“Surprised by Sleep”: Coleridgean Dejection and Self-Analysis

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This paper situates “Dejection: An Ode” in the context of Coleridge’s theory of nightmare. Hovering between waking and sleeping, the nightmare falls like a shadow upon the dreamer’s later waking state. As a waking nightmare, “Dejection” is antithetically paired with Coleridge’s “The Picture.” A Lacanian reading discloses this poem as a playful daydream that serves as a foil to “Dejection,” which depicts Freudian melancholia haunted by nightmare. This reading of “Dejection” as Coleridgean self-analysis counters readings of the ode as a therapeutic progress toward consolation.

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