theory of fancy and imagination

Theory Of Fancy And Imagination

Theory Of Fancy And Imagination By Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s popular work The Biographia Literaria was published in 1817. The work has some autobiographical elements but one cannot consider it a complete autobiography. He mainly talks about writing elements and his other viewpoints on different fields. In his theory of Fancy and Imagination, he broadly distinguishes between Imagination and Fancy and describes how Imagination is superior as compared to Fancy. 

It was the work of Coleridge that made people able to differentiate and understand the true concept of Fancy and Imagination which was considered similar before his theory. 

Imagination Vs Fancy

S.T. Coleridge made a distinction between Imagination and Fancy where he considered Imagination as a power, a mysterious and creative power, that is required by a human soul to understand the true and crude nature of the universe. However, Fancy only integrates multiple forms into various shapes. The power of complete understanding that Imagination holds lacks in Fancy. Fancy is associative or mechanical while Imagination deals with creativity. It also lacks the fusion or unification property of Imagination as it only combines the images you see into different shapes. 

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Imagination By Coleridge 

Imagination according to him is mostly used by poets as it is their poetic mind that brings creativity to their work. The objects we see in the world are transformed into something new with Imagination. One understands the truth of nature with imagination. He divided Imagination into two types:

1. Primary Imagination

Primary Imagination according to him is universal and present in every human being. It can be considered the prime agent of human perception. With the help of their senses, humans perceive the outer world’s impression and then the image of the outer world is formed in the mind of the humans. This is common and possessed by every human being. 

2. Secondary Imagination

Secondary Imagination is the creative or artistic imagination. One has to make efforts to get a secondary imagination and it isn’t possessed by all. An artist or a poet as Coleridge believes is one who possesses secondary imagination. It is a magical power according to him. Secondary Imagination is more active than Primary. The difference between Primary and Secondary imagination is only of degree. However, one must understand that the raw material required by secondary imagination is provided by Primary Imagination. 

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You can take this as an example when we see Daffodils, we think of them as beautiful flowers enhancing the beauty of nature, and the image of the flowers get imprinted in our mind. This is the Primary Imagination that we all possess. But a poet like Wordsworth, who had a Secondary Imagination was able to write a complete poem on those flowers and presented it with beautiful fords. This kind of creative imagination is not possessed by all. 

Fancy By Coleridge

Fancy lacks any kind of creativity that is present in Imagination. Fancy is considered inferior to the imagination as it only combines the elements or the images we perceive from the outer world into different shapes, sizes, etc. It is kind of a memory. These are the mechanical operations of the mind of human beings. It is a logical faculty that only deals with the organization of images or elements, there is no creativity in that.

According to Coleridge, Cowley possessed a fancy mind and it was Milton who had a creative or imaginative mind. He believes that an artist, especially a poet can possess both Fancy and Imagination but it is the Imagination that would be considered superior to all. 

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Final Words

Biographia Literaria is one important work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge where he gave the concept of Fancy and Imagination and believed that Fancy is inferior to Imagination and Imagination is a creative power that makes one understand the world around them. He tells how poets and artists possess the Imagination and are thus able to create such great work. 

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