The pleasures of simulacra: rethinking the picturesque in Coleridge's Notebooks and "The Picture; or, The Lover's Resolution".
Coleridge highlights how thoroughly he understood the pleasures of the picturesque when he writes in 1803, "128 Blank <begin strikethrough>pages Leaves<end strikethrough> Pages remaining in this Pocket-book [...] which I propose to fill with Notes &c on the Picturesque, & the Pleasures of natural Scenery -/" (Notebooks 1: 1676). In this notebook entry and others, as well as in his poem, "The Picture; or, the Lover's Resolution" (1802), Coleridge reveals an unsettling and energizing process of interchange between viewer and landscape that allows us to see the picturesque in a surprisingly fresh way. In this essay, I will be arguing that Coleridge and other nineteenth-century British and American tourists' interactions with nature complicate the kind of unitary analysis of the picturesque that some recent critics have proposed when they argue that picturesque guidebooks and guides "command" and regiment the viewer.
Some commentators have, moreover, overstated the disciplinary function of the picturesque, by characterizing this aesthetic category primarily as a mode of control and regulation. Susan Stewart, for instance, comments that the picturesque is a "rather bourgeois taming of the sublime," a domestication of the sublime into the "orderly and cultivated," and a "manipulation of flux into form, infinity into frame" (75). Benjamin Goluboff argues that "as a literary device, a way of describing the experience of travel, the picturesque was static, inflexibly idealizing, and simply trite" (16). Carole Fabricant contends that the picturesque not only shepherds viewers to a derivative experience, it also deprives them of free will by dictating the journey it orders through a selection process dependent on rigorous rules about inclusion and exclusion (65). Most forcefully, Alan Liu claims that the picturesque in general was "in every sense a form of social control," and that picturesque guidebooks in particular "project an arrest [...] disciplinary in force"; the "object of the picturesque was 'command,' which, first of all, required the regimentation of the viewer" (90, 95). Liu goes so far as to say that "the picturesque was law and order. It was the imagination of a whole method of managing and ultimately policing the rural landscape cognate with new methods of administration learned in the industrial centers" (99). Picturesque guidebooks, Liu argues, are "secretly obsessed with rules, protocol, and discipline" (95).
Such a perspective simply does not account for the elements of picturesque touring that inevitably work to destabilize the tourist's experience and to encourage the pleasures one derives from the experience of nonmastery in aesthetic practice. We must consider the volatility inherent in this aesthetic: the picturesque sketch emphasizes the irregular and fragmentary, viewers' visual and verbal reproductions summon up such conundrums as the indeterminacy of origins, and the picturesque experience devolves from such mercurial and metamorphic matters as weather, mood, and subject position. Once we acknowledge the physical and emotional detours picturesque viewing embodies, then Coleridge's and other Romantic-era tourists' writings on travel help us rethink two large claims made about this aesthetic: first, that it is inevitably a reductive experience of landscape; and second, as the critics just noted argue, that a disciplinary structure shapes the picturesque tour and guidebook. Certainly, our contemporary sense of the picturesque is usually of a diminished, post-card beauty. And although this aesthetic reached great prominence during the Romantic period, influencing tourism, land management, and definitions of national identity, critics satirized the picturesque from the start, and throughout the last century it was widely argued that it promoted a shallow aestheticism and a superficial experience for the unimaginative tourist. The picturesque has also been subject to critique as a mystifying and dissimulating practice that helps to license and augment the interests of the rich. (1)
I will be arguing, however, that the picturesque aesthetic engages the viewer in a much more flexible dynamic than such critiques allow. The picturesque, to be sure, does focus on selection and exclusion; that selection, however, does not necessarily mean that tourists' reception of landscape is as regulated or as regulating and certainly not as superficial as these recent accounts would have it. We need, therefore, to reexamine the contention that the picturesque experience enforced an orderly, "neatly packaged" experience made possible by the viewer's detachment (Bohls 94). (2) As Sidney Robinson has pointed out, the picturesque eschews "seamless control," and "to tolerate some irregularity, to rise without holding complete control means that the Picturesque depends on a preexisting condition of plenitude that can be spiritual or intellectual, as well as material" (xi-xii). Such tolerance of irregularity (in all senses) challenges the picturesque viewer to confront expectations, assumptions, and judgments, and to find in that confrontation both vivid pleasure and strong disappointment.
Coleridge offers a tantalizing, because sketchy, definition of the picturesque: "Where the parts by their harmony produce an effect of a whole, but where there is no seen form of a whole producing or explaining the parts of it, where the parts only are seen and distinguished, but the whole is felt--the picturesque" (Shawcross 309). (3) This definition reveals his dynamic sense of the relation between the whole and the parts, which because of their multiplicity and autonomy, cannot be readily controlled. Although he clearly is not forsaking unity and harmony entirely, the fluidity between parts and wholes, in this description, and the emphasis on "feeling" the whole suggest that his pleasure in picturesque scenery was inseparable from the fluidity of perspective that the aesthetic encouraged. For him, the picturesque was a way of looking at the world, a point of view that cannot sustain a clear hierarchy of parts and wholes. Coleridge's emphasis on process in this passage connects his theories to Gilpin's declaration that his own impressions "are not the offspring of theory; but are taken warm from the scenes of nature, as they arise," a statement that in its reference to thermal elements aligns the picturesque with the animate and emotive (Observations on the River Wye 2). (4)
In the kind of detailed observation that makes up so much of his notebooks, or the way it is manifested artistically, in a poem like "The Picture," Coleridge focuses on the basal constituents of picturesque scenery and practice: an appreciation of lush and textured scenery and of intricate details and rich contrasts of light and shade. Because it is an aesthetic focused on the sketch, the fragment, the unfinished, Coleridge delighted in how its painterly style opens up boundaries and renders fluid the relationship between forms within the artistic space, a phenomenon that demonstrates the picturesque's contiguity with the sublime, rather than its clear separation from it. Most importantly, Coleridge comprehends the picturesque as a way of seeing: an epistemology that acknowledges that paintings and art offer a venue for understanding nature, and nature provides a path for apprehending art. His notebooks allow us to share with him his enormously vital response to landscape and his adherence to the way that the picturesque commits itself to verbal sketching--what W.J.T. Mitchell calls "ekphrastic hope"--that is, the belief that words can do justice to visual images (Picture Theory 152).
The texts I will be examining in this essay provide an opportunity for recapturing the picturesque's sophisticated conversation on the topic of originality. Picturesque tourism, in fact, provides a rich heuristic device for understanding the complex series of negotiations involved in representation and interpretation. Specifically, these are negotiations about who or what constitutes an origin or an original, since when considering the picturesque, we must contemplate the viewer / narrator, the guidebook, the guide, the landscape, and the reproduction as all, in some sense, points of origin. For example, in February 1804 Coleridge writes in his notebook that "Paintings & Engravings send us back with new Eyes to Nature--as for instance the picture of the Cottagers by Du Sart Engraved by Woollett / the reciprocating influences of Poetry, Painting &c--and Nature" (Notebooks 2:1907). The key here, of course, is that word "reciprocating," an element, I will be arguing,
that is at the heart of the picturesque. This passage shows how Coleridge takes obvious delight in a kinetic economy in which reproductions, far from blunting, actually freshen our apprehension of nature and art alike. His attraction to the picturesque is thus an attraction to the way that its modes of viewing stimulate a lively interchange among art, the world, and the eye, an interaction that ultimately produces meaning. (5)
The allusion here to Woollett's engraving brings us face to face with one aspect of the picturesque that has repeatedly been cited as a symptom of its essentially oversimplified nature, that is, its fascination with and reliance on copies, for everywhere in the picturesque we confront the phenomenon of copying in manifold forms. Guides and guidebooks influenced the picturesque enterprise; moreover, the intertextual nature of touring relied on reproductions in the forms of engravings and prints that travelers had seen at home to help them identify landscapes they sought in nature. Undeniably a self-consciously mediated, experience, picturesque tourism relies on the viewer's recollection of other landscapes, on her knowledge of landscape art, and on quotations from literature and other guidebooks.
