Biographia Literaria "That Willing Suspension Of Disbelief"
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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"That Willing Suspension Of Disbelief"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: In the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, one of the cornerstones of the Romantic Movement in England, William Wordsworth provided a theory of poetic diction, asserting that poets ought to use the language of real life, preferably of rustic or low life. Since Coleridge collaborated in the poetry of Lyrical Ballads, he was identified with the preface, and he now attempted to set the record straight. Thus a large part of his Biographia Literaria is devoted to an attack on Wordsworth's theory, Coleridge claiming that it was wrong in principle, and that even Wordsworth did not follow it in practice. Coleridge introduces his argument by providing the background of the Lyrical Ballads, noting that Wordsworth, as his share of the volume, was to include poems that would "give the charm of novelty to things of every day." As for Coleridge,

. . . it was agreed, that my endeavors should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.