Associationism and the Literary Imagination: From the Phantasmal Chaos

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Edinburgh University Press, 2007 - Literary Criticism - 325 pages
Associationism and the Literary Imagination traces the influence of empirical philosophy and associationist psychology on theories of literary creativity and on the experience of reading literature. It runs from David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature in 1739 to the works of major literary critics of the twentieth century, such as I.A. Richards, W.K. Wimsatt and Northrop Frye. Cairns Craig explores the ways in which associationist conceptions of literature gave rise to some of the key transformations in British writing between the romantic and modernist periods. In particular, he analyses the ways in which authors' conceptions of the form of their readers' aesthetic experience led to radical developments in literary style, from the fragmentary narrative of Sterne's Tristram Shandy in 1760 to Virginia Woolf's experiments in the rendering of characters' consciousness in the 1920s; and from Wordsworth's poetic use of autobiography to J.G. Frazer's exploration of a mythic unconscious in The Golden Bough. Detailed analyses are offered of the ways in which a wide variety of major British writers, including Scott, Lady Morgan, Dickens, Tennyson, Hardy, Yeats, Joyce and Woolf developed their literary techniques on the basis of associationist conceptions of the mind, and of how modern literary criticism - from Arthur Symons to Roland Barthes - is founded on associationist principles. Associationism and the Literary Imagination relocates the traditions of British writing since the eighteenth century within the neglected context of its native empirical philosophy, and reveals how many of the issues assumed to be products of 'postmodern' or 'deconstructive' theory have long been foregrounded and debated within the traditions of British empiricism. This is a work which provides a radical new perspective on the history of literature in Britain and Ireland and challenges many of the assumptions of contemporary theoretical debate about the

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Hume Coleridge
The Mythic Method and the Foundations
Pater Joyce Woolf

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About the author (2007)

Edward D. berkowitz is professor of history and public policy and public administration at George Washington University. He is the author of eight books and the editor of three collections. During the seventies he served as a staff member of the President's Commission for a National Agenda, helping President Carter plan for a second term that never came to be.

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