Imagination in Coleridge's theory is divided into 3 types: Primary, Secondary and Fancy. Discuss them in his poem "Kubla Khan." 

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Biographia Litteraria, Coleridge split the mind into two parts, which he called the Imagination and the Fancy. He then subdivided the imagination. As he writes:

The IMAGINATION then, I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealise and unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.

To put this into understandable English, imagination in general is the way we find the "hidden meanings" in the world. It is our creative force. The primary imagination is the largely unconscious way we watch and assimilate information and ideas from nature and the world around us. We make connections between what we see and our own lives and between different things that we see. It is the imagination that all people have. It is imitating God's creative process.

The secondary imagination, however, puts what it sees in nature together in new and different ways. It is original; it leaps to a higher level; it is the imagination possessed by artistic geniuses.

Fancy, to Coleridge (and this is very different, say, from how Worsdworth understood the term) was merely mechanical memory. It's recording "just the facts."

In "Kubla Khan," we primarily witness the primary and secondary imagination at work. Since this is a dream vision, the primary imagination provided the raw material that Coleridge's artistic brain reworked into a work of art.

The first part of the poem appears to come from the primary imagination: it is a recreation or imagining of a scene we might see in the world:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
In the second two stanzas, Coleridge takes this raw material of primary imagination and brings it to a new, more ecstatic level, mixing concrete images from nature with musings on the divine—and possibly a description of a sexual, ejaculatory dream. The "romantic chasm" from which water explodes in a great cascading fall "becomes holy and enchanted." Further, out of the crash of the water on the rocks comes the "Ancestral voices prophesying war!" Holiness, enchantment, and ancestral voices point to a higher level of the imagination than mere prosaic description of the world.
The third stanza continues the mingling of concrete descriptions of things we might actually see or experience, like a young woman playing a dulcimer, with another level of imagination: the speaker, for example, imagining using that melody, music itself, as the basis on which to build the dome he sees.
amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary imagination is the spontaneous creation of new ideas; an immediate apprehension of objects in themselves and this kind of imagination precedes conscious thought. It is organic, but not automatic. It requires a transcendent connection with the eternal in nature. The secondary imagination is hindered by the conscious will and so is lesser, subject to the limits of expression. Coleridge is saying that the primary imagination is nearly (or just is) spiritual and unconsciously intellectual, but earthly concerns and limitations do not get in the way. The secondary imagination involves consciousness experience and is therefore less organic and potential misinterpretation. Think of this analogy: Primary Imagination = Fiction and Secondary Imagination = Creative Nonfiction. In the former, everything is created as new and in the latter, some elements of conscious experience interfere (are used) in the creation of the story. This analogy is not perfect; Coleridge would say that the poetic primary imagination is the creative process itself and so would precede and be more organic than writing a novel of fiction.

Fancy is the absence of imagination. It is just reconfiguring already existing things or ideas.

I would say that the first four stanzas where he describes Xanadu are where he’s showing the primary imagination. The first two lines state Kubla Khan did decree this magical land be built. The impression is that Coleridge is apprehending this (from the dream) as if he’s writing the poem as it is being built, the two creative processes occurring at different linear times, but in the primary imagination of manifest creativity, they happen in unison.

The last stanza starts with ‘A damsel’ and this really sounds like a narrative shift or a different narrator or a different function of a consciousness. Here is where the secondary imagination begins. He’s recalling the damsel and her song so there’s elements of his conscious will (in the act of remembering) and the original experience of the song.

‘Could I revive within me/Her symphony and song’ clearly starts the portion where he’s using Fancy because he’s talking about recreating the original event. It would necessarily be an imitation and being a recreation, it would be a copy; his version of the creative event. So, he’s not making anything new. He’s just trying to recall or rebuild the vision from the ideas and experiences already created in the primary and secondary.  

However, Coleridge stated that the entire poem came to him in an anodyne-induced dream, so he might say the entire thing was written via the primary (with the exception of anything he may have forgotten and attempts to recall this would be the secondary).