The supernatural as rhetorical focus in the three major poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Kubla Khan," and "Christabel" demonstrate his serious and imaginative use of the hackneyed motifs of the supernatural. The eerie, the exotic, the nocturnal, and the medieval dominate the setting of these poems; superstitions, spells, and mysterious voices control their action through magician-, vampire-, ghost-, and angel-like figures. However, by endowing his major characters with traits which make them different from the characters of the medieval and the Gothic romances and by leaving two of the three poems as apparent fragments, Coleridge develops an original poetic charm as he develops complex meanings. A successful analysis of the charm and meanings of these poems can be made through the tripartite rhetorical approach which analyzes their supernatural fictions as suggestive of the ethos, the logos, and the pathos. Elaborations of the ethos focus upon the suggestions of good will, intelligence, emotional sensitivity, and philosophical complexity of their poet; elaborations of the logos treat their supernatural element as symbolic of the mystery, fascination, and horror of human experience; and elaborations of the pathos focus upon Coleridge's success in transporting his reader into an emotional state in which he regards the supernatural as probable. As one interprets the enchanting mystery of Coleridge's poems, one becomes aware of the many dimensions of the logos of his poems. Dealing respectively with an outcast state which overwhelms one with guilt and suffering, an inspired state which leads to yearning for the ideal, and a self-conscious state which brings about an encounter with the Jungian shadow, the three poems constitute a single rhetorical unit exploring different stages of human experience related to moral, social, poetic, psychological, and philosophical visions of life. By drawing attention to the complementary development of the ethos, the logos, and the pathos and by highlighting the interrelation of the three poems, the rhetorical analysis serves as a further elaboration of Coleridge's theory of imagination which places imagination at the center of a composition because imagination dictates an author's choice and arrangement of details.