Of Imagination and Ideology
The term "imagination" is invested with such poetic, philosophical, and even political significance in Romantic thought that it is tempting to regard Romanticism itselfas an effect of "Adam's dream," as the proper name for imagination's ascendancy. Taking as its starting point the claims made by the poets for the imagination's "truth," this book proposes to read English Romanticism's figuring of the imagination. It is my thesis that the imagination is given a social and political assignment as much as a poetic or philosophical one: the imagination is the figure by which Romantic texts address the disjunction between subject and society as well as that between spirit and matter. The Romantic imagination is thus assigned what traditions of social theory after Marx would identify as ideological tasks. But, still more importantly, politics and society cannot be regarded as the explanatory context of the Romantic imagination: I hope to demonstrate that social and political matters are inextricable from the imagination's poetic performances or philosophical assertions. The binding of imagination and ideology, a binding that occurs throughout Romanticism, means that a reading of the Romantic imagination can teach us something about the very notion of ideology with which we would presume to understand it.
The task of defining the Romantic imagination has proved to be