Mind's world: imagination and the modern subject
Schlutz, Alexander M., 1970-
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This dissertation discusses the imagination as a highly contested discursive construct that is situated at the juncture of philosophy and literature. It aims to provide a deeper understanding of the concept's conflictual potential, which is still reflected in the current critical debate and its focus on the Romantic imagination as an instance of aesthetic ideology. I examine the discursive role of imagination by discussing its function in the philosophical systems of Rene Descartes and Immanuel Kant, in Friedrich von Hardenberg's (Novalis) poetic reformulation of Johann Gottlieb Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre , and in Edgar Allan Poe's narrative transformation of the philosophical system outlined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This interdisciplinary perspective makes it apparent that imagination is not only conceptualized as a mediating faculty that allows for a connection of subject and object and the self and society. Imagination is also and simultaneously viewed as a disruptive force that endangers the rational subject and the unity of the philosophical system due to its connection to the body and the passions. Imagination is thus not only a figure for organic unity to be exalted by a conservative ideology but also a figure for an ultimately revolutionary potential that needs to be suppressed if the system is to retain its rational status. This conflict, which is displayed in the ongoing philosophical struggle between reason and imagination, ultimately brings to light the irreconcilable contradictions and desires at the heart of modern concepts of autonomous subjectivity.