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04 Sample Research Summary Paper
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04 Sample Research Summary Paper

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  • 1. <Your Last Name> 1 <Your Name> Michael T. Simpson American Literature 1 23 August 2010 Research on William Bartram’s Influence on Samuel Taylor Coleridge When talking about William Bartram’s influence on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, almost everyone cites John Livingston Lowes’s The Road to Xanadu. Lowes bases his analysis on a notebook Coleridge kept between 1795 and 1798 that was published by a German professor in 1886. In his chapter “The Sleeping Images,” Lowes spends several pages on passages from Bartram’s Travels that Coleridge was “ardently transcribing” (365) into his notebook. Lowe’s basic argument is that certain passages from Bartram’s Travels – his description of crocodiles, the Isle of Palms, and a fountain – coalesced with other things Coleridge was reading to create key images in the poem “Kubla Khan.” Another book I found on Bartram, this one by Bryllion Fagin, goes over the same passages but suggests that the “influence of Bartram on Coleridge was even greater.” (148) Fagin points out that “Bartram was still in Coleridge’s mind” as late as 1827 when Coleridge is quoted as stating, “the latest book of travels I know, written in the spirit of the old travelers, is Bartram’s account of his tour in the floridas.” (149) I also discovered a short article published by John K. Wright in the American Quarterly in which he identifies the fountains Bartram described (and Coleridge used) to be “the Blue Sink, The Manatee Spring, and Salt Springs Run in Florida.” (2) In his article, Wright observes that in “pictures these springs are hardly as impressive as one might expect from Bartram’s and Coleridge’s words.” (6) The most current article I found, though not particularly useful, was a speech read at a SAMLA Luncheon in Chapel Hill and printed in the South Atlantic Review in 1986. In his speech, Lewis Leary quips, “William Bartram would be at home among us. He spent a lot of time at trading posts. And what, among other things, is SAMLA but a trading post?” (4)
  • 2. <Your Last Name> 2 When I did a Google search on the phrase “William Bartram” combined with the words “Kubla Khan,” one the top results was Web Writing That Works, a website offering a “hyper-text” version of “Kubla Khan” that “explores the links between text that Samuel Taylor Coleridge read, and the images in his poem.” For key lines in the poem, the web site provides links to possible “influences.’ For example, for the line “A might fountain momently was forced,” the page has 5 lines with Bartram’s name, but it also has links to Herodotus, John Milton, Virgil, Seneca, and Mary Wollstonecraft. The references to Lowes’s book are extensive; Jonathan Price, who maintains the website, states “I’ve created this hypertext to honor Nelson’s vision of a web of associative links, Professor Lowes’s strange but intriguing book, and Coleridge’s magical poem. My Google search also brought up a long article on the website for the American Philosophy Society. The title is lengthy, remarkable, and only partially related to Bartram and Coleridge: “Roaring Alligators and Burning Tigers: Poetry and Science from William Bartram to Charles Darwin.” The article intends to “offer several examples of the interconnections between science and poetry in the decades represented” by an exhibit the Society was sponsoring. Bartram, Nichols says, was “important to Romantic writers” because his prose: “. . . is full of lyrical descriptions, sensuous language, and metaphors worthy of a poet. In addition, his rhetorical technique combines remarkably accurate field observations with an ability to link these details through imaginative and analogical thinking.” (306) Unfortunately, Nichols goes on to relate Bartram more to Wordsworth than to Coleridge. * * * * What first interested me in the connection between Bartram and Coleridge was that Bartram was a “scientist” observing nature for “scientific” research, cataloging and describing unusual plants and animals that he encountered in the “wilds” of America. Coleridge, on the other hand, was the very opposite of the scientist; he was the romantic poet addicted to drugs and more interested in “subjective” experience than in the dry catalogues of science. Yet there was a kinship, and I decided it could have to do with Bartram’s piety and reverence for nature. In the University of Georgia edition of Bartram’s
  • 3. <Your Last Name> 3 Travels, the editor quotes Thomas Carlyle as saying that Bartram had “a wondrous kind of floundering eloquence.” (Bartram, xxvii) What I might explore in my research is the difference between Bartram’s “floundering eloquence” and Coleridge’s “poetry.” How did Coleridge change what Bartram wrote to make it “great” poetry? What did he add, and what did he take away? But my thesis could go in other directions too. For example, there is the paradox that Coleridge wrote a romantic description of a landscape he never saw. The vivid landscape of “Kubla Khan” is made up of words he has read and copied in his notebook from a book. There is also the fact that Bartram is a certain type of scientist, an “innocent” scientist with a pious reverence for nature that we don’t see in all scientists. When I consider Bartram as a “scientist,” it leads me to questions of how nature is viewed differently by Coleridge and Bartram. Coleridge wants to make a poem out of it. But what does Bartram want? He seems content to catalog it, but at moments he tries to articulate the spell that nature weaves around him when he is alone and immersed in it. One of the first notebook entries of Coleridge that Lowes’ quotes in regard to “Kubla Khan” is this: “—some wilderness-plot, green and fountainous and unviolated by man.” (364) For me, the key phrase is “unviolated by man.” What Bartram experienced and Coleridge wanted to recreate was a single individual’s relationship to nature in contrast to our collective approach to nature. As a species we routinely “violate” nature; we seem compelled to do it. But as individuals . . . maybe that’s what impressed Coleridge about Bartram. In his Travels, Bartram approached nature as an individual seeking the same kind of spiritual connection the romantics were so keen on.
  • 4. <Your Last Name> 4 Works Cited Bartram, William. The Travels of William Bartram: Naturalist Edition. Ed. Francis Harper. Athens: University of Georgia Press 1998. Fagin, N. Bryllion. William Bartram, Interpreter of the American Landscape. Baltimore. 1933. “Kubla Khan” Web Writing That Works. Ed. Lisa and Jonathan Price. 20 September 2006 http://www.webwritingthatworks.com/DXanSOURCE01.htm Leary, Lewis. “Two to Remember: A Homily.” South Atlantic Review. Vol 51, No.2. May, 1986), 3-8. Lowes, John Livingston. The Road to Xanadu. Boston. 1927 Nichols, Ashton. “Roaring Alligators and Burning Tygers: Poetry and Science from William Bartram to Charles Darwin.” American Philosophical Society. Vol. 149, No. 3, September 2005. http://www.asp-pub.com/proceedings/1493/490302.pdf Wright, John K. “From ‘Kubla Khan’ to Florida”. American Quarterly Vol. 8, No. 1. Spring 1956. 76-80.

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