Elaine Scarry, ‘Dreaming by the Book’

From Elaine Scarry, Dreaming by the Book (Princeton, 2001):

“The verbal arts are at once counterfactual and conterfictional. Like the daydream, the verbal arts are conterfactual: both the daydream and the poem bring into being things not previously existing in the world. But the verbal arts are also counterfictional, displacing the ordinary attributes of imagining – its faintness, two-dimensionality, fleetingness, and dependence on volitional labor – with the vivacity, solidity, persistence, and givenness of the perceptible world.” (p. 38)

“Flowers, unlike the faces of human beings, appear to be the perfect size for imagining. An imaginary object does occupy an identifiable location, and that location is in part determined by the size of its perceptual counterpart in the material world. For example, if the picture is occurring outside the boundary of the body, it is usually somewhere in the field encompassed by vision. If the object is the size of the flower, it will probably appear immediately in the small bowl of space in front of one’s eyes: this may be in part because in the perceptual world flowers are continually being lifted up off the ground into the space before our faces by vases, window boxes, or paintings of vases and window boxes by Matisse, Manet, Renoir, van Gogh. But this phenomenon also occurs because flowers fit into that space in the way that a horse, with or without wings, clearly cannot. If the horse were placed there, one would only see a small patch of him. In order for us to tsee a great deal of him, he would have to be placed, let’s say, at least ten feet away. The only way he could be placed immediately in front of our eyes would be through radical miniaturization.” (p. 47)

poppies, french-tattooed

More poppies.

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