HOW TO READ THE POEM "CHRISTABEL" by Coleridge
How the poem withdraws possibility of straight-forward reading
1. finished or fragment
3. Reflexivity: all characters read "Geraldine"
A POEM ABOUT THE UNCONSCIOUS
1. Freudian Slips
2. Proposal - the poem slips, moves into dangerous territory and recovers in Part 2.
1. Patterns of opposition
2. Mediating terms and taboo
3. From Parts to wholes: incomplete - to - complete
L = Leoline
X = Unknown
What does Christabel see when Leoline undresses? It is like the speaker of the poem has had a spell cast over them too.
REFLEXIVITY: all the characters in the poem have trouble reading Geraldine. Christabel naÃÂ¯ve reading not correct, but can't read Geraldine. Psychological term - repression (hysteric), something she doesn't know about her but her unconscious knows.
GERALDINE AND CHRISTABEL APPEAR AS A SNAKE AND A DOVE.
The dream needs to be interpreted and misinterpreted. Dream is about what happened in Christabels bed that evening. All read pathologically; as repressed, repeated and concealed.
Not being able to say what one would like to say. The speaker isnt specifically accounting for Leoline's behaviour. Christabel is a poem about the unrepresentable (unconscious). Can you read the unconscious? He thinks so.
Conclusion of Part Two is a paraphraxis or Freudian slip.
What they meant to say is contradicted by what they say. Product of a disturbed intention. In order to speculate on the relationship between the story and the life of the poem.
Basic Structure: bits are related to other bits.
Christabel: Christ - Satan - Snake } Geraldine
Abel - Cain - Mark }
Jane Nelson's article looks at this in more detail in "Studies and Romanticism, Vol. 19, no. 3"
Christabel moves from the inside of the Castle to the outside woods. The poem can be read in opposites. If what happens to Christabel is tagged evil, then what happens to Leonil is good. Geraldine acts as a tonic. Every action results in an opposite reaction. Naturalised text.
Structuralist reading: network of oppositions; good and bad, just another pair of opposites.
WHAT DO OPPOSITIONS AMOUNT TO?
-expect to find mediating terms.
Edmund Leech - anthropologist looking at myths and mediating terms. Opposition between generations and male and female.
It is missing X's and is therefore not a family.
Situation incomplete - taboo about incest decrees that Lionel and Christabel cannot get together. Poem generated mediating terms. Geraldine acts as Christabels lover might act. Geraldine seems to behave as a mother might behave. Christabel will stay childlike from this point.
Christabel is first a classic gothic heroine, and is then compared with an infant. Character Geraldine functions as a middle term bringing the opposites together. At an unconscious level, the plot has gone off the rails. Geraldine can't be Christabel's mother and lover, it is not on. From Structuralist point of view, incest taboos are bad grammar. Unravels the order of culture amd must never happen.
Christabel becomes an infant in Part Two. Christable can't speak because incest is unspeakable. Curious logic happens unconsciously. Completed at an unconscious level as Geraldine becomes both mother and partner. Child is half elf - half human, so fulfilled that it only finds and never speaks, it is complete in itself and doesn't need a gender. The whole self doesn't need division. The moment is moves out of infancy and into language is when it becomes gendered - lacan mirror stage. We grow up and live our lives in a state of exile. The unconscious tries to find substitution in the imaginary. Logic of development predicated on division. Logic motivated by the appearance of a child. The elf child is whole and safe. Belongs to a state before incest taboos, after separation from the mother desire begins.
Read the unreadable. The unconscious which is fascinating, is structured like a language and is therefore open to basic decoding.
I haven't done any biographical research into Samuel Coleridge, but I'm confident enough to say that he was one messed up guy, who had disguistingly sexualised his mother, or other family members in his unconscious which then moved from the sublime to reality.