Control of the Imaginary: Reason and Imagination in Modern Times

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U of Minnesota Press, 1988 - Literary Criticism - 250 pages
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Control of the Imaginary was first published in 1989. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

In Control of the Imaginary Luiz Costa Lima explains how the distinction between truth and fiction emerged at the beginning of modern times and why, upon its emergence, fiction fell under suspicion. Costa Lima not only describes the continuous relationship between Western notions of reason and subjectivity over a broad time-frame—the Renaissance to the first decade of the twentieth century—but he uses this occasion to reexamine the literary traditions of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, and Germany. The book reconstructs the dominant frames in the European tradition between the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century from the perspective of a Latin American who sees the culture of his native Brazil haunted by unresolved questions from the Northern Hemisphere. Costa Lima manages to synthesize positions from philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, and history without separating the theoretical discussion from his historical reconstructions.

The first chapter situates the problem and grounds the emergent distinction between truth and fiction in a very close analysis of one of the first European historians, Fernao Lopes, who sets the tone for the condemnation of fiction in the name of the truth of history and the potential for individual interpretation. Costa Lima pursues these notions through the aesthetic debates of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the writings of the French historian Michelet. He also devotes an illuminating chapter to the invention of the strictures imposed on fiction.

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About the author (1988)

Luiz Costa Lima is a full professor of Comparative Literature, at Pontificia Universidade Catolica, in Rio de Janeiro. He has taught at the University of Minnesota (1984-6), and has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Montreal, Paris VIII, Universidad Iberoamericana (Mexico). He has also been a research at the Zenter fur literarische Forschung (Berlin). In 1992, he received the Humboldt Preis for his work as a foreign researcher in Humanities. His books are originally published in Portuguese. Three of them are translated into English: Control of the imaginary: Reason and imagination in modern times, University of Minnesota Press, Minn, 1988. The Dark side or reason: Fictionality and power, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1992. The Limits of voice: Montaigne, Schlegel, Kafka, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1996. His most recent book, Historia. Ficao: Literature, won a prize for the best theoretical book on literature published in Brazil during 2006.

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