In implementing the picturesque, Coleridge (as well as the most ordinary tourist) engages in an exploration of the complexities of visual interpretation as he addresses the perplexing kinship between originality and reproduction. In other words, it is because of--not in spite of--its reliance on the simulacra that the picturesque offered viewers a possibility of compelling interactions between art and nature that demanded that they energetically confront the paradox of what we call an original. Because picturesque tourism relies on the experience of generations of other travelers it becomes an apt model for illuminating the quandaries of interpretation as it re-enacts in very visible ways the inevitable challenge most people encounter as they face ideological mandates. Slavoj Zizek calls this interpretive process the "spontaneous ideological narrativization of our experience and activity: whatever we do, we always situate it in a larger symbolic context which is charged with conferring meaning upon our acts" (126). How can you see nature or anything--without a frame of reference, but can you really see nature if you have a frame, such as the picturesque, which decides on the countryside's "capability of being formed into pictures" (Austen, Northanger Abbey 110). The picturesque reminds us that the "other" we strive to understand is, like landscape itself, "a representation of something that is already a representation in its own right" (Mitchell, Landscape and Power 14).
The Picturesque as Proto-Postmodernist Aesthetic
For many nineteenth-century travelers, picturesque touring comically mimics the experience of the sublime not in the sense of the limitlessness of the play of resemblance and difference but because tourists and their critics fear losing a sense of individuality in the face of the other, of forfeiting separateness and subsequently humanity as they become nothing more than an animal in the herd: Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice vows that when she returns from her picturesque tour, she will differ from other travelers, who are not "able to give one accurate idea of anything. [...] Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travelers" (154). Dread of imitation results in the unforgettable perception that "inauthenticity" contaminates, and tourism leaves one at risk for intellectual contagion. As the tourist / author Nathaniel Hawthorne laments while viewing Aira Force, a famous cataract, "I liked it well enough to see it; but it is wearisome, on the whole, to go the rounds of what everybody thinks it necessary to see. It makes one a little ashamed; it is somewhat as if we were drinking out of the same glass and eating from the same dish as a multitude of other people" (The English Notebooks 174). In "The Picture" and in his notebooks, however, Coleridge examines how the relation between tourists, guides, and guidebooks re-enact in highly magnified paradigms the ways in which authenticity or originality are in themselves constructions of reality. As Jonathan Culler says, "every 'original' is a further representation" (165). In an entry from his notebooks, Coleridge reveals how thoroughly, by the early nineteenth century, the picturesque had conditioned visual responses to natural landscapes; he exclaims, "I never beheld a more glorious view of its kind--I turn & look behind me / what a wonderful group of mountains--what a scene for Salvator Rosa [...]" (1:1207). The vista is an original in two ways: he has never beheld anything of its kind, and it is also the origin for art, since it would be a scene for this particular painter. Simultaneously, however, and contradictorily, it is also a copy, for Coleridge knows it is glorious in part because he has seen views of this genre reproduced in painting. Here, art and nature cannot be taxonomized according to a clear hierarchy or etiology: the affiliations between them can only be continually recalibrated, first as we disengage from our orthodox notions of what constitutes an origin, and second as nature and art alike enter the realm of the simulacra. We see how Coleridge anticipates postmodern theories of the simulacra, as when Blanchot argues that in reproduction, "the image ceases to be second in relation to a model, where imposture pretends to the truth, or, finally, where there is no more original, but an eternal sparkle where, in the glitter of detour and return, the absence of the origin is dispersed" (qtd. in Deleuze 53).
Picturesque practice and theory discovered what postmodernism has more recently emphasized: that the copy and the original do not exist in a simple and hierarchical binary opposition. The picturesque traveler follows guidebooks, reproduces landscape views, and compares nature to art--all the while searching for an authentic and original experience. As Rosalind Krauss argues in "The Originality of the Avant-Garde," "although the singular and the formulaic or repetitive may be semantically opposed, they are nonetheless conditions of each other: the two logical halves of the concept landscape" (25). In picturesque viewing, one struggles to determine what takes precedent: nature or art. Such a contemplative process inevitably encourages a playful and often disturbing interchange between the copies tourists have enjoyed and the originals they face. Travelers who have seen reproductions before they have seen originals peruse an enigma: as they sketch, do they imitate the landscape vista, the engraving they saw at home, or some combination of the two? How, then, does one establish authenticity, since in the viewer's mind a determination of whether the landscape or the landscape sketch came first is impossible: art and nature are engaged in a process of reflexive, not stratified influence. William Gilpin, a founding picturesque theorist, describes how his "loss" at not being able to visit Furness Abbey "was in a great measure made up, and our curiosity satisfied, by the accounts and drawings of Mr. John Smith, an ingenious young painter who had been studying the ruins on the spot" (Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty 157). Here we may know for sure that Gilpin is not relying on the "original," but rather on an original imitation of nature--Smith's drawings--which in themselves derive from an original (the Abbey) that is already a reproduction of itself insofar as tourism has marked it as a site worthy of drawing. (6) Coleridge mimes this process in transposed fashion when, leaving his house for his Tour of the Lakes, he starts his journey with a merging of art and nature: "view of Vicarage--2 views of the Bridge / when you come into the Road Carsleddam lying flat upon Skiddaw, like a Painting" (Notebooks 1:1207).
As his representation of the vicarage suggests, Coleridge effortlessly elides art and nature. Rather than finding (as Wordsworth did) that the picturesque lexicon constrains his vision by rendering nature "artificial" or binding his descriptive powers, he continually demonstrates that the play between the original and simulacra liberates his vision. (7) In an earlier entry from his 1799 tour of the Lakes, Coleridge describes how
all the objects on the opposite Coast are hidden, and all those hidden are reflected in the Lake [...] the Lyulph's Tower gleams like a Ghost, dim & shadowy--& the bright Shadow thereof how beautiful it is cut across by that Tongue of breezy water--now the Shadow is suddenly gone--and the Tower itself rises emerging out of the mist, two-thirds wholly hidden, the turrets quite clear--& in a moment all is snatched away--Realities & Shadows--(Notebooks 1: 553)
Objects are simultaneously hidden, revealed, and copied in reflection. As an architectural reproduction that "gleams like a Ghost," the tower announces both its historical and physical detachment from any sense of stable authenticity. Such a ghost-like tower, "doubled and redoubled" (to recall Wordsworth's phrase from "There was a Boy"), becomes a type of imagistic doppleganger that "haunts" the spectator. Water and light give birth to reflection and constitute the means of reproduction, becoming a "tongue"--the original, active agent that articulates reality and reveals what is "hidden." This slippage between copy and original resembles a similar unbinding between object and self. Coleridge's erasure of a clear line between origins and reproductions complicates the well-known and persistent interpretation of the simulacrum as a degenerate phenomenon that resists the essence of the original because it is founded on difference or, to put it even more negatively, on falsehood.
