Theories of the imagination have failed. Philosophers and poets were not able – not even in its heyday roughly linked with the period normally called „Romanticism” – to establish imagination as a substantial faculty of the mind or as a controlled mode of cognitive processes.
At the same time, it has become clearer than ever, not least through present-day brain research, that imaginative processes play a crucial role in human cognition. Their importance appears to be as urgent as their validity always in doubt. My guess is that this is why the term „imaginary” has enjoyed such prevalence for quite a few decades. It points to the inevitability, but also to the lack of systematic status of what is beyond the defined modes of both rationality and irrationality. A bit in the mode of Kant (and in the wake of the much-neglected Gilbert Durand) I would like to inquire whether there is, „instead” as it were, something like an anthropological structure to the oscillation between imagination and the imaginary.
K. Ludwig Pfeiffer was born 1944; since 1979 he is Full Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Critical Theory at Siegen University; from 2007 he will be Professor of Literature, International University Bremen. Several Visiting Professorships at Universities in Japan, USA, and Brazil; several fellowships, amongst others of the Humanities Research Institute, University of California, Irvine (1991) and of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1996, 2003); since 1983 he is referee for national and international tenure reviews and search committees (including UCB, UCD). He is member of the Committee Media Studies Wissenschaftsrat Federal Republic of Germany.
Major publications: Bilder der Realität und die Realität der Bilder. Verbrauchte Formen in den Romanen George Merediths (1981), Das Mediale und das Imaginäre. Dimensionen kulturanthropologischer Medientheorie (1999), as (co)editor: with H. U. Gumbrecht: Stil – Geschichten und Funktionen eines kulturwissenschaftlichen Diskurselements (1986), Paradoxien, Dissonanzen, Zusammenbrüche: Situationen offener Epistemologie (1991), with R. Kray, and K. Staedtke: Theorie als kulturelles Ereignis (2001); with J. Fürnkäs, M. Izumi, and R. Schnell: Medienanthropologie und Medienavantgarde (2005), with K. Vondung: Jenseits der entzauberten Welt. Naturwissenschaft und Mystik in der Moderne (2006).