Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the central figure in the dissemination of higher criticism, the analytical and historical study of the Bible begun in Germany in the late eighteenth century by Lessing, Herder, and Eichorn.
This movement radically revised the interpretation of the Bible as an "inspired" book and also helped to redefine the inspiration attributed to poets, since many poets of the period, including Coleridge himself, wished to emulate the prophetic voice of biblical tradition. Coleridge's mastery of this new study and his search for a new understanding of the Bible on which to ground his faith are the focus of this book.
Beginning with an exposition of Coleridge's double role as theologian and poet, Anthony Harding analyses the development and transmission of Coleridge's views of inspiration - both biblical and poetic - and provides a history of his theological and poetic ideas in their second generation, in England especially in the work of F.D. Maurice and John Sterling, and in America in that of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Harding argues that Coleridge's emphasis on the human integrity of the scriptural authors provided his contemporaries with a poetics of inspiration that seemed likely to restore to literature a "biblical" sense of the divine as a presence in the world. Coleridge's treatment of biblical inspiration is thus an important contribution to Romantic poetics as well as to biblical scholarship. His concept of inspiration is also linked directly to his literary theory and thus to the current debate over the reader's relation to text and author.