The picturesque thus offers the opportunity for the viewer to recognize the potential for dissimilarity and transfiguration even while repeating other tourists' itineraries and reactions. Coleridge and the more prosaic tourist inevitably undergo this process when traveling. In eighteenth--and nineteenth-century tourist accounts, what we have come to call the simulacrum was known more modestly though omnipresently, to coin a term, as the quest for disappointment. Disappointment was widely recognized as a near-ubiquitous experience for tourists during the nineteenth century (as well as today). What interests me here is not the phenomenon of disappointment, but the quest for it, the fact that it was not an end in itself but part of an emotional trajectory that metamorphosed into unexpected reactions. This well-known tropic representation of disappointment, so undetachable from this associative exchange, occurs when the traveler expects that the site will replicate the representation (an engraving, sketch or guidebook description) that she has seen before arriving; because it differs, she is disappointed. (8)
In The British Tourist's, or, Traveller "s Pocket Companion, Charles P. Mortiz, "misled" by his imagination, is "disappointed" because Stratford "was not at all wild and romantic" (88). James Fenimore Cooper, traveling through Italy reports that "Vesuvius alone disappointed our expectation" (97), and in Padua he imparts that he cannot say he "like[s]" Palladio's architecture "so much as [he] had anticipated" (275). Hawthorne mournfully confesses that "there was a better St Peter's in my mind, before I came to Rome, than the real one turns out to be--[...] It was better than Michel Angelo [sic] could build; for I said of mine 'how vast it is!'--and of his, 'it is not so very big, after all!' The reality is a failure [...]" (136). George Stillman Hillard, an American picturesque guidebook writer and reader, acknowledges in his Six Months in Italy (1853) that anyone who expects that the Pantheon will look in reality the way it appeared in sketches, "is pretty sure to end in disappointment" since "Many of the ruins in Rome [...] are often in unfavorable positions, and bear the shadows of disenchanting proximities" (184). Engravers, the tourist finds, have "smoothed, rounded, and polished" everything; "holes are filled up, inequalities are removed, backgrounds and foregrounds are created, the crooked made straight, and all deformity erased" (130). Ruins, instead, are "thrust into unsightly neighborhoods and elbowed by commonplace structures" (129-30). Here, copies charm while originals disenthrall the viewer. Hillard writes that "though there is truth enough to suggest the resemblance, there is untruth enough to excite vexatious disappointment" (130).
Though writing in a different context, Giles Deleuze's point is apt: such regret arises from the observer's acknowledgment of, but resistance to, the fact that the simulacra before him "implies great dimensions, depths, and distances which the observer cannot dominate" (Deleuze 49). However, enfolded in the simulacrum, one can also then experience a positive sense of boundlessness when, as Hillard exclaims, "the spirit of the place will descend upon him" if one can put oneself in a "fitting frame of mind"--"the power of going out of one's self and forgetting the actual in the ideal, and the present in the past [...]" (130). To use Jonathan Bates' words from another context, the contemplative traveler here becomes "spiritual and emotive, sympathetic and engaged" rather than "materialistic and realistic, skeptical and interrogative" (Romantic Ecology 14-15); and Hillard himself acknowledges that the traveler must succumb to "a willingness to be acted upon, and not to act," and unless she gives up "notions of progress and reform at the gates" she will "be kept in a constant state of protest and rebellion"(130). (9) In other words, Hillard himself fully anticipates Deleuze's advocacy of the simulacrum as a site of indomitable depths and distances.
Coleridge helps understand the complexity inherent in picturesque viewing with the important distinction he makes between copy and imitation in the Biographia and in the 13th lecture on "Poesy or Art." (10) He theorizes that with a copy we begin with a mistaken sense of sameness and then register difference, which leads to disappointment because we have lost that sense of unity with which we began. An imitation, in contrast, begins by realizing difference, but then recognizes a sense of sameness--from diversity, to unity:
Why are such simulations of nature, as waxwork figures of men and women, so disagreeable? Because, not finding the emotion and the life which we expected, we are shocked as by a falsehood, every circumstance of detail, which before induced us to be interested, making the distance from truth more palpable. You set out with a supposed reality and are disappointed and disgusted with the deception; whilst, in respect to a work of genuine imitation, you being with an acknowledged total difference, and then every touch of nature gives you the pleasure of an approximation to truth. ("Poesy or Art" 256)
When traveling, picturesque tourists bring expectations that mirror Coleridge's theory, in that they desire singularity, which he would affirm arises from difference, but they also invert it: travelers begin their journey with a desire for a copy and disgust for difference; when the inversion occurs, as it necessarily must because of the many frames of reference they bring to any view, travelers inevitably confront unlikeness, which, ironically, can become the foundation for their greatest pleasures. Gilpin, perhaps preparing the viewer for dissatisfaction, urges one to look for such difference, and often the traveler's journal opens with a rueful acknowledgment that she does not find in nature a copy, in Coleridge's sense, of what she's seen in art. In her Diary of an Ennuyee, Anna Jameson, for example, reports in 1826 that "I had been, unfortunately, too well prepared, by previous reading, for all I see, to be astonished by anything except the Museum of the Vatican" (129). The high point of the picturesque tour occurs when the tourist's imitation triumphs over the original he anticipated seeing. Coleridge puts it this way: it is "not the thing presented, but that which is re-presented by the thing, [that] shall be the source of the pleasure" ("On Poesy or Art" 254).
"Each in the other lost and found": Copies and Originals and Guides and Travelers in "The Picture, or the Lover's Resolution"
The ligature between the original and copy is a fascinating and fraught one in Coleridge's life and art. In "Poesy or Art," Coleridge draws from Schelling's Oration On the Relation of the Formative Arts to Nature where he speculates on the association between and among originals, copies, and imitations. In response to charges of plagiarism in this work, Sara Coleridge says, "if it be Schelling's--and that the leading thought of it is his, I freely admit--it is Coleridge's also" (qtd. in Shawcross 317). Besides the issue of plagiarism, which the daughter's statement both acknowledges and complicates, we might think of the poet's multiplication of Saras (wife, beloved, daughter, idealized fictional character), the appositeness between Coleridge's notebooks to other writings, and his rewriting of his life: for example, his revision--or misrepresentation--of his radical past (Roe 4). From an artistic point of view, picturesque theory and practice provide Coleridge with one of the most fertile opportunities for exploring the riddled consanguinity between originals and copies.
"The Picture; or, The Lover's Resolution" (1802) addresses these enigmatic junctures. Coleridge wrote that the subject of the poem was "the endeavour to emancipate the soul from day-dreams & note the different attempts and the vain ones -" (Notebooks 1:1153). Befuddling such a clear enterprise, the poem overturns and destabilizes hierarchies between imposture and truth, between origins and simulacra. "The Picture" opens by dramatizing the narrator's attempts to find a sublime solace from heartache in nonfeminine, nondomesticated natural settings: a place where there "are no groves / For love to dwell in" (17-18). He contrasts himself with another kind of lover, a kind of psychic alter ego whom he describes as a feeble, "distempered youth" (43). This youth, the narrator postulates, is hopelessly infatuated, a fantasist who, having abandoned himself to venerating his beloved, "Worships the wat'ry idol, dreaming hopes / Delicious to the soul--but fleeting, vain / Ev'n as that phantom-world on which he gazed!" (62-64). The narrator, supposedly a realist who can discern the difference between illusion and actuality, contends that unlike the youth, he will not "waste [his] manly prime / In mad love-gazing" and will not be a victim of "sickly thoughts" that "bewitch" the eyes and persuade him to confuse shadows and material reality (85-87).
The poem traces the narrator's journey through the landscape until the point where he discovers a sketch he believes his own beloved, Isabel, has left for him. Though he asserts his individuality and freedom, the narrator ironically participates in his own delusions, as he quests for Isabel through copies as illusory and insubstantial as the youth's "wat'ry idol": that is, a sketch he believes Isabel has dropped and the imprint her body has left on the ground, both of which he reads as signs left for him to follow. Throughout the poem, the narrator, ostensibly trying to avoid Isabel, pursues her through a series of eroticized metonyms, as when he imagines the "disparted waters" that "join / In deep embrace" (102, 104-5) and the sensuous, feminized body of the landscape: "Two crescent hills / Fold in behind each other, and so make / A circular vale" (114-16). The poem ends with his arrival at her cottage, and his vow to return her sketch to her.
As we can discern from this account of the poem, "The Picture" is obsessively concerned with doubles and with copies: we find the two lovers, two love-objects, reflections in pools, two sketches of the same object, and so on. The youth and the narrator, though apparently demarcated, in fact redouble each other: their mutual flights from love stage a ritual that masks their actual pursuit of it. The poem itself is a kind of copy, arising from Coleridge's translation of a long German poem by Saloman Gessner, Coleridge had planned to publish his version with illustrations (Collected Letters 1:444). Unfortunately, no trace of Coleridge's translation remains. The poem also is, no doubt, autobiographical, which is interesting in itself in that one's memoirs necessarily constitute a copy of one's experiences. Richard Holmes points out that the poet, attempting to "renounce" though not "banish" Sara Hutchinson from his mind, "adapts a romantic scene from Gessner to form the basis of a blank verse account of his lovelorn fell-wanderings" (323). Moreover, the fact that Coleridge, according to Holmes, was at the time of composition "attempting to establish his poetic identity separate from Wordsworth" (333) underscores how Coleridge conversed with the topic of authenticity in both life and art.
