Imagination Nation: A Nation of Consumption

It seems that Alexander Pope’s essay on criticism, “Pleasures of the Imagination by Addison and “On Taste” by Edmund Burke have a few common ideas.  First, that one must make good use of wit and good sense before throwing down one’s judgment.  Two, that taste is established by a common nature and knowledge.  Three, that one is expected to “judge properly of an imitation” (Burke, 6).  And finally that our imagination, our sense of imagery, arisen from sight is founded on that “knowledge or improvement in the mind” (Addison, 4).  It has power; in particular over our sense of pleasure.    


It occurred to me the other day as I was driving home from Wal-Mart having purchased not the movie I was hoping to, but a different movie entirely, that perhaps maybe these eighteenth century thinkers were on to something. As Burk says and as most of us have figured out, is the imitation is not as good as the real thing.  A rip off gaming console is not going to be as great as an X-Box, Wii or play-station and even within this group of like objects; one is seen as an imitation of the other.  But I digress, in this case the movie I purchased (the imitation) vs. the un-purchased movie (the real-deal).  Was it my sense of imagination telling me the movie I purchased was merely an imitation of the movie I had hoped to ascertain, like Addison believed?  Could I only receive gratification from the original movie I had hoped to purchase or was it something else that this eighteenth century brain boxes were familiar with, simple consumerism? Was I just so obsessed, so consumed by my unhappiness that the movie I purchased, while a perfectly good movie was just not what I had originally intended on buying?  I probably should have used my wit and good sense.


2 thoughts on “Imagination Nation: A Nation of Consumption

  1. Interesting response! That’s a good example that summarizes the points Burke and Addison are making. Burke would probably say that your senses are inferior to others who would not even consider buying the imitation! It must be because your senses/perceptions are not finely tuned enough to not want the imitation but only the original. Which I think is crazy! There isn’t an objective standard for these sorts of things. I like that you brought up films and video games. These are totally subjective! One person could enjoy playing a game that another person would hate. There isn’t one that is “better” than the other, in my opinion. Great post!

    • Brandy (and Laura, by extension!):
      First, congrats for being our initiatory posters :).

      Brandy, I think your observation regarding the fact that “one must make good use of wit and good sense before throwing down one’s judgment” really resonated with me. It started me thinking about Pope’s opening lines:
      “‘Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
      Appear in Writing or in Judging ill,
      But, of the two, less dang’rous is th’ Offence,
      To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense”

      I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding the “thesis” or the overall argument of this poem. Every time I encounter this poem I can’t help but wonder whether Pope is actually giving critics more “power” than artists. I, in part, come to this query based upon the notion of “mis-lead[ing] our sense”. Do you feel that Pope’s worry that the ‘common’ sense would be misled echoes and/or overlaps with your thoughts on imitation

      In part, this poem seems to capture the intellectual “spirit” of the Georgian Era, and so I’m very, very excited to hear your ideas on how this poem/essay intersects with the dominant philosophical principles of the era! .

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