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Imagination and Literature

Powerful Essays
Imagination and Literature

The importance and influence of imagination on the creation and critique of literature varies between and within various artistic eras. Originally seen as an aberrant function of the mind, imagination was subservient to the powers of reason and order. Art involved mere replication of the real, a craft rather than an unique act of creation. Beginning as early as Aristotle, however, human imagination has been linked to the power and value of art. The ascendancy and, in some eras even superiority, of imagination as a potent mental faculty gave birth to new critical enterprises bent on articulating the manner, motivation, and merit embedded in art and the artistic process. By tracing the development of this basic literary concept, it may not be possible to discover a coherent and universal idea of imagination that has evolved throughout history. However, such an inquiry could lead to a better understanding of how the ideas and attitudes about imagination from one age enter into an informative and influential dialogue with others. From the rational and pragmatic critics of the Enlightenment to the expressive and Romantic critics of the Nineteenth Century, we can begin to formulate a synthetic rather than absolute understanding of imagination.

Though Aristotle first created room for imagination by expanding the expressions of a poet from the actual to the possible "in accordance with the laws of probability or necessity", it was not until much later that the capacity and power of imagination was adequately explored. Imagination was seen as a turbulent, unpredictable, but potentially beneficial force which must be refined and kept within the bounds of reason to pragmatic critic...

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... each definition of imagination we have discussed struggles to be independent while simultaneously remaining intertwined to the preceding critical traditions.

Works Cited

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---. "Rasselas, Chapter 10" The Critical Tradition. Ed.,

David H. Richter, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. "A Defence of Poetry" The Critical

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