If we return to the poem, the passage where the narrator spots Isabel's cottage provides a particularly rich consideration of these complex issues. It is here, as the speaker finds evidence of her presence, that the narrative suggests first that he follows a trajectory that will lead to more tangible physical intimacy with his beloved and second, that the poem (at least initially) validates the difference between the "wat'ry idol" the youth worships and the physical palpability of the narrator's Isabel: she lives, after all, in a sturdy grey-stone cottage. Ironically, however, it is at this point that the relationships between originals and simulacra become more complicated as the poem renders them even less distinguishable. Their contiguities indeed seem limitless, which would suggest that while one may define the terms differently, once we take into account one's reaction to the view, we must acknowledge that the clear separation often made between the picturesque and the sublime is far more turbid. (11)
Coleridge's introduction of the two descriptions of Isabel's cottage is one example of this emerging complexity. Here he gives a verbal sketch of her cottage:
The smoke from cottage chimneys, tinged with light, Rises in columns; from this house alone Close by the waterfall, the column slants And feels its ceaseless breeze. (123-26)
In the next passage, he describes Isabel's own representation of the cottage, the "curious picture" (133) she has sketched with purple berries on a "strip of pinky-silver skin / Peeled from the birchen bark!" (134-35):
That cottage, with its slanting chimney smoke, And close beside its porch a sleeping child, His dear head pillowed on a sleeping dog, One arm between its forelegs, and the hand Holds loosely its small handful of wild-flow'rs, Unfilleted, and of unequal lengths--(127-32)
These sketches are both represented ekphrastically; that is, Coleridge uses language to create a visual picture and, in the case of Isabel's representation, to recreate verbally an actual work of art. Given that, however, they illustrate the content and tone of the same scene in dramatically divergent ways. The narrator's less domestic view focuses on more abstract spatial relationships, geometric forms, and effects of light among the objects in the distance. In Isabel's sketch, the narrator's harder edges give way to softness: the child pillows his head and holds the flowers loosely. While the narrator describes an intimacy that is highly conceptual--the smoke "feels" the ceaseless breeze--her perspective vibrantly conveys the intimacy of kinship since the child, "close beside its porch," envelops himself in the dog and the wildflowers. Executed in a painterly, picturesque style, her drowsy forms of slumbering child, "unfilleted" wildflowers, and sleeping dog merge in the composition, emphasizing a lack of boundaries and a playful organicism.
The only common denominator between them is the "slanting chimney smoke," and without that reference the reader could not know that they are views of the same scene. Rather than resembling the cottage--whatever it looks like--these two representations diverge in dramatic ways. We have here what Deleuze would call a "condensation of coexistences," a "simultaneity of events" (53). Both of these sketches belie a transparent etiology to any "original" cottage: his seems an exercise in abstract discourse, and hers encompasses both the genuine and the false since the means of production--using berries on bark authenticate what might seem like a hackneyed subject matter.
The diverging, coalescing differences between the two sketches illustrate the conundrums underlying picturesque representation. In doubling our aspect, the poem's several vistas contrast with the exclusive angle inherent in linear perspective, which focuses on the single eye as the nucleus of the perceivable world, and which allows for no visual reciprocity since it freezes the viewer's point of view. In contrast, the picturesque point of view is much closer to that of the camera's, which is inevitably "relative to your position in time and space and which prevents one from imaging everything converging on the human eye as on the vanishing point of infinity" (Berger 18). Thus, the picturesque, emphasizing juxtaposition, original and copy, copy and copy, and copy and simulacrum encourages reciprocity and breaks down the "single eye" point of observation since the traveler gets to choose his or her own position relative to the landscape. (12)
In Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, Made m the Year 1772, On Several Parts of England: Particularly the Mountains, and Lakes of Cumberland, and Westmoreland, William Gilpin's advice about sketching dramatizes this breakdown of the "single eye" point of view. He tells us that a "proper" sketch cannot be accomplished unless one has observed the scene "in various lights"; yet such differences give us "two very different landscapes" (1: vii). If each experience itself is singular given the eye of the beholder and the conditions of effect, like viewer placement, weather, cloud patterns, wind, and light, the notion of singularity becomes infinitely reproducible. Coleridge rehearses this phenomenon in his Notebooks, when he describes a vista from a Bridge that changes utterly when one moves fifty to sixty yards, but that is "equally delightful": the view
consist[ed] of a reach of the River, the Road & the Kirk to the left at the end of the Reach. The Kirk standing on the low rough Hill up which the Road climbs, the fields level and high, beyond that; & then the different flights of mountains in the back ground, with wild ridges from the right & the left, running like Arms & confining the <begin strikethrough>view<end strikethrough> middle view to these level fields on high ground is eminently picturesque--A little step (50 or 60 yards) beyond the Bridge, you gain a compleatly different picture--the Houses & the Kirk forming more important parts, & the view bounded at once by a high wooded rock, [...] now compleat in a Mirror & equally delightful as a view / (1: 1225)
Here we see how "wild ridges [...] running like Arms & confining the middle view" point us to the way the picturesque paradoxically combines control and freedom, wildness and containment; and how a mere sixty yards offers a fresh prospect, one that dissolves any framing jurisdiction those "wild ridges" might have had. The "equally delightful" though completely different picture reminds us of how, in the poem, Isabel's sketch provides the psychological frisson that a "new" perspective can have, for in a tactile way her picture allows him to feel that he has found her (and subsequently the original), as suggested in his line "from this house alone," the "alone" signifying that this is the only house in which he has an investment.
As we saw in Hillard's tour and Coleridge's notebooks, when the tourist meets the "original" with the copy in mind, his frame of reference and the site itself pressure each other and thereby challenge his preconceptions; seeing that the "original" contains within itself variant ideas requires his metamorphosis and leads to his transformation of the "original." We find this idea played out in the poem at both the aesthetic and psychological levels. In an image that in itself reproduces one found in The Faerie Queene, where the "royall Mayd" who has visited Red Cross Knight has left an inscription of her body in the "pressed gras, where she had lyen" (1.9.128), Coleridge describes the visceral presence of Isabel's absence by discerning that "Yon patch of heath has been her couch--/ The pressure still remains!" (165-66). This simulacrum of Isabel, imprinted on the heath, both recalls and diverges from the original. The impress has the power momentarily to change both nature and the woman: as the weight of her body alters the surface of the earth, so inevitably must the rough irregularity of the heath have marked the surface of her skin. To quote from a moment earlier in the poem, the reproduction and the original "meet, / Each in the other lost and found." (13) Significantly, within the scope of the poem itself, we are made continually aware that the narrator cannot master either her or her image, as he finds it reproduced in the sketch and on the ground, and as it exists in his imagination. On a psychological level, the uncontrollable proliferation and differentiation of her image is a register of his inability to control her.
