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Imagination in Ian McEwan's Fiction

A Literary and Cognitive Science Approach

by Cécile Leupolt (Author)
Thesis 290 Pages

Summary

The imagination is a distinctive cognitive feature of the human brain which enables us to navigate both the real world and fictional story worlds. Drawing from literary and cognitive science approaches, this book investigates contemporary British author Ian McEwan’s differentiated portrayal of the imagination as a cognitive process, a result derived from that process or a vital social strategy that individuals use to daydream, mind-read, (self)deceive or manipulate. The book shows that McEwan’s novels reveal the complex positive and negative potential of the imagination and engage, tease and push to its tentative limits our mind-reading capacity on a range of narrative levels.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 The imagination in McEwan’s fiction: a survey of existing scholarship
  • 1.2 Concept and design
  • 2 The literary imagination
  • 2.1 Cognitive science, McEwan’s fiction and the imagination
  • 2.1.1 The imagination – a ‘missing mystery’
  • 2.1.2 Reality, fiction and the imagination
  • 2.1.3 “Imagination,” “fantasy” and Einbildungskraft
  • 2.1.4 The Daydreamer – writing as an act of the imagination
  • 2.1.5 Inherent conflicts in McEwan’s aesthetics
  • 2.1.6 Cognitive science, fiction and the imagination
  • 2.1.7 Evolution and storytelling
  • 2.2 Atonement: the novel as a ‘visual’ medium
  • 2.2.1 The ‘fountain scene’ in Atonement
  • 3 The traumatic imagination
  • 3.1 Writing trauma
  • 3.1.1 The Child in Time
  • 3.1.2 Enduring Love
  • 3.2 Imagining trauma
  • 3.2.1 Black Dogs
  • 3.2.2 Atonement
  • 3.3 Contingency or trauma?
  • 3.3.1 Saturday
  • 3.3.2 On Chesil Beach
  • 4 The paradoxical imagination
  • 4.1 The imagination as a paradoxical social skill
  • 4.1.1 The limits of evolutionary theory in Enduring Love
  • 4.1.2 (Mis-)mind-readings in Enduring Love
  • 4.1.3 The veil of silence in On Chesil Beach
  • 4.2 Pathological forms of the imagination
  • 4.2.1 Jed’s erotomania in Enduring Love
  • 4.2.2 Baxter’s Huntington’s disease in Saturday
  • 4.2.3 Lily’s dementia in Saturday
  • 4.2.4 Briony’s dementia in Atonement
  • 4.2.5 Marjory’s brain damage in On Chesil Beach
  • 4.3 The ambiguity of self-deception and daydreaming
  • 4.3.1 The Child in Time
  • 4.3.2 Atonement
  • 4.3.3 Black Dogs
  • 4.3.4 On Chesil Beach
  • 5 Reality, fiction and the imagination
  • 5.1 Scope and limits of imaginative freedom
  • 5.1.1 A Move Abroad
  • 5.1.2 Imaginative freedom and scepticism
  • 5.1.2.1 The Child in Time
  • 5.1.2.2 Saturday and “The Day of Judgment”
  • 5.1.3 Variations of the ‘child within’
  • 5.1.3.1 The Daydreamer
  • 5.1.3.2 The Cement Garden
  • 5.1.3.3 The Child in Time
  • 5.2 The imagination and power
  • 5.2.1 “The Bully” and Saturday
  • 5.2.2 “The Burglar” and Black Dogs
  • 5.2.3 Deconstructing the country house ethos in Atonement
  • 5.3 Fictional (non-)confessions
  • 5.3.1 McEwan’s early fictional confessions
  • 5.3.1.1 “Homemade”
  • 5.3.1.2 “Butterflies”
  • 5.3.2 McEwan’s later fictional confessions
  • 5.3.2.1 Atonement
  • 5.3.2.2 Enduring Love
  • 6 Conclusion
  • 6.1 The imagination – an indispensable ingredient in McEwan’s fiction?
  • 6.2 Outlook: the imagination in McEwan’s latest novels
  • 6.2.1 Solar (2010)
  • 6.2.2 Sweet Tooth (2012)
  • 6.2.3 The Children Act (2014)
  • Works cited

Cécile Leupolt

Imagination in Ian McEwan’s Fiction

A Literary and Cognitive Science Approach

Zugl.: Mainz, Univ., Diss., 2015

Names: Leupolt, Cecile, 1981- author.

Title: Imagination in Ian McEwan’s fiction : a literary and cognitive science approach / Cecile Leupolt.

Description: Berlin ; New York : Peter Lang, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references.

Identifiers: LCCN 2018006129 | ISBN 9783631746882

Subjects: LCSH: McEwan, Ian--Criticism and interpretation. | Imagination in literature.

Classification: LCC PR6063.C4 Z74 2018 | DDC 823/.914--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018006129

Cover photo: © Janina Gauer

Printed by CPI books GmbH, Leck

D 77

ISBN 978-3-631-74688-2 (Print)

E-ISBN 978-3-631-74745-2 (E-PDF)

E-ISBN 978-3-631-74746-9 (EPUB)

E-ISBN 978-3-631-74747-6 (MOBI)

DOI 10.3726/b13382

© Peter Lang GmbH

Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften

Berlin 2018

All rights reserved.

Peter Lang – Berlin ∙ Bern ∙ Bruxelles ∙ New York ∙

Oxford ∙ Warszawa ∙ Wien

All parts of this publication are protected by copyright. Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution. This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems.

This publication has been peer reviewed.

About the author

Cécile Leupolt is currently employed as a teacher of French and English at a German grammar school. She previously lectured in English literature and language at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Her research interests include contemporary Anglophone literature, cognitive science, evolutionary psychology and discourse analysis.

