“Willing suspension in disbelief” in Coleridge’s “The Rime of Ancient Mariner”.
“Willing suspension in disbelief” is the method of bringing non-realistic, supernatural elements in justification in literature. It is a way through which a writer infuses a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative. This formula refers that the responsibility is on the readers, rather than on the writer, to achieve it. This also points to the willingness of the reader to overlook the limitations of the writer, so that it does not collide with his or her rational intellect.
Coleridge devised this phrase in his Biographia Literaria, published in 1817. During that period, the supernatural became completely unsophisticated among the educated people due to the emergence of new science. Coleridge wished to restore these elements in poetry. This concept of “willing suspension in disbelief” explained how a modern enlightened audience might continue to enjoy this kind of story. Coleridge said,
The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one, incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural, and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions, as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real. And real in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency. For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life…In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least Romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to...