Many writers have paid tribute to its power: Shakespeare urged his audiences to use it to create a setting; Hobbes asserted that "imagination and memory are but one thing;" for Wordsworth it was "the mightiest leveler known to moral world;" and to Baudelaire it represented "the queen of truth."
Imagination as artistic, poetic, and cultural predicate remains one of the most influential ideas in the history of Western thought. It has been simultaneously feared as a dangerous, uncontrollable force, and revered as the supreme visionary power. The questions of its origins, nature, function, and effects have absorbed writers, theologians, and philosophers alike.
J. M. Cocking's Imagination shows how these questions have recurred, through the ages and in various cultures. Exploring this theme, from antiquity to the Renaissance, it opens with a discussion of the treatment of imagination in the writings of Aristotle and Plato. Tracing its development in the Middle Ages, Cocking pays particular attention to the parallel tradition in Islamic thought of the period. The book pursues the concept through the theories of Dante and the neo-Platonists, concluding with the High Renaissance.