Biographia Literaria chapter 13 summary

Biographia Literaria is a non-linear autobiographical work by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It covers his principles in literary theory, philosophy, education, and studies. Biographia Literaria is a masterpiece work of Coleridge.

Table of Contents

Chapter 13:

Chapter 13 deals with concepts of imagination and fancy.Coleridge explores the nature of imagination and its role in the creative process.There are two types of imagination primary and secondary.He distinguishes between two types of imagination: Primary and Secondary. Primary imagination is the creative power that enables us to form mental images of things that we have not experienced directly. Secondary imagination, on the other hand, is the power of combining and recombining these mental images into new creative form.

Primary Imagination :

Coleridge said primary imagination acts on a finite level. He states “Primary imagination is a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM “.

The primary imagination is a general imagination power owned by every human being. The finite is the scope that tells that it can’t recreate images. So we can say that it is a general imagination power of all human beings. We use it in our daily life. We don’t need to put any effort to use primary imagination. Thus he says primary imagination is a ” Living power and prime agent of human perception”.

Secondary imagination:

Secondary imagination is not a common imagination. Every human being doesn’t have secondary imagination. Few people own secondary imagination.

He defines secondary imagination “It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate:”

Secondary imagination does not differ from primary imagination in kind but in degree. This means some people have common primary imagination and others have a higher level of primary imagination.

Primary imagination exists with the subconscious mind but secondary exists with the conscious mind. The function of secondary imagination is not just seeing but acting to create things. So the function of imagination is creation.

Fancy :

Coleridge says Fancy’s task is not creation. It is just a form of memory. He states “The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of time and space; “.It receives all its materials ready-made from the law of association. Therefore fancy is completely different from the imagination. It alone can’t produce work. 

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