Friday, May 09, 2008

Creative Reading: Visualization and Imagination

When I read, I don't require authors to provide me with many visual details, for my mind is already going to do the work of visualization. When I read, I visualize scenes, characters, and events in vivid detail. I do it unconsciously but deeply.

When I think back on Dostoevsky's The Idiot, I can picture the balcony of Prince Myshkin's apartment. I can see Rogozhin's dark home. I see in clear detail the park in the suburb the characters walk through. And here's the beautiful thing about reading and imagination: though it is Dostoevsky who conjures this park, who was likely describing a real park, my visual representation of this park exists only in my mind. I cannot convey what I see: if I put it into words, you will begin to see your own park. We won't see the same thing.

I don't always remember characters' names, but oh, how I remember them. I can visualize the look on Rogozhin's face when he attempts to murder Prince Myshkin. I have in my head the way the characters each smile, frown, laugh, cry, walk, talk. I cannot describe to you the physical details of each character's face: what I visualize is the aura of each character's essence, that essence that exudes from his or her very Being, that pours out, that emanates. The essence of Prince Myshkin, of Rogozhin, of Nastasya Filippovna is what I actually visualize in my mind. Is this a particular gift of Dostoevsky, who claimed to penetrate the depths of the human soul, and who was able to express these depths with his own creative and aesthetic genius? Perhaps.

Reading is a creative activity. An author conjures a character, a scene, an event. But you, the reader, imagine it. And that is why, though we can talk about what we read, reading is such a deeply individual activity. My Prince Myshkin, my Rogozhin, my Nastasya Filippovna, though given to me by Dostoevsky, are now mine alone. I participated in their creation.

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