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'Kubla Khan' and the Embodied Mind

PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts, 2003

64 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2010  

William L. Benzon


Date Written: November 1, 2003


Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" has a very coherent structure. Two movements of the poem are each divided into three sections; in both cases the middle of those three in turn has three subsections and again, the middle of the middle has three subsections. The first movement ends with "A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice," a line which is then repeated at the structural midpoint of the second movement. This structure encompasses both semantics and sound, uniting both in a single coherent mental act. The semantics of the poem’s first movement involves a series of cognitive blends in which the neural self provides one input while Xanadu imagery provides the other. The semantics of the second movement involves manipulating the reality status of successive mental spaces. Underlying the entire poem is a “walk” by core brain mechanisms tracing territorial, sexual, and attachment patterns through the poem’s semantics. Coleridge’s 1816 preface embodies an abstract pattern that paradoxically asserts and denies the poem’s validity. On the internal evidence, the poem is whole and complete.

Keywords: Poetry, Coleridge, Kubla Khan, Form, Embodiement, Cognition, Brain, Metaphor, Structure

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., 'Kubla Khan' and the Embodied Mind (November 1, 2003). PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts, 2003. Available at SSRN:

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