2023 – Imagination & Creation

Imagination and creativity are the lifeblood of the humanities. We celebrate inventive, original creation. We aim to cultivate imaginative, reflective perception. Yet the ultimate source of imagination and creation remains mysterious and elusive. Genius, as the term itself implies, was long attributable to the external inspiration of shadowy genii or muses. Those flashes of insight that lead to an original, creative articulation earn our appreciation because they seem so un-willable; simply by taking thought or mastering techniques can’t summon the original powers of imagination on demand and create a thing so genuine as those we admire. Closer to home than genii and muses, our own minds—perhaps the wiring particular to our brains—have also been viewed as the seat of imagination and creativity. Our fall symposium, co-sponsored by the BYU Humanities Center and the Faith and Imagination Institute, investigates the activity of imagination and creativity in spirit and matter, the mind and the brain. We welcome to BYU scholars whose work treats these questions across the disciplines of education, literary studies, cognitive studies, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy. Beyond intellectual understanding, the symposium considers how critical attention to these questions may unlock and expand the imaginative, creative capacities of ourselves and our students.


Redefining Creativity: Acknowledging the Creator’s Perspective

Anna Abraham, University of Georgia

Anna Abraham is the E. Paul Torrance Professor and Director of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development at the University of Georgia (UGA). She investigates the psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying creativity and other aspects of the human imagination, including the reality-fiction distinction, mental time travel, social and self-referential cognition, and mental state reasoning. She is the author of the 2018 book, The Neuroscience of Creativity (Cambridge University Press) and the editor of the multidisciplinary volume, The Cambridge Handbook of the Imagination (2020). Her latest work is the forthcoming book, The Creative Brain: Myths and Truths (MIT Press). She serves of the Editor of the Cambridge Elements in Creativity and Imagination series.

Wider than the Sky: Romantic Neurology from Emily Dickinson to Oliver Sacks

Stephen Rachman, Michigan State University

Stephen Rachman is Associate Professor in the department of English, former Director of the American Studies Program and former head of Digital Humanities at Michigan State and former Co-Director of the Digital Humanities Literary Cognition Laboratory at Michigan State University. He is the co-editor and translator of Chinese Women Writers and the Environment (McFarland). He is the editor of The Hasheesh Eater by Fitz-Hugh Ludlow (Rutgers University Press). He is a co-author of the award-winning Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine: A Life of John Snow (Oxford University Press) and the co-editor of The American Face of Edgar Allan Poe (Johns Hopkins University Press). He has written numerous articles on 19th-century American literature, the history of medicine, cities, popular culture, and an award-winning Web site on Sunday school books for the Library of Congress American Memory Project.


Two Concepts of Memory

Sowon S. Park, UC Santa Barbara

Dr Sowon S Park (DPhil Oxon) teaches in the English department at UC Santa Barbara (https://www.english.ucsb.edu/people/park-sowon-0).  She specializes in neurocognitive literary criticism, world literature and global modernism. She is creator and convenor of Unconscious Memory Network (http://um.english.ucsb.edu), a neuroliterary research hub, and is former President of the Research Committee on Literary Theory of the International Comparative Literature Association (https://iclatheory.org/). She co-edits the Global Asias monograph series (OUP), Medical and Health Humanities: Critical Interventions monograph series (Bloomsbury). Her previous academic appointments were at Oxford, Cambridge and Ewha (Seoul).