The Critical Imagination

The Critical Imagination

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The Critical Imagination is a study of metaphor, imaginativeness, and criticism of the arts. Since the eighteenth century, many philosophers have argued that appreciating art is rewarding because it involves responding imaginatively to a work. Literary works can be interpreted in many ways; architecture can be seen as stately, meditative, or forbidding; and sensitive descriptions of art are often colourful metaphors: music can 'shimmer', prose can be
'perfumed', and a painter's colouring can be 'effervescent'. Engaging with art, like creating it, seems to offer great scope for imagination. Hume, Kant, Oscar Wilde, Roger Scruton, and others have defended variations on this attractive idea. In this book, James Grant critically examines it.
The first half explains the role imaginativeness plays in criticism. To do this, Grant answers three questions that are of interest in their own right. First, what are the aims of criticism? Is the point of criticizing a work to evaluate it, to explain it, to modify our response to it, or something else? Second, what is it to appreciate art? Third, what is imaginativeness? He gives new answers to all three questions, and uses them to explain the role of imaginativeness in criticism.
The book's second half focuses on metaphor. Why are some metaphors so effective? How do we understand metaphors? Are some thoughts expressible only in metaphor? Grant's answers to these questions go against much current thinking in the philosophy of language. He uses these answers to explain why imaginative metaphors are so common in art criticism. The result is a rigorous and original theory of metaphor, criticism, imaginativeness, and their interrelations.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 206 pages
  • 157 x 227 x 16mm | 418g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199661790
  • 9780199661794
  • 1,635,933

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. The Aims of Criticism ; 2. Criticism and Appreciation ; 3. Criticism and Imagination ; 4. Metaphor and Likeness ; 5. The Dispensability of Metaphor ; 6. Metaphor and Criticism ; Conclusion ; Bibliography
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Review quote

[A] very helpful resource for anyone seriously interested in art appreciation or the figurative use of language. Besides providing some of the blueprints for a fuller theory of metaphor, The Critical Imagination contains numerous small conceptual revelations capable of informing and enriching a readers encounters with art critisism. George Hull, The Philosophical Quarterly Grant's The Critical Imagination should be read carefully by anyone interested in metaphor, the aims of criticism, and the relation between the two. Grant grounds and illustrates his arguments with reference to a range of interesting examples described with acumen and finesse. His prose is extremely clear and lends caution and precision to topics about which many inflated and wayward claims have been made. * Paisley Livingston, European Journal of Philosophy * The Critical Imagination is a well-organized and clearly written book that moves swiftly between abstract argumentation and concrete cases of art criticism. The arguments Grant uses are strong, and the views he defends are plausible, but controversial enough to be found interesting. * Rafael De Clercq, Australasian Journal of Philosophy * Grant's convincing analyses of the role of imagination in criticism and of metaphor make this book well worth careful study. He does invaluable work in rehabilitating critical appreciation as an activity and in describing much of its structure. * Richard Eldridge, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews *
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About James Grant

James Grant is a Tutorial Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.
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