Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes


Familiar use of "correspondence": mail or exchange of papers and ideas; compare input, feedback, dialogue, or texting.

The Romantic term is older but related: a broad state or condition in which one thing agrees with or matches another.

Quick example: Outside it's a lovely day; inside you feel all sunny and bright. Inside matches outside.

or reverse:

You wake up feeling bleak and hopeless; when you see that it's a lovely day, you feel as though the world is mocking you.

correspondence by dictionary: 

1. act or state of corresponding, relation or agreement of things to each other or of one thing to another; congruity, harmony, similarity, or analogy; sympathetic response.

2. communication between persons by letters

Second meaning is (or was recently) more common in everyday speech, as in a "correspondence course" where you learn art or other subjects at home while communicating by letter or email with an instructor elsewhere.


But first meaning is important term for an imaginative action or relation.

selected web definitions:

  • commensurateness: the relation of corresponding in degree or size or amount
  • symmetry: (mathematics) an attribute of a shape or relation; exact reflection of form on opposite sides of a dividing line or plane
  • parallelism: similarity by virtue of corresponding 
  • In theology, correspondence is the relationship between spiritual and natural realities, or between mental and physical realities. The term was coined by the 18th century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg in his Arcana Coelestia (1749-1756) and Heaven and Hell (1758) and other works. 


Romantic concept: relation between inner and outer world, soul and nature, self and cosmos

Emerson, Nature: "every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind"

"Legend of Sleepy Hollow": "every sound of nature, at that witching hour, fluttered [Ichabod's] excited imagination . . . "

or reversed: "all the stories of ghosts and goblins . . . came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker"

"House of Usher": "first glimpse of building, insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit"

reverse: "a mind from which darkness . . . poured forth"


twinning (cf. "William Wilson")

In Poe's Fall of the House of Usher, Roderick and Madeleine are twins with "sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature"--that is, their "correspondence" is so near that you can't tell one's feelings or ideas from the other's