Biographia Literaria Questions and Answers
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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How might one summarize the main ideas of chapter 17 of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria?

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Poetic studies often link Samuel Taylor Coleridge with poet William Wordsworth. In Biographia Literaria, Coleridge uses chapter 17 to highlight the differences between his poetry—the way poetry ought to be, in his vision—and that of Wordsworth.

Wordsworth is highly touted as a Romantic poet, yet Coleridge favors his own individual style as the proper way to present poetry to the public. Whereas Wordsworth’s work is simple and appeals to the common man, Coleridge prefers to complicate his poetry. Both poets rely on their imagination, but Coleridge relies more heavily upon it than does Wordsworth.

Chapter 17 begins with Coleridge’s criticism of Wordsworth poetry as being beneath appropriate standards, especially with respect to his diction. He frowns upon Wordsworth’s “rustic” approach. Coleridge believes in a hierarchy of language associated with poetry:

Examination of the tenets peculiar to Mr. Wordsworth—Rustic life (above all, low and rustic life) especially unfavorable to the...

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