Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

The Secret Life of the Imagination

SHARE THIS

The Imagination may perhaps be forgiven for occasional vagaries and for not keeping carefully within the limit of experience, since it gains life and vigor by such flights and since it is always easier to moderate its boldness than to stimulate its languor. But the Understanding which ought to think can never be forgiven for indulging in vagaries; for we depend upon it alone for assistance to set bounds, when necessary, to the vagaries of the imagination. —Immanuel Kant in Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics

Imagination is an outlaw to the empire of Experience. Understanding guards the limits of this empire. It is the sovereign ruler. And it knows that Imagination is an unusual type of rebel, the enemy it must keep closer than a brother. There are those delinquents that are easy to destroy and that need to be destroyed. A firing squad. A guillotine. They are gone. Imagination cannot die. Not that it’s immortal. It’s just that attempts on its life only makes it stronger. Imagination can only be managed. And the genius of Understanding is that it realizes this. Understanding knows that when it’s all said and done managing the vagaries or the so-called excesses of the Imagination is the sole meaning of its own existence. After all would there be boundaries to patrol if there is no one to trespass? ┬áBut sometimes, Imagination goes really crazy and Experience panics. Understanding would freak the hell out and banish Imagination. Bad decision ’cause it’s in banishment that Imagination becomes even more lethal of a threat. No one likes to keep an enemy too close, but with Imagination, that’s the only way to go.

On the other hand, Imagination is the bandit who cannot stay home for too long. It ventures as far as it can from the world of Understanding, who tries, as Kant says, to “moderate its boldness” and to use Imagination to make sense of itself. Sustaining the life of a master does not make a man any less a slave. So Imagination would rather roam the wild woods with other castaways like the Body, Desire, Feeling. Together they conspire to outrun the limits of Experience and outlast Existence and perplex Understanding.

Get Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics for 2 dollars on Amazon. Click here.

Photo Credit: Carakhan

 

Tags: , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “The Secret Life of the Imagination” Subscribe

  1. Kunle October 19, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    And where is the place for poor old ignorance? Why is imagination and understanding having all the fun!

    On a serious note though, knowing the limits of your ignorance can fire up imagination and enrich understanding.

  2. admin October 19, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    @ Kunle: Lol! You make a valid and rather fun point here. So my sense is that ignorance would be one of the other delinquents. Easy to destroy. This is partly because ignorance might be merely a (binary) opposite of understanding. So understanding can easily cancel it out. But imagination is a bit more slippery. It’s neither knowledge, nor understanding, nor ignorance but still somehow partakes of all three. Maybe it’s just that Ignorance is not as cool a rebel as Imagination.

  3. Kunle October 19, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    ah, but you forget that ignorance is the ever-present antithesis – to imagination and understanding. And where will these two other constructs be without ignorance to describe their limits. Oh, the power of ignorance!

    While ignorance may not be cool, it is the monster we should pay attention to.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Oyinkan Braithwaite Wins the 2019 Anthony Award for Best First Novel

Photo credit: CrimeReads

Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite has won the 2019 Anthony Award for her debut novel My Sister, the Serial Killer. Braithwaite […]

Winners of the 2019 Nommo Awards

nommo

On October 25, the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) announced the winners of the 2019 Nommo Awards. The award announcement […]

Editor’s Note | 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Volume II | Ebenezer Agu

Anthology

In producing this anthology, there were challenges we had not foreseen, mostly because the individuals involved lived in different continents […]

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Olumide Popoola, Mukoma wa Ngugi at Stimmen Afrikas Literaturfestival in Cologne, Germany

dsc5659

From November 6 to November 9 2019, 33 guests from 19 countries, including several notable African authors, scholars, other individuals […]

Romeo Oriogun’s Debut Poetry Collection, Sacrament of Bodies, an Interrogation of Queerness, Masculinity & Nigerianness, Now Available for Pre-order

Oriogun

In 2018, the Nigerian poet Romeo Oriogun was named an Institute of International Education Artist Protection Fund Fellow and a […]

20.35 Africa | Momtaza Mehri, Megan Ross, Nadra Mabrouk, Saddiq Dzukogi Featured in Forthcoming Volume II, Guest-Edited by Yasmin Belkhyr & Kayo Chingonyi

READ: 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry, Volume 2 Earlier this year, we announced a call for submissions […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.