About the book

Imagination in Ian McEwan’s Fiction

The imagination is a distinctive cognitive feature of the human brain which enables us to navigate both the real world and fictional storyworlds. Drawing on literary and cognitive science approaches, this book investigates contemporary British author Ian McEwan’s differentiated portrayal of the imagination. Is it to be seen as a cognitive process or a result derived from that process? Or is it a vital social strategy which individuals use to daydream, mind-read, deceive and manipulate? The book finds that McEwan’s novels reveal the complex positive and negative potential of the imagination and engage, tease and push to its tentative limits our mind-reading capacity on a range of narrative levels.

Citability of the eBook

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Contents

1Introduction

1.1The imagination in McEwan’s fiction: a survey of existing scholarship

1.2Concept and design

2The literary imagination

2.1Cognitive science, McEwan’s fiction and the imagination

2.1.1The imagination – a ‘missing mystery’

2.1.2Reality, fiction and the imagination

2.1.3“Imagination,” “fantasy” and Einbildungskraft

2.1.4The Daydreamer – writing as an act of the imagination

2.1.5Inherent conflicts in McEwan’s aesthetics

2.1.6Cognitive science, fiction and the imagination

2.1.7Evolution and storytelling

2.2Atonement: the novel as a ‘visual’ medium

2.2.1The ‘fountain scene’ in Atonement

3The traumatic imagination

3.1Writing trauma

3.1.1The Child in Time

3.1.2Enduring Love

3.2Imagining trauma

3.2.1Black Dogs

3.2.2Atonement

3.3Contingency or trauma?

3.3.1Saturday

3.3.2On Chesil Beach

4The paradoxical imagination

4.1The imagination as a paradoxical social skill

4.1.1The limits of evolutionary theory in Enduring Love

4.1.2(Mis-)mind-readings in Enduring Love

4.1.3The veil of silence in On Chesil Beach

4.2Pathological forms of the imagination

4.2.1Jed’s erotomania in Enduring Love

4.2.2Baxter’s Huntington’s disease in Saturday

4.2.3Lily’s dementia in Saturday

4.2.4Briony’s dementia in Atonement

4.2.5Marjory’s brain damage in On Chesil Beach

4.3The ambiguity of self-deception and daydreaming

4.3.1The Child in Time

4.3.2Atonement

4.3.3Black Dogs

4.3.4On Chesil Beach

5Reality, fiction and the imagination

5.1Scope and limits of imaginative freedom

5.1.1A Move Abroad

5.1.2Imaginative freedom and scepticism

5.1.2.1The Child in Time

5.1.2.2Saturday and “The Day of Judgment”

5.1.3Variations of the ‘child within’

5.1.3.1The Daydreamer

5.1.3.2The Cement Garden

5.1.3.3The Child in Time

5.2The imagination and power

5.2.1“The Bully” and Saturday

5.2.2“The Burglar” and Black Dogs

5.2.3Deconstructing the country house ethos in Atonement

5.3Fictional (non-)confessions

5.3.1McEwan’s early fictional confessions

5.3.1.1“Homemade”

5.3.1.2“Butterflies”

5.3.2McEwan’s later fictional confessions

5.3.2.1Atonement

5.3.2.2Enduring Love

6Conclusion

6.1The imagination – an indispensable ingredient in McEwan’s fiction?

6.2Outlook: the imagination in McEwan’s latest novels

6.2.1Solar (2010)

6.2.2Sweet Tooth (2012)

6.2.3The Children Act (2014)

Works cited←7 | 8→←8 | 9→

The imagination – our faculty to ‘imagine’ or mentally represent real or fictitious people, objects and situations in the past, present and future – undoubtedly figures among the most complex and captivating functions of the human brain. Academic dealings with the imagination usually begin with a discourse on the difficulty of defining and delimiting the ‘missing mystery’ of the imagination.1 This is partly due to the discrepancy between the common usage of the term and philosophical, psychological or scientific definitions and theories. The fact that the imagination is an inward process or state of consciousness, in other words something private, individual and therefore hard to externalise or ‘measure’ in a scientific way does not make it any easier.

Indubitably, the imagination plays a crucial role not only for the production and reception of fiction, but also in our daily lives. In real life, our faculty to imagine constitutes a distinctive feature of our species; as far as we know only human beings are able to daydream, play games of pretence and (self)deception, project themselves into the future or guess at someone else’s thoughts, feelings or intentions.2 Without the capacity to imagine, any form of meaningful mental activity or human interaction is virtually impossible. A variety of mental diseases entailing a serious damage to or complete deficiency of the patient’s imagination (e.g. autism, Huntington’s disease, dementia) show how crucial the imaginative faculty is for human beings. Autists, for example, encounter a variety of often insurmountable hurdles as far as ‘normal’ relationships with others are concerned. To use McEwan’s words, they are incapable of ‘putting themselves into someone else’s shoes.’3 Empathy, the capacity to imagine what it feels like to be someone else, is also an inevitable prerequisite without which authors would be unable to create entire storyworlds for readers who, in turn, can understand these storyworlds thanks to their own imaginative faculty.

Details

Pages
290
ISBN (PDF)
9783631747452
ISBN (ePUB)
9783631747469
ISBN (MOBI)
9783631747476
ISBN (Hardcover)
9783631746882
Language
English
Publication date
2018 (May)
Tags
Trauma, Contingency Pathological Imagination Fictional Confessions Daydreaming and (Self-)Deception Theory of Mind Contemporary British Fiction
Published
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 290 pp.

Biographical notes

Cécile Leupolt (Author)

Cécile Leupolt currently works as a French and English teacher at a German grammar school. She previously taught English literature and language classes at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Her main research interests are contemporary Anglophone literature, cognitive sciences, evolutionary psychology and discourse analysis.

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Title: Imagination in Ian McEwan's Fiction