Imagination: Three Moments in the History of a Concept

Document Type : Original Article


English Department, Cairo University


An Attempt will be made, within the small compass of this short paper, to examine three significant moments in the history of the concept of imagination as a creative faculty capable of making mental images and novel combinations, specifically in the field of poetry. The imaginary has its anchorage in the real, but it aspires to go much further than that – toward the transcendental and the ideal. Representative of the three moments in question are three major symbolist poets: Arthur Rimbaud, a Frenchman of the late nineteenth century, and T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, two Americans (Eliot became a British national in the year 1927) of the first half of the twentieth century. For the purpose of the present paper, I shall focus on a few poems by Rimbaud, Eliot and Stevens with a view to illustrating their various perceptions of imagination and the distinctive ways they made use of it in their work.