Protecting the Imagination
Karen Utley writes ‘the imagination deficit could cripple society’ in today’s Statesman.
As young girls, the Bronte sisters created and performed imaginative dramas; Agatha Christie conversed with her many imaginary friends; young C.S. Lewis invented worlds and recorded their imaginary histories.
Fascinated by the origin of genius, we remember the childhood inventiveness of these novelists because the fruits of their unique and powerful imaginations have entertained generations of readers and continue to inspire authors and filmmakers today.
Unfortunately, however, electronic entertainment industries now are targeting even the youngest children. Their products and programming, including a cable network especially for babies, not only usurp the time children once devoted to imagination-strengthening play, they saturate young minds with ready-made, pre-imagined adventures. Constant exposure to the already-visualized creations of TV producers and video-game designers undoubtedly disrupts the natural growth of creativity. Unless parents and teachers take defensive action to protect children’s imaginations, the electronically stunted imaginations of future writers will produce no “Jane Eyre” or “Chronicles of Narnia.”
The cry has gone up many times in recent years that the imagination is being stunted by modern technology. I tend to agree, although I can’t say that the imagination cannot find other ways to develop. There seems to be less tolerance for anything less than perfection in adapations, for instance. There is little allowance made for budget concerns, or other limitations. And yet, perhaps the proliferation of fan fiction, and fandom in general is a sign of where all of those imaginative energies are going. For instance, someone might forgo reading Wuthering Heights, watch the movie instead and then start to wonder what might have happened inbetween scenes, or create alternate plotlines, or look backward into the backstory or forward and create a ‘sequel’.
To address the publishing issue, personally I am dissappointed with the quality of writing that has passed through my hands as an editor. The heart is gone. I believe the reason for the dearth of great literature is a more complex issue which cannot be attributed to a single cause. I have not read anything truly imaginative nor powerfully excecuted in a long time. And then, the work only had moments of illumination with long periods of dullness of style. These writers did not have television and cgi to blame. Doubtless, eventually we will see something truly great come along once again.