dialogue with the work of a number of contemporart thinkers, including Hans-George Gadamer, Emmanuel Levinas, Martha Nussbaum, Paul Ricoeur, Charles Taylor, and Bernard Williams.”

—Christopher Strathman, Wordsworth Circle