Mindscapes: The Geographies of Imagined Worlds

Mindscapes: The Geographies of Imagined Worlds

Mindscapes: The Geographies of Imagined Worlds

Mindscapes: The Geographies of Imagined Worlds


Eighteen essays plus four examples from the ninth annual J. Lloyd Eaton Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature at the University of California, Riverside.

The concept of mindscape, Slusser and Rabkin explain, allows critics to focus on a single fundamental problem: "The constant need for a relation between mind and some being external to mind."

The essayists are Poul Anderson, Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Ronald J. Heckelman, David Brin, Frank McConnell, George E. Slusser, James Romm, Jack G. Voller, Peter Fitting, Michael R. Collings, Pascal J. Thomas, Reinhart Lutz, Joseph D. Miller, Gary Westfahl, Bill Lee, Max P. Belin, William Lomax, and Donald M. Hassler.

The book concludes with four authors discussing examples of mindscape. The participants are Jean-Pierre Barricelli, Gregory Benford, Gary Kern, and David N. Samuelson.


George E. Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin

As if to comment on the idea of mindscape, the speaker in Yeats' "Among School Children" tell us: "Plato thought nature but a spume that plays/Upon a ghostly paradigm of things." Plato in his parable of the cave incriminates the mind's perception of the world. The cave dwellers think they perceive a landscape. At best, however, they only imagine it. It is a copy of the world of real essences. And in this sense it is a mindscape, for (as Plato later tells us) the mind, at the higher level of apprehension, needs neither these images nor the material thing but connects directly with the ideal form.

What Yeats implies, though, is that the higher apprehension itself may be endlessly deferred. Natural appearances are a "spume" playing on something equally shadowy -- a "ghostly paradigm," not the form but an illustration of that form (para-deiknymi -- "to show beside"), in other words another mindscape. In the Platonic sense, mindscape is illusion, for the productions of the theater ("seeing place") of the mind, its visual or theoretical landscapes, are ultimately phantasms. In the Yeatsian sense however, the mindscape is not only illusion, but it may be, as illusion, the only reality we can ever know. For if the natural object is a spume, the essential form is equally vaporous. We remain trapped in our mental landscapes because we never cross Plato's divided line and thus can never reach any term -- be it "matter," "reality," or "god" -- that will allow us to distinguish between illusion and nonillusion. If everything is mindscape then, the concept becomes useless as a means of analysis.

The question arises naturally from our Yeatsian quote: how valid is this idea of mindscape -- as spume or paradigm -- as the means of . . .

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