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Mesmerism AND S.T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Mesmerism AND S.T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

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Mesmerism AND S.T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

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  1. Mesmerism AND S.T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

  2. The Science of MESMERISM • Also referred to as ANIMAL MAGNETISM • Connected with 16th Century tradition, originating toward the middle of the century • Mesmerism—ascribed to man the “power of exercising on his fellows an action analogous to that of a magnet” • Origin of the phrase “animal magnetism” in relation to attraction between humans/animals

  3. Definition/Theory of Mesmerism • “It seems to be established that a profound impression had been produced upon the human mind by the natural magnet and its physical properties, the existence of two poles, endowed with opposite properties, and a remote action without direct contact”(from Animal Magnetism). • Since ancient times: • Magnets—thought to contain curative power • Employed as a remedy

  4. Franz Anton Mesmer • 1734—born in Germany • Received as a doctor of medicine by faculty in Vienna • “He undertook to prove that the sun, moon, and heavenly bodies act upon living beings by means of a subtle fluid, which he called animal magnetism, in order to point out the properties which it has in common with the magnet” (from Mesmer’s thesis entitled: The Influence of the Planets in the Cure of Diseases in 1766) • In Paris, Mesmer began to spread his theory of the magnetic fluid.

  5. 1779—Mesmer publishes a paper on the discovery of magnetism and “announced to the world that he had discovered a principle capable of curing all diseases” (5). • Well-received by the public • “All in the world wished to be magnetized” • “Mesmer carried a long iron wand, with which he touched the bodies of the patients, and especially those parts which were diseased; often laying aside the wand, he magnetized them with his eyes, fixing his gaze on theirs, or applying his hands to the hypochondriac region and lower part of the abdomen (10). • Popular with young women!

  6. Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Alfred Binet’sAnimal Magnetism (1894)

  7. Mesmerism and the “Will of the magnetizer”—”will” is supposedly able to excite or assist the efforts of nature to produce a medical cure • Later insinuated to be “dangerous to morality” • Disrupted the senses—”pleasing and precious emotions are excited (in which were looked upon with regret) and since they possess a natural charm for us, they contribute to our happiness… But morally they must be condemned, and they are the more dangerous as it becomes more easy for them to become habitual.”

  8. Picture/Excerpt from Allison Winter’s Mesmerized (from Introduction)

  9. Controversy with the Science • By 1830s: Mesmerism had a 50-year history of controversy • Dismissed by Academie de Sciences and Academie de Medecine , who “branded mesmerism as a quackery even before it crossed the English Channel in the 1780s” • Proved to be the result of natural law because it did not work each time and was not universally effective • Viewed as a “product of ordinary human labor mobilizing a not-yet-understood force of nature” • Went from being widely accepted to being mocked

  10. Depiction of Mesmerist’s Will (from Exposition, or a New Theory of Animal Magnetism)

  11. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1774-1834)A Brief Biography: • Born in Ottery St. Mary, in rural Devonshire • Sent to school in Christ’s Hospital in London after his father’s death • He was a “dreamy, enthusiastic, and extraordinarily precocious schoolboy.” • Benefitted from excellent education in the classics due to his upper class-standing • Had a “turbulent time” at Jesus College, Cambridge where he enrolled at age 19 • Forms ideas of republicanism and type of Unitarianism promoted by Joseph Priestly

  12. June 1794—Robert Southey and Coleridge devised a “radical political scheme called ‘pantisocracy’ (centered on ideas of an all-equal society) • October 4th, 1795—Coleridge marries Southey’s eldest sister, Sara (who he would later divorce due to their state of being “temperamentally illsuited.” • July 1797—Coleridge’s intense association with Wordsworth • Coleridge writes “Fears of Solitude” in 1798 • Brings together the joint concerns of politics and morality • Expresses his fear that the British have become “A selfish, lewd, effeminated race” while suggesting Britain declared war on not only Revolutionary France but also on “God and the natural world”

  13. 1798—Coleridge’s first edition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is devised • “first to introduce the marginal glosses which serve as both a commentary and a counterpoint to the narrative” • Most canonical poems: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Kubla Khan,” and “Christabel” • During 1797-1798—Coleridge’s opium addiction worsens, his marriage is failing, and his “emotional frustration destroys his creativity, then his friendship with the Wordsworths.” • Coleridge’s late adulthood was assisted by Dr. James Gillman and his wife, who took him in as a house guest in April 1816 until his death in 1834.