Raimonda Modiano, discussing gift exchange and the picturesque, contends that the speaker is tempted to keep the sketch, which he calls a "relic," but decides to return it to Isabel, thus revealing that he has "attained a degree of independence and self-control that he did not have before and which he is bound to carry over into a relationship with the beloved, if such a relationship were to occur" ("Legacy" 213). I find this argument rewarding insofar as the speaker is trying to move toward a higher level of reciprocity and connection than in his lovesick wanderings. I would argue, however, in contrast to Modiano, that such an exchange significantly does not occur in the course of the poem but is only (and doubtfully) anticipated. The speaker is no more dependent or independent than he was earlier: first, because desire rules him throughout--either through aversion or attachment--and, second, because by the conclusion he remains as absorbed in the play of originals and simulacra as he was at the beginning. The relic is as much a representation as the phantasmagorical "watery idol" the love-sick youth sees at the river, and though the narrator pursues Isabel, he worships the sketch as surely as the youth venerates the reflection. (14)
The poem offers neither a consoling moral nor does it establish an opposition between representation and being. Isabel continues to elude him, and while representation, in the form of the sketch and the imprint, does offer him some compensation--offers him, that is, some hope for the experience of the "real"--that experience is forever deferred. He is continuing on his quest at the end of the poem. He is, so to speak, still in process. Finding the "relic" (156) does not equal finding the artisan of that sketch--the power behind depiction--it only offers him a clue to the "pathway" (151) to "her father's house" (152), an artery, we are beginning to realize, that always channels us to a further reproduction and that keeps him in a state of constant unfolding rather than conducting him to closure. Coleridge expresses this yearning in what is, to the reader, clearly a prematurely triumphant tone. The woe and desperation that the narrator represses is more directly articulated in a notebook entry, where he longs for Sara Hutchinson in language that reveals how deeply emotionally intertwined the notion of the copy and the original, or the image and the reality, are for him: "Item--Murmur of a stream--Item--well with Shadows. Item--Why aren't you here?--images & realities in the eye & memory--fantasticaly [sic], soul going into the heart of the survivor, & abiding there with its Image" (1:981). Neither in this notebook entry nor in the poem can we be confident about the tightrope between originals and reproductions. Isabel, as a quicksilver representation, variably epitomizes both nature's original and its simulacrum; thus in searching for her, he inevitably seeks versions of her, of art, and of nature itself. (15)
The Aesthetics of Non-Mastery
Rather than interpreting the picturesque as "a form of social control," I suggest that these literary texts reveal a relationship between the tourist and the guidebook (between verbal description and actual site) that embodies an intricate and varied exchange between word and image. Gilpin, for example, writes of the caprice of one kind of "guide": "It seems, as the road winds, to play with us, shewing itself here and there, sometimes totally disappearing, and then rising where we did not expect to find it" (Observations on the Western Parts of England 53). A most interesting instantiation of the idea that the picturesque conductor does not control or police the viewer occurs, rather surprisingly, in reactions to Gilpin's own guidebooks: contemporaries criticized the illustrations accompanying his tours because they did not resemble the actual landscapes they supposedly depicted. Tour guide James Clark wrote that "Whoever examines these 'abortive nothings,' which Mr. Gilpin calls Landscapes, will hardly be able to trace one view, how well soever [sic] he may be acquainted with it" (qtd. in Bermingham, "System, Order" 88). Ann Bermingham points out that during the 1790's, drawing master William Marshall Craig reproached Gilpin because, instead of transparently reproducing the scenery he sketched, Gilpin posited an "abstract and arbitrary relationship" between "the visual sign and the referent," thereby opening his drawing to "interpretation and rhetorical applications," to "manipulation, change, and misunderstanding" ("System, Order" 89, 92). Gilpin's tours, it seems, peremptorily direct the tourist to specific physical sites, but once there, prompt a multiplicity of reactions that provide a constellation of views. For this "founder" of the picturesque, this aesthetic was less about a literal picture than about a certain sensibility; less about what was seen than about the practice of seeing, and this emphasis on practice rather than product helps us grasp the part of picturesque viewing that is about a kind of surrender rather than authoritative command.
Coleridge, rather like Gilpin's readers, sometimes complains that guides, rather than functioning as regimented leaders, are duplicitous: in a letter to Sara Hutchinson, he wrote that "men who write tours and county histories I have by woeful experience found out to be damned Liars, harsh words, but true!" (Collected Letters I: 450). These examples from Gilpin and Coleridge underscore how the rapport between the guidebooks and tourists does not record a stable power relationship since the tour book could mandate neither the traveler's experience nor his or her future representations of it. Coleridge scorns West and Gilpin's hyperbolic descriptions:
[A] cataract is fine no doubt in a storm but extravagantly exaggerated by West & Gilpin / Buttermere, the mere in what a singular Embracement of naked Rock / exactly an enormous Stone Bason, of which one half is gone / ascend by Scale force / gain a level--mossy soft ground, every man his own path-maker--(Notebooks 1: 1207)
Following his complaint about West's and Gilpin's "exaggeration"--that is, a gap between verbal and visual representation--he asserts how "singular[ly]" the mere embraces the rock and announces both his literal and metonymic avowal of being able to make his own path--or his own tour (Notebooks 1: 1207).
The complexity of Coleridge's reactions to his guide, Wordsworth, in their 1799 tour of the Lakes (Notebooks 1: 496), exposes the inadequacy of Liu's concept of discipline as an explanation for the relations between guides and tourists. On this tour, Wordsworth pointed out many of the Lake District's monuments and legends, including the story of the Harts-Horn tree, an oak that in 1334 had had a stag's horns nailed to its branches to commemorate a chase that ended in the deaths of both the greyhound and the stag. (16) Wordsworth's later sonnet, "Hart's-Horn Tree, Near Penrith" (1831), describes how "the Dog Hercules pursued" (5) the Hart, "each desperately sustaining, till at last / Both sank and died, the life-veins of the chased / And chaser bursting here with one dire smart. / Mutual the victory, mutual the defeat!" (6-9). Although this tree was of obvious importance to the tour guide--that is, Wordsworth--Coleridge, in contrast, mentions it in only one line of his notebook entry, choosing instead to elaborate on a circular stone-fence at Maybrough which encloses "an upright stone l0 foot high, with an ash close by its side umbrellaing [sic] it--a scene of religion and seclusion" (Notebooks l: 496).
In focusing on this antiquity, Coleridge may be ignoring Wordsworth's influence while revealing his reliance on another guide, William Hutchinson, whose An Excursion to the Lakes (1774) dwells on the fence for six pages, describing it in detail, offering popular interpretations about its purpose (was it a Roman theater, a British fortification, or a druid temple?), and including other famous visitors' speculations on the site. In what could be read after the fact as a poignant commentary on the two poets' relationship, Wordsworth's poem tries to find noble feelings in a competition that ends in the mutual destruction of both the hunter and the hunted, while Hutchinson's entry focuses on circular stone-fence as a "a monument of the treaty of peace and union" (96). Hutchinson's etymological exploration of the place, Maybrough, reveals that the word came to mean "any intimate union or friendship among men or societies" (97). Coleridge may have responded, especially at the beginning of the journey of these two friends, to Hutchinson's observations that this mysterious site was associated with union or alliance, and the poet seems to have been drawn emotionally to its significance as a place both of spiritual worship and human fellowship in a natural setting.
Foucauldian readings of the picturesque that focus on the guidebook's / guide's disciplinary role have not been flexible enough to account for the moments when tourists feel an emotional kinship with previous guides. Because travelers do enjoy and document such "conversations," it is important to try to understand the power relations they imply in a more subtle way. While touring, Coleridge looks through the window of the Inn at Ouse Bridge, as if he were gazing through a picture frame, and sees "On the left the conical Shadow, On the right a square of splendid Black, all the area & intermediate a mirror reflecting dark & sunny Cloud" (Notebooks 1: 536). Perhaps, in addition to seeing these natural shadows, Coleridge also felt the penumbra of former travelers, for this is the Inn, as Gordon Wordsworth pointed out, where "Thomas Gray had dined [...] on his tour of the Lakes in the autumn thirty years before" (qtd. in Notebooks 1: 536n). If we turn from Coleridge to The British Tourist's [...] Pocket Companion, edited by William Mavor, we find a further example of the original corresponding with the referential in the picturesque tour when he introduces J. Grant's Journal of a Three Weeks Tour (1797): "The liberal manner in which this original tour was communicated, independent of value, would claim the warmest acknowledgments; but as the author writes not for fame, we can only [...] hop[e] [...] that they may derive the same pleasure from its perusal which we have done" (4:219, emphasis added).
