The Life of Imagination

Revealing and Making the World

Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei

Columbia University Press

The Life of Imagination

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Pub Date: October 2018

ISBN: 9780231189088

360 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£50.00

Pub Date: October 2018

ISBN: 9780231548168

360 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£50.00

The Life of Imagination

Revealing and Making the World

Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei

Columbia University Press

Imagination allows us to step out of the ordinary but also to transform it through our sense of wonder and play, artistic inspiration and innovation, or the eureka moment of a scientific breakthrough. In this book, Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei offers a groundbreaking new understanding of its place in everyday experience as well as the heights of creative achievement.

The Life of Imagination delivers a new conception of imagination that places it at the heart of our engagement with the world—thinking, acting, feeling, making, and being. Gosetti-Ferencei reveals imagination’s roots in embodied human cognition and its role in shaping our cognitive ecology. She demonstrates how imagination arises from our material engagements with the world and at the same time endows us with the sense of an inner life, how it both allows us to escape from reality and aids us in better understanding it. Drawing from philosophy, cognitive science, evolutionary anthropology, developmental psychology, literary theory, and aesthetics, Gosetti-Ferencei engages a spectacular range of examples from ordinary thought processes and actions to artistic, scientific, and literary feats to argue that, like consciousness itself, imagination resists reductive explanation. The Life of Imagination offers a vital account of transformative thinking that shows how imagination will be essential in cultivating a future conducive to human flourishing and to that of the life around us.
Integrating the arts with the sciences of human nature is one of the most exciting frontiers of knowledge, and this exploration of imagination is a rich and creative example. Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works
This book provides the most insightful, nuanced, and expansive phenomenological account of human conscious imaginative activity I have had the pleasure to read. It probes the way imagination arises from our bodily engagement with the world to make and transform meaning via processes of inner imaging, hypothetical thinking, and our most creative acts of reconfiguring and transcending our current frames and perspectives. These creative imaginative enactments are beautifully illustrated with examples from science, painting, poetry, dance, music, and fictional narrative. Mark Johnson, author of The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding
The Life of Imagination is a bold, breakthrough book. Contesting an entire tradition of regarding imagination as a separate autonomous activity located in a rarefied realm of pure mind, Gosetti-Ferencei shows imagining to be deeply embedded in concretely embodied activities of human beings as they are fully engaged in the world—a world that is itself in significant measure shaped and structured by imagination itself. She guides us with lucidity and force through the many ways in which imagining invests our lives—in dancing, sauntering on the land, in artists’ re-imagination of ordinary experience, and in countless other ways. The result is a breathtaking contribution to the understanding of imagination as ingredient in all that we feel, think, and do. Edward S. Casey, author of Imagining: A Phenomenological Study
A monumental achievement, Gosetti-Ferencei creates a philosophy of productive imagination that is precedent-setting. Intertwining cognitive theory and phenomenology, especially Merleau-Ponty on embodiment, her inviting, nuanced writing ranges across the history of philosophy, the arts, and literature, arriving at a beautiful discussion of the creativity of jazz. The book shows why imagination is a necessary power for social transformation. It will be the essential benchmark for all future studies. Galen A. Johnson, author of The Retrieval of the Beautiful: Thinking Through Merleau-Ponty's Aesthetics
In a compelling synthesis of ideas from many disciplines—including archaeology, developmental psychology, philosophy, literary theory, cognitive science, and art history—Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei offers an eloquent and inclusive account of the imagination. She shows that the human imagination not only penetrates our conception of reality at ground level but also enables us to soar upward in our creative endeavors, scientific as well as artistic. Paul Harris, author of The Work of the Imagination
This is an impressively wide-ranging interdisciplinary project, in which the author patiently, critically, and imaginatively engages with expressions and analyses of the imagination drawn from a variety of philosophical, artistic, and scientific sources, in order to develop an original and thought-provoking characterization of that elusive human capacity. Stephen Mulhall, author of The Self and Its Shadows: A Book of Essays on Individuality as Negation in Philosophy and the Arts
Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei argues with style and insight for the ubiquity of imagination in human life across all aspects of the mind’s grappling with the world, through the arts and sciences to ordinary perception. The book is engaging and accessible, remarkable for its cross-disciplinary and historical reach and for its depth and clarity of vision. Peter Lamarque, author of Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art
No other book in this field treats the imagination so thoroughly and rigorously. Paul Armstrong, author of How Literature Plays with the Brain: The Neuroscience of Reading and Art
Gosetti-Ferencei offers a broad-ranging account of imagination that casts it not as a single phenomenon or skill but rather as an aspect of mental life that involves multiple overlapping modes operating at multiple levels. . . . Highly recommended. Choice
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Thinking Imagination
1. Consciousness and Modes of Imagination
2. Evolving Imagination
3. Imagination, Perception, and Reality
4. Revealing and Making the World
5. The Embodied Life of Imagining
6. Envisioning in the Mind’s Eye and Other Imaging
7. Creativity as Situated Transcendence
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei is Professor William Kurrelmeyer Chair in the Department of German at the Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of Heidegger, Hölderlin, and the Subject of Poetic Language (2004), The Ecstatic Quotidian: Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature (2007), and Exotic Spaces in German Modernism (2011), as well as a poetry collection, After the Palace Burns (2004).