Both "Christabel" and "Kubla Khan" are fragments. In what ways does the fragmentary status of each poem add to its interpretation? Don't just focus on the problems here.  In what ways is the...

Both "Christabel" and "Kubla Khan" are fragments. In what ways does the fragmentary status of each poem add to its interpretation? Don't just focus on the problems here.  In what ways is the fragmentary status a strength?  (You may focus on both poems, or you may wish to write a more developed analysis of just one.)

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The first, italicized words after the title of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” call attention to the fragmentary status of that work: “Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.”This fragmentary status can indeed be seen as a strength. In literary terms, a fragment is something that is incomplete and that lacks closure. As such, the literary fragment seems to mirror what happens in our dreams, daydreams, or fleeting moments of inspiration far more closely than would a wholly developed and cohesive literary work. The literary fragment was popular among writers in the Romantic era probably for this very reason.

I memorized Coleridge’s poem in high school for extra credit and can recite it (with a little prompting here and there) many years later, but I still can’t tell you exactly what the poem means. It presents a series of intense, almost otherworldly images and uses the musical nature of language (including rhymes) to great effect, but there is not logical development that I can see. It all seems very dreamy, episodic, and loosely connected at best: following a sacred river, we move from above ground and from an admiration of human constructions in the first stanza to below ground and to natural wonders in the second stanza only to be taken in the third stanza into the speaker’s statement of a desire to create a song or a poem that is such “a miracle of rare device.”

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