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The meaning and origin of the expression: Suspension of disbelief

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Suspension of disbelief

Meaning

The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.

Origin

samuel taylor coleridgeThis term was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 with the publication of his Biographia literaria or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions:

"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 procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."

The state is arguably an essential element when experiencing any drama or work of fiction. We may know very well that we are watching an actor or looking at marks on paper, but we wilfully accept them as real in order to fully experience what the artist is attempting to convey.