Tag Archive: enchantment

Enchantments to come

Thoughts for a spring equinox…

Complexity theorist (and colleague of mine here at the University of Vermont) Stuart Kauffman takes stock here of the Enlightenment and sings of a re-enchantment to come.

Disenchantment and re-enchantment are long-running tropes in the intellectual currents of modernity, which I’ve frequently explored in my writing (see here for a quick synopsis of those explorations, and here for an entry point into a discussion on The Immanent Frame, one of the most intelligent blogs exploring these issues).

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This is a summary I provided to a grad student who was starting to get into this area. It’s very introductory and far from complete in its coverage, but since there’s so little out there on this topic, I thought it would be useful to post it. It’s also a bit biased towards literature that’s relevant to religion and religious experience (since this is what the student was working on). Comments are welcome.

The topic of the imagination had been out of fashion for a while in the humanities, especially as textual and semiotic approaches (structuralism, poststructuralism et al) came to dominate cultural theory in the 1970s and 1980s. Gradually it’s been coming back, but without any consensus on what it means or how it should be dealt with. The following are some of the threads of thinking that, to my mind, need to be drawn together in a coherent way in order to make contemporary sense of ‘the imagination’ or, as I prefer to call it, the imaginal. They are pieces of a much larger puzzle that is far from being solved.

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