What is the role of the imagination in “Kubla Khan”?

Imagination is important in "Kubla Khan," because the writer is trying to get the reader to form a mental picture of the world that pure reason alone is not equipped to understand. Coleridge was a Romantic poet, and this genre of literature used evocative imagery and scenery in order to inspire human beings at the level of the heart. His descriptions of the river and dome of Xanadu are not straightforward, but this is intentional.

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As other educators have pointed out, Coleridge’s poem is an example of Romatic poetry. As such, its primary function is to evoke an emotional response from its reader, which Coleridge accomplishes with his lush and effective use of imagery and adjectives. Because the author does not merely spell it out for us, the reader is required to use their imagination in order to create a mental image of what the boundless and magnificent landscape of Xanadu looks like. For example, in all three stanzas of the poem, Coleridge makes reference to a mystical dome that he bore witness to. He says,

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree

and

It was a miracle of rare device,

A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

and

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

This “stately,” “sunny” pleasure-dome is intersected by a mighty river, which Coleridge refers to as “sacred.” The river meanders for five or more miles, until it reaches the caverns which are...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1049 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on June 11, 2020