Biographia Literaria  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Biographia Literaria is an autobiography in discourse by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which he published in 1817. The work is long and seemingly loosely structured, and although there are autobiographical elements, it is not a straightfoward or linear autobiography. Instead, it is meditative (a biography rather than an autobiography), with numerous essays on philosophy. In particular, it discusses and engages the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling. Being fluent in German, Coleridge was one of the first major English literary figures to translate and discuss Schelling, in particular.

Critics have reacted strongly to the Biographia Literaria. Early reactions were that it was a demonstration of Coleridge's opiate-driven decline into ill health. Recent re-evaluations have given it more credit. While contemporary critics recognize the degree to which Coleridge borrowed from his sources (with straight lifts from Schelling), they also see in the work far more structure and planning than is apparent on first glance.

It is also taken as his longer-term reaction and comment on William Wordsworth, earlier (at the time of Lyrical Ballads) his close collaborator. The book contains his celebrated and vexed distinction between 'imagination' and 'fancy'. Chapter XIV is the origin of the famous critical concept of a 'willing suspension of disbelief'.

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