The referential nature of picturesque viewing may thus lend itself to Liu's interpretation that it is a "form of social control." The aesthetic, however, just as surely accommodates itself to the alternate idea that the "Rage for Quotation" (Notebooks 1: 1586), which seems to regiment viewers, arises from the urge to connect with former travelers and from the pleasure one receives in finding the original sources of what others have reproduced. (17) Coleridge explains in his notebook that when there is a "correspondency, [...] either by likeness or counteraction, [...] the whole Field of Vision becomes sensu[begin strikethrough]ally[end strikethrough]ously picturesque, & the parts [begin strikethrough]become[end strikethrough] acquire as parts a charm which they have not as Things per se" (Notebooks 2: 2012). That the picturesque is an aesthetic of nonmastery becomes clear in Coleridge's emphasis here on the idea that correspondence, not arrogation, helps one see the charm in "parts" of the landscape. And here, Coleridge's focus on "parts"--which Gilpin emphasizes as well in his writing and especially in his titles (Western Parts of England; Several Parts of England)--signifies portions of a country, but also implies the fragmentary, and thereby becomes another way in which the picturesque abdicates mastery over the whole: thus, in Coleridge's definition of the picturesque which I quoted earlier, "the parts by their harmony produce an effect of a whole, but where there is no seen form of a whole producing or explaining the parts of it, where the parts only are seen and distinguished, but the whole is felt--the picturesque" (Shawcross 309).
If we acknowledge, as Coleridge does above, that one "feels" the whole rather than clearly establishing and dominating it, the picturesque emphasis on touristic correspondence between viewers, guides, and objects makes more sense. Writing later in the century, Henry James would articulate this idea in Italian Hours, where he claims that when you observe a landscape that you have before seen reproduced visually or verbally, your "enjoyment" arises from an "intellectual background" that
prevents pleasure from becoming vulgar, for your sensation rarely begins and ends with itself; it reverberates--it recalls, commemorates, resuscitates something else. At least half the merit of everything you enjoy must be that it suits you absolutely; but the larger half here is generally that it has suited some one else and that you can never flatter yourself you have discovered it. (149-50) (18)
The narrator in "The Picture" cherishes a sketch Isabel abandons since he believes she has left it for him. Ironically, he dramatizes the paradox of James' utopian vision since the narrator, as I will argue below, imposes a motivation on Isabel's part that presumes a connection with him that is quite dubious. As the narrator's longing evinces, enjoyment of the picturesque emanates partly--and surprisingly--from the thrill that one has not "discovered" what one sees (theorists of tourism would argue, of course, that one can only see what has been discovered). The double desire for the original and the reproduction invigorates precisely because it "resuscitates" other travelers' experiences. We see this emphasis in the dialogic nature of referential discourse throughout the eighteenth-century itself and in the fact that the picturesque is part of a much larger phenomenon of borrowing, copying, and collecting. As John Brewer argues, the eighteenth century saw an "enormous increase in inexpensive copperplate book illustration and in the marketing of inexpensive but ably executed individual prints [...]" (455). Such a "proliferation of reproduced images created a public at one remove, able to enjoy art they had little or no possibility of ever seeing in the original" (Brewer 459). It also allowed them to experience the inverse, to see the art "again" in their own tours.
The texts I have been examining--American and English travelers' accounts, Coleridge's notebook descriptions, and the poem, "The Picture"--all challenge Liu's conception of the guidebook as that which "commands" and the picturesque tourist as the one who is disciplined. In the poem, we watch how the narrator interacts with the various "guides"--alternately nature, Isabel, and her sketch. The speaker's relation to Isabel as his guide underscores the tension inherent in the traveler's dependence on a conductor, indeed on any kind of material that might have influenced his ability to experience the "authentic." His inquiries reveal a dizzying series of inversions as to who or what constitutes the nascence of experience: the original--that is, the narrator's consciousness; or the reproduction--that is, Isabel (as guide) and her sketch and imprint (as guidebook).
In one sense, surely, Liu's argument applies well to Coleridge's poem insofar as Isabel, as guide, does control the hapless narrator's actions: though seeking to avoid her, he inevitably is drawn to her presence. The speaker, trying to find a sublime, masculine setting, which female power has not touched or influenced, claims that he will not find her in a "tangle wild of bush and brake" or in a "'wild and desert stream" (14, 90). He tries here to avoid the picturesque, while oxymoronically invoking it in his rejection:
This breeze that visits me Was never Love's accomplice, never raised The tendril ringlets from the maiden's brow, And the blue, delicate veins above her cheek; Ne'er played the wanton, never half-disclosed The maiden's snowy bosom [...] (Wu 37-42)
The passage reveals the extent to which picturesque viewers eroticized nature, envisioning in one's journey through it a kind of flirtatious courtship that transforms "Mother nature" into a lover. Coleridge's description of the "half-disclosed [...] bosom," which refers of course both to the woman and to nature itself, recalls Uvedale Price's claim that picturesque intricacy "reveals and conceals, and this excites and nourishes curiosity" (Essays I: 22). However, the poem renders it unclear, as we saw above, who functions as the guide since she apparently does not want to be "minded" and since the narrator posits himself in that role. With the picture Isabel sketched in his hand, Coleridge affirms that "She cannot blame me, that I followed her, / And I may be her guide the long wood through!" (159-60), which recalls Gilpin's erotic descriptions of picturesque hunting: "we pursue [nature] from hill to dale; and hunt after those various beauties, with which she everywhere abounds"; we "follow her through all her recesses [...] to obtain a sudden glance as she flits past him in some airy shape" (Three Essays 48).
Although Gilpin's description of the picturesque tour makes it seem as if the tourist and the guide are utterly indistinguishable ("we pursue," "we follow"), it is unclear throughout the poem itself who is squiring whom. Is she a "Playmate, or guide" (11), having intentionally left him this sketch as a clue? Like Frankenstein and the monster, who leaves "marks in writing on the barks of the trees [...] "(204), you cannot tell the pursuer from the pursued. Alternatively, in Romantic Writing and Pedestrian Travel, Robin Jarvis goes so far as to assert that Isabel's "clues" are an illusion on the narrator's part: "There are no apparent grounds for his conviction that the sketch is the work of Isabel, and the depressed 'patch of heath' that he drools over as her recent 'couch' (l. 139) could equally well have been formed by sheep [...]" (153).
My contention is that the poem, regardless of how we evaluate the narrator's perceptions, undermines the static notion of a picturesque "guide police" as we watch our narrator dwell on the significance of Isabel's sketch, which he says was "Dropped unawares, no doubt" (155). That "no doubt" makes the link only more ambiguous. Whether he will be triumphant in controlling nature (of which Isabel is a type) is rendered indefinite. As she is (through her double in the Virgin, whom the unlucky youth worships earlier in the poem) the "sportive tyrant" (65), so is he a pursuer, almost a stalker, claiming that "She cannot blame me, that I followed her" (159). He says he "may be her guide the long wood through!" (160), but that only emphasizes his doubt--he "may" or he may not. Further, how much authority--as a guide--does the beloved in the poem assert? The Virgin whom the youth worships looks in the pool and "plucks / The heads of [...] foxglove-bells" (65-67), necessarily destroying her own image. Isabel herself leaves her sketch behind, possibly as a clue, but also perhaps as a way to disclaim ownership of her "guide" (i.e. the sketch) and her role as guide / disciplinarian.
In suggesting that the simulacrum offers the picturesque viewer an opportunity for metamorphosis, I am not ignoring the inevitable pressures, historical and otherwise, of those ideological forces that influence and restrict one's visual freedom and pleasure. Coleridge's prose and poetry suggest that the picturesque (generally) and the interactions between guide and traveler in the poem (specifically) demonstrate what we can call a "constrained constructivism," a term N. Katherine Hayles coins to propose that there is an "'active engagement' between the flux--the preconstructed world--and perceiving beings" (qtd. in Slicer 61, 62). This "constrained constructivism" resembles what ecofeminist Deborah Slicer terms "social constructivism--constraints that make significant sense of freedom [...]" (62). Such a concept seems applicable to picturesque aesthetics, which are predicated on the chiasmus between constraints and freedom: natural contours exist, but the perceiving mind rearranges them; in turn, the perceiving mind brings preconceptions, which the actual environment reconfigures. Thus, rather than interpreting the picturesque as "a form of social control," I suggest that we acknowledge how this aesthetic plays polyphonically with tensions between originals and simulacra, tourists and guidebooks, and verbal descriptions and actual sites. Picturesque viewing relies on the relationship between word and image that, as W.J.T. Mitchell explains, "is simply the unsatisfactory name for an unstable dialectic that constantly shifts its location in representational practices, breaking both pictorial and discursive frames and undermining the assumptions that underwrite the separation of the verbal and visual disciplines [...]" (Picture Theory 83).
