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Issue Details: First known date: 2018... 2018 Interceptionality, or The Ambiguity of the Albatross
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'Coleridge wrote that ‘Poetry gives most pleasure when only generally and not perfectly understood.’ In his epic, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ published in 1798, the albatross is an uncertain presence, neither its species or colour is specified. It displays affection, presaging hope, guiding the ship and accompanying its crew for ‘food or play.’ But once the mariner randomly shoots the bird, the albatross becomes a burden, morphing into a symbol of atonement. Unnaturally slung from the mariner’s neck it crosses a boundary between the physical and moral world. The mariner endures seven days without rain or wind, suffering fever, hallucinations, the death of his crew and shipwreck. Native to the south polar seas, albatrosses were rarely sighted by European sailors, an early source being Cook’s voyages. There is overall agreement that Coleridge’s source was George Shelvocke’s account of a black albatross, also known as ‘sooty albatross’ or ‘quakerbird’, which he encountered during his round the world voyage, 1719-22. The bird was shot by the second captain because it was considered an ill-omen when the winds were unfavourable. Certainly, the albatross is othered in the poem, not merely by the laws of hospitality but by its uncharacteristic depiction and by the mythical, male-centred language that Coleridge used.'  (Introduction)

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Last amended 20 Aug 2018 07:08:30 Interceptionality, or The Ambiguity of the Albatrosssmall AustLit logo Sydney Review of Books
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