Date of Award

Spring 2002

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Carey, Patrick W.

Second Advisor

Misner, Paul

Third Advisor

Hinze, Bradford


Claude Welch, the distinguished historian of nineteenth-century religious thought, once declared that Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) "may be seen as the real turning point into the theology of the nineteenth century" and that he "was as important for British and American thought as were Schleiermacher and Hegel." What made Coleridge so important? Even a cursory glance at a number of theological surveys of the nineteenth-century will quickly bring three key concepts to the fore: his distinction between Reason and Understanding, the idea of the clerisy (as expressed in his On the Constitution of the Church and State [1829]), and his chief writing on the doctrine of biblical inspiration, Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit (1840). Much has been written on both the distinction between Reason and Understanding and the idea of the clerisy. However, Coleridge's Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit has never been examined in a full length monograph devoted to the text as a theological document. In fact, while many articles and book chapters have explicated the general argument of Confessions, no text has plumbed the depths of this seminal religious document of the nineteenth century. One could argue, based on the paucity of scholarly treatment, that Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit may not require or even merit significant attention to recount the substance of Coleridge's argument. To the contrary, I suggest that such a stance is not only inaccurate, but has led to grave misunderstandings of Coleridge. Furthermore, the theological appreciation of Coleridge's Confessions has been hindered by the mere fact that so many of the studies that have devoted attention to this work were written with primarily literary aims rather than, as in accordance with the subject matter, fundamentally theological ones...



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