In conclusion, although the picturesque relies on singularity, it remains dependent on literary and visual frames of reference; thus, the familiar conclusion that the picturesque experience is hackneyed or inevitably restrictive is inadequate for three reasons: first, because that argument ignores the complementary, participatory relationship between the individual and group experience; second, because it undermines the complex dynamic between guide and traveler; and third, because it assumes a clear differentiation between originals and copies: it disregards, in other words, that "one sees what the real never was" (Baudrillard 28). And, crucially, this is a differentiation that Coleridge as well as his contemporaries self-consciously sought to trouble.
In this essay I have argued that what some critics would see as the picturesque's stultifying dependence on reproductions and its unyielding, disciplinary command over the viewer is a far more fluid dynamic, and its instability--inspired partly by the power of simulacra--characterizes the picturesque painterly style as well as the relation between subject and object. The picturesque as a kind of painting or prose breaks down the distinct relationship between image and frame: likewise it blurs the border, so to speak, between original and reproduction. No doubt, such playing with the concept of originality stimulated "high" culture's terror that there may be no originals, that there may be no clear hierarchical distinction between low and high, copy and original, guide and viewer, masses and individuals, tourist and traveler. The picturesque's inherent plasticity thus brings to the surface the contradictions involved in aesthetic pleasure and experience. Traditional aesthetics may demand a demarcation between originals and simulacra. For Coleridge and some of his peers, however, the picturesque allowed this opposition to give way to the varied exchanges of experiences in space--to a canvas and a discourse where the reciprocal relations between originals and reproductions "meet, / Each in the other lost and found" (Complete Poetical Works 126-27).
University of Colorado, Boulder
Andrews, Malcom. The Search for the Picturesque: Landscape Aesthetics and Tourism in Britain. 1760-1800. Stanford UP, 1989.
Austen, Jane. The Novels of Jane Austen. Ed. R.W. Chapman. 5 vols. Oxford UP, 1988.
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulalcra and Simulation. U of Michigan P, 1994.
Bate, Jonathan. Romantic Ecology. New York: Routledge, 1991.
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Ed. Hanna Arendt. New York: Schocken Books, 1969.
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Penguin, 1977.
Bermingham, Ann. Landscape and Ideology: The English Rustic Tradition 1740-1860. U of California P, 1986.
--. "System, Order, and Abstraction: The Politics of Landscape Drawing around 1795." Landscape and Power. Ed. W.J.T. Mitchell. U of Chicago P, 1994. 77-101.
Bohls, Elizabeth. Women Travel Writers and the Language of Aesthetics, 1716-1818. Cambridge UP, 1995.
Bramen, Carrie Tirado. The Uses of Variety: Modern Americanism and the Quest for National Distinctiveness. Harvard UP, 2000.
Brantlinger, Patrick. "Victorians and Africans: The Genealogy of the Myth of the Dark Continent." Ed. Henry Louis Gates. "Race," Writing, and Difference. U of Chicago P, 1985. 185-222.
Brewer, John. The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Biographia Literaria. Ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate. Bollingen Collected Coleridge Series 7. 2 vols. Princeton UP, 1983.
--. Collected Letters. Ed. Earl Leslie Griggs. 6 vols. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1956-1971.
--. The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. E.H. Coleridge. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912.
--. The Literary Remains of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. H.N. Coleridge. 4 vols. London: W. Pickering, 1836-1839.
--. The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. Kathleen Coburn. Bollingen Series 50. New York: Pantheon Books, 1957-.
--. "The Picture; or, The Lover's Resolution." Romanticism, 2nd Edition. Ed. Duncan Wu. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1998. 492-95.
--. "Poesy or Art." Biographia Literaria. Ed. John Shawcross, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907.
Cooper, James Fenimore. Gleanings in Europe: Italy. 1838. Notes by John Conron and Constance Ayers Denne. SUNY Press, 1981.
Copley, Stephen and Peter Garside, eds. The Politics of the Picturesque: Literature, landscape and aesthetics since 1770. Cambridge UP, 1994.
Culler, Jonathan. Framing the Sign: Criticism and Its Institutions. U of Oklahoma P, 1988.
Deleuze, Giles. "Plato and the Simulacrum." Tr. Rosalind Krauss. October 27 (1983): 45-56.
Fabricant, Carole. "The Aesthetics and Politics of Landscape in the Eighteenth Century." Studies in Eighteenth-Century British Art and Aesthetics. Ed. Ralph Cohen. U of California P, 1985.
Frow, John. "Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia." October 57 (Summer 1991): 123-52.
Gilpin, William. Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc,. relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770. London, 1782.
--. Observations on the Western Parts of England, Relative Chiefly To Picturesque Beauty. To Which are Added, A Few Remarks on the Picturesque Beauties of the Isle of Wight. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1798.
--. Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, Made in the Year 1772, On several Parts of England; Particularly the Mountains, and Lakes of Cumberland" and Westmoreland. London: R. Blamire, 1786.
--. Three Essays: On picturesque beauty; On picturesque travel; and On sketching landscape: to which is added a poem, On landscape painting. 2nd Edition. London: R. Blamire, 1792.
Goluboff, Benjamin. "The Problems of the Picturesque: Nineteenth-Century American Travelers in Britain." New Orleans Review 18.2 (Summer 1991): 5-16.
Harrison, Gary. Wordsworth's Vagrant Muse: Poetry, Poverty, and Power. Wayne State UP, 1994.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The French and Italian Notebooks. Ed. Thomas Woodson. Ohio State UP, 1980.
--. The English Notebooks. Ed. Randall Steward. New York: Russell and Russell, 1962.
Hayles, N. Katherine. "Searching for Common Ground." Reinventing Nature? Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction. Ed. Michael E. Soule and Gary Lease. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1995.
Hillard Stillman, George. Six Months in Italy. 1853. 15th Edition. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1877.
Holmes, Richard. Coleridge: Early Visions. New York: Viking, 1990.
Hussey, Christopher. The Picturesque: Studies in a Point of View. 1927. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1967.
Hutchinson, William. An Excursion to the Lakes. London, 1774.
James, Henry. Italian Hours. Ed. John Auchard. Pennsylvania State UP, 1992.
Jameson, Anna. Diary of an Ennuyee. 1826. Boston: Houghton, Osgood, and Co., 1879.
Jarvis, Robyn. Romantic Writing and Pedestrian Travel. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.
Kessler, Edward. Coleridge's Metaphors of Being. Princeton UP, 1979.
Krauss, Rosalind E. "The Originality of the Avant-Garde: A Postmodernist Repetition." Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation. Ed. Brian Wallis. New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art; Boston: David R. Godine, 1984. 13-29. Rpt. October 18 (1981): 47-66.
Liu, Alan. Wordsworth: The Sense of History. Stanford UP, 1989.
MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Schocken Books, 1976.
Mannoni, Dominique. Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization. Tr. Pamela Powesland. London, 1956.
Mavor, William, ed. The British Tourist's, or, Traveller's Pocket Companion, Through England Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, Comprehending the most Celebrated Modern Tours in the British Islands and Several Originals. 3rd Edition. 6 vols. London, 1809.
Mitchell, W.J.T., ed. Landscape and Power. U of Chicago P, 1994.
--. Picture Theory. U.of Chicago P, 1994.
Modiano, Raimonda. Coleridge and the Concept of Nature. Florida State UP, 1985.
--. "The legacy of the Picturesque: landscape, property, and the ruin." Copley and Garside, 196-219.
Moritz, Charles P. "Travels through Various parts of England, in 1782." The British Tourist's Pocket Companion. Ed. William Mayor. Vol 4. London, 1809.
