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Literature and Imagination.

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LITERATURE AND IMAGINATION: "Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth, by calling imagination to the help of reason." "Life of Milton"-Samuel Johnson In "Critical Approaches to Literature", David Daiches has said that the imagination, in its primary manifestation, is "the great ordering principle", an agency which enables us both "to discriminate and to order, to separate and to synthesize, and thus makes perception possible", for without it, we would have only a collection of meaningless sensory data. Literary theory and poetry materialize concurrently, for poets have a strong tendency to form opinions about their craft and to use these opinions as part of the message of their poems. Imagination is undoubtedly inherent in literature, the prime component in any work of art, but this view has been a cause of debate since the dawn of literature and criticism. As with most dissentions and philosophy regarding literature and its attendant features, the first records of this debate are to be found in the germinal works of Aristotle and Plato. Writing at a time when the poet was venerated for his work, and the philosopher persecuted for his, it is but natural that Plato would react negatively towards poetry. He regarded it as being fundamentally unsound and his view of imagination was much the same, since the imagination is the wellspring from which poetry arises. ...read more.


The distinction between imagination and fancy was a key element in Coleridge's theory of poetry, as well as in the general theory of the mental processes. This laconic differentiation is the core of his exposition on "the nature and genesis of the imagination." M. H. Abrams, in "The Mirror and the Lamp", points out that, "As in his philosophy, so in his criticism, Coleridge roots his theory in the constitution and activity of the creative mind." The memory, for Coleridge, is "mechanical", and fancy "passive", which acts only "by a sort of juxtaposition". The imagination, on the other hand, "recreates", its elements by a process to which Coleridge sometimes applies terms borrowed from the physical and chemical unions- it is a "synthetic", a "permeative" and a "blending, fusing power". The imagination is "essentially vital"; it "generates and produces a form of its own." Fancy is thus a perfunctory process which receives the elementary images- the "fixities and definites" which it receives from the senses, and without altering the parts, reassembles them into a different spatial and temporal order form that in which they were originally perceived. The imagination creates rather than reassembles by dissolving the fixities and definites, and unifying them into a new whole. The faculty of imagination "generates and produces a form of its own" while its rules are "the very powers of growth and production." ...read more.


Once the seed has been planted, and grows into a plant, it is impossible to reduce the plant to singular elements like the seed, the water, the air, the soil, etc. It is a whole- an organic unit. In the same manner- a creation of the imagination has an inherent organic unity- it cannot be reduced to any of its contributory elements. This is the dialectical character of creativity that involves synthesis- the result of this blend and fusion is a whole. Coleridge stressed that imagination makes "new perception possible". If indeed a work springs out of imagination, it holds the ability to penetrate the experience of its genesis and reveal the essence of the object. This echoes Aristotle's view that poetry or art penetrates through the idea of an object and brings to the surface not the particular, but the universal in the particular, the essence. In a writer's imagination, thus, the experience is unifying or coadunative- what Coleridge calls "Esemplastic"- it is moulded into an expression by the imagination. Literature thus becomes a piece of actuality subjected to the laws of imagination. Most critics after Coleridge tended to make fancy simply that faculty that produces a lesser, lighter, or more humorous kind of poetry, and to make imagination the faculty that produces a higher, more serious, and more passionate poetry. However, the mark of Coleridge's theories is undoubtedly present in each of these. As he himself has stated: "I laboured at a solid foundation, in the component faculties of the human mind itself and their comparative dignity and importance." 1 ...read more.

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