“Imagination” became a word to conjure with in the Romantic era, thanks largely to Coleridge, with some help from Shelley, but it’s interesting to note that in the early modern period it’s usually, if not invariably, pejorative: e.g. Tyndale has Paul denouncing people who are “full of vanities in their imaginations” (Romans 1) and saying “we overthrow imaginations” (2 Corinthians 10). It’s something I’ve been meaning to write about for years, because I have an inchoate theory about how imagination is a dangerous thing in an enchanted world but a necessary thing in a disenchanted one.

In any case, we need some kind of language to describe the mental investment of the listener or reader in generating a lively sense of what he or she is encountering artistically — the sort of constructive ability of the receiving mind to capture which Coleridge coins the adjective “esemplastic.” I wonder if the language used in cultivating The Art of Memory (the title of France’s Yates’s great book) in the early modern period, which was so relentlessly visual, would be helpful to you…