Where Did Imagination Develop?
By Christopher Collins
Columbia University Press, $35.00, 272 pages
“In my concept of paleopoetics I include the skills that prelinguistic humans practiced, skills that, when language evolved, were expressed in verbal structures. It is this repertoire of techniques that … flourished well over fifty thousand years before writing and the literate imagination first emerged a mere five thousand years.”
In Paleopoetics: the Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination, Christopher Collins proposes one theory of how homo sapiens developed the capacity to imagine and project that imagination into some form of performance or writing. In very technical terms, he takes the reader through many of the theories proposed over the years to explain the human capacity to imagine and act within and upon that imagination. He believes, and shows from several angles, that humans developed this capacity in evolutionary phases, just as they developed as bipeds or any other major changes. No other author has tackled the subject quite as deeply and broadly.
While the subject matter is fascinating, the average non-scientist reader may want to have access to a dictionary to aid in understanding what Collins is saying. The writing itself is clear and exhaustively thorough; his passion for his topic evident. Despite all this, the subject of paleopoetics remains predominantly inaccessible.
Reviewed by Mary-Lynne Monroe