Price, Martin. "The Picturesque Moment." From Sensibility to Romanticism, Essays Presented to Frederick A. Pottle. Ed. Frederick W. Hilles and Harold Bloom. Oxford UP, 1965. 259-92.
Price, Uvedale. Essays on the Picturesque, As Compared With The Sublime and the Beautiful, And On Studying Pictures For The Purpose Of Improving Real Landscape. London: 1810.
Roe, Nicholas. Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.
Robinson, Sidney K. Inquiry into the Picturesque. U of Chicago P, 1991.
Ruddick, William. "'As Much Diversity as the Heart That Trembles': Coleridge's Notes on the Lakeland Fells." Coleridge's Imagination: Essays in Memory of Pete Laver. Ed. Richard Gravil, Lucy Newlyn and Nicholas Roe. Cambridge UP, 1985.
Shawcross, John, ed. Biographia Literaria. Oxford: Clarendon, 1907.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1831. Ed. James Kinsley and M.K. Joseph. Oxford UP, 1969.
Slicer, Deborah. "Toward an Ecofeminist Standpoint Theory: Bodies as Grounds." Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy. Ed. Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy. U of Illinois P, 1998. 49-73.
Spenser, Edmund. "The Fairie Queene." The Norton Anthology of British Literature. 6th Edition. Ed. M.H. Abrams. Norton, 1996. 365-76.
Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Duke UP, 1993.
William Wordsworth, "There was a Boy." Lyrical Ballads, and Other Poems, 1797-1800. Ed. James Butler and Karen Green. The Cornell Wordsworth. Cornell UP, 1992. 139-41.
--. "The Hart's Horn Tree." The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth. Ed. Ernest de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire. Oxford UP, 1940-49.
--. The Prelude, 1799, 1805, 1850. Ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M.H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill. New York: Norton, 1979.
Wu, Duncan, ed. Romanticism: An Anthology. 2nd Edition. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.
Zizek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the critique of ideology. Duke UP, 1993.
I would like to thank Carrie Tirado Bramen, Jeffrey Cox, Chuck Rzepka, Mary Lou Acimovic, and the University of Colorado Junior Faculty Reading Group Anna Brickhouse, William N. West, and Jeremy Green--for their helpful suggestions on this essay.
(1) For an analysis of the picturesque as an aesthetic exercise, see Christopher Hussey. The argument that the picturesque suppresses historical circumstances, such as poverty, can be found in Stephen Copley and Peter Garside and in Ann Bermingham. Malcolm Andrews consistently criticizes the superficiality of the picturesque tourist. Gary Harrison offers a complex interpretation of the intersections between the laboring poor and the representations of the picturesque.
(2) Bohls argues that women viewers of the picturesque were able to transform this packaged experience into something more dynamic; her argument follows a long line of critical responses that contend that as soon as the picturesque takes on any meaning outside a purely aesthetic exercise, it becomes something else--the sublime, for example. Christopher Hussey contends that "each art passed through a phase of imitating painting before developing into the romantic phase that came after, when the eye and the imagination had learnt to work for themselves" (17). Martin Price describes the picturesque as a "phase of speculation [...] where the aesthetic categories are self-sufficient. [...] Once the appeal of the picturesque is given moral or religious grounds, the picturesque moves toward the sublime" (262-63).
(3) Coleridge sets out to define such aesthetic terms as the picturesque in "On the Principles of Genial Criticism." In Shawcross's notes to Coleridge's essay, he includes this definition from Allsop's edition of Coleridge's Letters (1836, I: 197-99).
(4) Or again in Observations, on Several Parts of England, Gilpin says that his observations on various scenes of English Landscape "were at first thrown together, warm from the subject, each evening, after the scene of the day had been presented [...]" (I: v).
(5) I am much indebted to Raimonda Modiano's detailed study of Coleridge and the picturesque in Coleridge and the Concept of Nature. She argues that for Coleridge this aesthetic "did not require an abandonment of the mind to objects of sense. Rather [he] conceived of the picturesque as encouraging an active exchange between the mind and natural objects and preparing the mind for its journey beyond sensory appearances" (23).
(6) On the concept of the tourist site "marker" see Dean MacCannell.
(7) Wordsworth writes in The Prelude that the picturesque, "Although a strong infection of the age, / Was never much my habit--giving way / To a comparison of scene with scene, / Bent overmuch on superficial things, / Pampering myself with meagre novelties / Of colour and proportion" (1805, 113-18).
(8) John Frow reviews the role of disappointment when he points out, "it is just such a semiotic structure that Jonathan Culler describes when he argues that, for the tourist gaze, things are read as signs of themselves. A place, a gesture, a use of language are understood not as given bits of the real but as suffused with ideality, giving on to the type of the beautiful [...] or the culturally authentic. Their reality is figural rather than literal. Hence the structural role of disappointment in the tourist experience, since access to the type can always be frustrated" 025; original emphasis).
(9) The reading of "reform" in an aesthetic sense (that is, alter and improve the "view") is not incompatible with a political reading; in this sense Hillard anticipates Dominique Mannoni's description of the tourist, who is "painfully divided between the desire to 'correct' and the desire to identify himself with them in his search for some lost paradise, a desire which at once casts doubt upon the merit of the civilization he is trying to transmit to them" (qtd. in Brantlinger 19, 21).
(10) "Poesy or Art" was posthumously published but was first recorded in a notebook entry (Notebooks 3: 4397); it appeared in a revised and expanded form in Vol. I of Literary Remains. See Engell and Bate and Shawcross for publication history.
(11) Coleridge saw these aesthetic categories as quite permeable and asserted that the picturesque "frame" tends to break down. For example, in his notebook, Coleridge asks, "is there a real Difference between the Picturesque & the Beautiful? (l: 1755).
(12) I am aware here of the notion that picturesque travelers (and tourists in general) are seen as part of a horde that blindly follows guidebook directions, moving from station to station without any personal volition. But as will become apparent from my argument, I interpret the process of touring as a much more chaotic, confusing, and unpredictable experience.
(13) This line was added in a subsequent version and can be found in II.126-27 in the text from 1834. See Ernest Hartley Coleridge, The Complete Poetical Works, I: 373.
(14) Thus, I also disagree with Edward Kessler, who contends that the poem ends in healing closure when the "sickly 'He'" becomes a "conscious 'I'" who recognizes that "representation is not Being, and that passion directed toward the phenomenal self produces a destructive Phantom" (64, 67).
(15) We can understand this from an intertextual and biographical point of view in that Isabel's very name is part of a network of associations that are interwoven throughout Coleridge's other poems and that metaphorically represent the relations between the human and the natural, between Sara Hutchinson and Isabel, and between Isabel and the nature she seems to represent. For example, in "The Keepsake" the Sara Hutchinson figure is associated with the foxglove, which "Sheds its loose purple bells" (4) and with "the Forget-me-not," that "blue and bright-eyed floweret of the brook" (12). Isabel, from "The Picture" (Is a bell), writes with the juice from purple berries, and "Emmeline" from "The Keepsake" works embroidery with her own hair and the flowers of Moss-Rose and Forget-me-not (28-31) in a bower near a "river-pool" (25) similar to the one described in "The Picture."
(16) See Wordsworth's note on this story that accompanies the poem. The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, III: 534-35.
(17) The conversation the picturesque affords between and among travelers, offering a sense of familiarity and connection, can also take on dystopian consequences. In "The Urban Picturesque and Americanization," Carrie Bramen argues that picturesque "offered a new way of apprehending urban space by making inequality and immigrant diversity expected elements of modernity. It signaled a constellation of aesthetic practices and meanings that rendered the heterogeneity of the city as "'charming' and 'quaint' rather than exclusively deleterious" (157-58).
(18) In this context, James is specifically thinking about enjoyments one experiences in Rome.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2002|
|Previous Article:||A transatlantic history of the picturesque: an introductory essay.|
|Next Article:||Accident or murder? Intentionality, the Picturesque, and the body of Thomas De Quincey.|