  14. “The Mariner” and Polar Travel • Region of dreams = the Arctic • Unfamiliar, untraveled area • Fear of going into the unknown • Expressed through ideas of travel in Mariner • Ex: Ships needing wind to travel • “Land of mist and snow”—”wonderous” to the Mariner and his men • Overwhelming surroundings of ICE in Part 1: • no “known shapes of men or beasts” appear • Causes the Mariner to be skeptical/fearful of the unknown

  15. The Mariner is unable to connect with anything but his alienated self when first entering the Poles: • Allusions to the ice • Unmoving/frozen dead men • Isolation of the ice • Explicit description of the ice • The Mariner’s “Polarizing” his thoughts of: • the moon • the sea • Sea serpents • For all of these instances, the Mariner changes his opinion from negative to positive.

  16. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” • Overview: • After “inhospitably killing the Albatross,” the ancient Mariner is cursed by a higher power and is punished for his actions by the angry spirit of the land of mist and snow. • The Mariner’s Curse: • Forces the Mariner to tell his tale • Gives the Mariner powers of mesmerism/animal magnetism over the Wedding Guest • “He holds him with his glittering eye” (13). • “The wedding guest stood still/ And listens like a three years’ child: / The Mariner hath his will” (13-15).

  17. The Mariner’s Powers of Mesmerism • The wedding guest “cannot choose but hear” the Mariner’s tale (38) and is unable to leave until the tale has finished. • Lines are emphasized in the text through repetition, which shows the Mariner’s unavailing control over the Wedding Guest • “Glittering eye” of the Mariner—relates to powers of mesmerism and “will of the magnetizer”

  18. Question #1: In the poem, Coleridge suggests a similarity between the Ancient Mariner and his men by referring to them all commonly as “mariners” in line 337: “The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes.” • How are elements of mesmerism alluded to in the descriptions of the shipmates and the Mariner comparable after the men become cursed? • Group 1 = Part 4 and Part 5 • Group 2 = Part 6 and Part 7 • Think about elements of Mesmerism: • Specifically allusions to the “eye” and “will” of the mesmerist

  19. Powers of Nature vs. Powers of the Mariner • Being cursed by a higher power [suggested to be Nature], the Mariner absorbs the powers of the natural world. • Nature forces the telling and retelling of his tale. • The Mariner MUST tell his woeful tale to anyone he meets. • “The moment that his face I see, / I know the man that must hear me” (588-89). • Mariner knows he has a powerful effect on men/strangers. • The strangers must listen to the story while the Mariner must tell the entire story before both can be “set free” (581) by the powers of nature.

  20. Question #2 • Look at the varying depictions of the Sun and the Moon in the text: • How does the imagery of the Moon allude to mesmerism and convey a sense of power over the Mariner? • How is the relationship between the Mariner and the Moon/Sun conveyed through the imagery and symbolism of the poem? • Group 1 = Compare Part 3 and Part 4 of the poem • Group 2 = Compare Part 6 and Part 7 of the poem

  21. The Mariner’s Repentance and the Sea Serpents • At first, the Mariner looks upon the sea serpents as being “slimy things” (238). • The Mariner compares himself to the water serpents in Part 4: “And a thousand slimy things / Lived on; and so did I” (238-39). • The Mariner can relate to the creatures and sees himself as a “slimy thing” for killing the Albatross. • However, he is eventually able to see the beauty in the creatures: “O happy living things! No tongue / Their beauty might declare” (282-83). • The Mariner “blessed them unaware,” (285 and 287) and in “the selfsame moment I [the Mariner] could pray” (288).

  22. The Mariner’s Curse • In Part 7, after the Hermit asks the Mariner what “manner of man” he is, the Mariner describes how he is forced to tell his tale: • “Forthwith this frame of mine was wretched / With a woeful agony, / Which forced me to begin my tale; / And then it let me free” (578-81). • “Since then, at an uncertain hour, / That agony returns: / and till my ghastly tale is told, / This heart within my burns” (582-85). • Ghastly tale; agony of his tale • I pass, like night, from land to land (586) • Mariner indirectly compares himself to the moon and relates his powers of mesmerism to nature’s power/cursing of the Mariner.

  23. Mariner as a “Teacher” of Humanity • “I have a strange power of speech; / That moment that his face I see, / I know the man that must hear me: / To him my tale I teach” (587-90). • Moral for the Wedding Guest (influenced by Anna Letitia Barbauld): • “He prayeth well, who loveth well / Both man and bird and beast” (612-13). • “He prayeth well, who loveth best / All things both great and small; / for the dear God who loveth us, / He made and loveth all” (613-16).

  24. Mariner’s Departure/Final Thoughts • Once the Mariner, “whose eye is bright, / Whose beard with age is hoar, / Is gone,” (618-619) the Wedding Guest “went like one that hath been stunned” (622). • Shows the “after-effects” of mesmerism • After hearing the Mariner’s tale, the Wedding Guest is a “sadder and wiser man” (625). • Has he truly benefitted from hearing the Mariner’s tale? • Will the Wedding Guest retain Nature’s lessons that the Mariner has forcibly shared with him? • Coleridge leaves us to ponder these questions.