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Edwin Abt, L. (1987). Art and the Phenomenology of Imagination: Ursula R. Mahlendorf's The Wellsprings of Literary Creation. Am. Imago, 44(3):235-239.

(1987). American Imago, 44(3):235-239

Art and the Phenomenology of Imagination: Ursula R. Mahlendorf's The Wellsprings of Literary Creation1

Lawrence Edwin Abt, Ph.D.

“Art is a child of pain.”

—Stephen Crane

The phenomenology of imagination refers to a description of the imagination within a reflective frame of reference. As such, it is an intentional act in the service of some experienced or perceived psychological need. It should prove useful to examine imagination, as expressed in the work of artists, particularly those working in a literary genre. Literary form offers creative writers the opportunity to consider psychic functions more readily than other media.

For imagination to be phenomenological in the sense considered here, it must be understood that it is not primarily concerned with empirically observable matters of fact and that it escapes responsibility for following public logic. That it may have a private logic to which imagination subscribes is not to be denied. But it remains clear, at least to this observer, that the knowledge that imagination yields, although not resting on obsevation, is self-reflective and has its own unexamined truth-value.

In the literary forms of the creative imagination, the reader and writer are able to establish a dyadic relationship that may result in a series of transactions in which each explores his or her past, as guided by the author's script. For example, as the creative writer exposes psychic wounds, readers can turn to the morgue of their own forgotten memories and thus can re-experience earlier—sometimes long forgotten—critical incidents and their affects.

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