Creative Imagination and Artisitic Self-Reflection: Shakespeare adn Late 18th to 20th Century European Authors
Capable of designing marvels of beauty and truth and shaping the horrors of experience and dreams, the imagination is as fascinating as it is wide-ranging. Authors, artists, scientists, and critics have attempted to fathom the depths and probe the parameters of this key faculty in human creativity and inventiveness. They have striven for greater integration of the imagination with the rational faculties or claimed a strict antagonism between them. Recognizing the cultivating power of the creative and liberating imagination in contrast to the negative impact of debilitating and destructive fantasizing, famous authors have pointed to the imagination itself as “the thing” to be explored.
We shall analyze five dramas and shorter pieces of prose fiction reflecting the uses of the imagination in wide range of literary modes, from the realistic and allegorical to the fantastic and surrealistic. By juxtaposing the playfully creative with the purpose-oriented, even ideology-based imagination, we shall gain deeper insights into a work’s composition. Authors to be studied are Shakespeare, Goethe, ETA Hoffmann, Gogol, G. B. Shaw, Kafka, Dürrenmatt, and Angela Carter. The fictional texts will be supplemented by brief selections from theoretical works dealing with the interaction of thinking, imagination, and creativity.
Requirements: Active participation in discussions, in-class midterm, and take-home final. Students will also deliver one individual book report (ca 15 minutes) OR participate in a 45 minute group presentation. A long list of titles allowing various choices for analysis will feature works in which the literary imagination plays a dominant role in conjunction with specific fields of human interest, e.g. dreams and memory; mythology, religion, and science; utopian and dystopian visions of the future.