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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown

Fancy and imagination:

Terms used by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to distinguish mechanical and organic processes of literary creation. Fancy, the inferior mental faculty, works according to a mechanistic principle of the association of ideas and merely reproduces and recombines the "fixed and dead"objects given to consciousness through perception and memory. Imagination, the superior faculty, is creative and organic; it "dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate." A mechanical form is a preconceived idea imposed by fancy, whereas an organic form is a vital interdependence of parts and whole created by imagination, a faculty which "reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities."

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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University of Toronto English Library
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Last modified: March 31, 1997