Fidelity without mimesis: Mental imagery from visual description

In Gregory Currie, Petr Kotatko & Martin Pokorny (eds.), Mimesis: Metaphysics, Cognition, Pragmatics. College Publications (2012)
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Abstract

In this paper, I oppose the common assumption that visual descriptions in prose fiction are imageable by virtue of perceptual mimesis. Based on introspection as well as convergent support from cognitive science and other disciplines, I argue that visual description (and the mental imagery it elicits), unlike narrative (and the mental imagery it elicits), often stands in no positive relation to perceptual mimesis because it lacks a structural counterpart in perceptual experience. I present an alternative way of defining the kind of mental imagery elicited by visual descriptions, and propose a number of text variables underlying the imageability or non-imageability of any such description.

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