What is Imagery? By definition, imagination refers to “a visual or auditory perception… used to provide an explanation of a particular situation” (Webster’s Online dictionary). More specifically, imagination refers to the “imaging” of a particular situation. In other words, the picture you see in your mind’s eye is what your mind perceives as existing at that particular time.
Imagery can be both a source and a product of human imagination. One of the most intriguing questions of philosophy is the relationship between the artist and the canvas. For instance, a statue of liberty, by definition, is a “figurative representation of an actual situation.” The act of putting a statue in a location and surrounding it with surrounding buildings, usually benches or stones, is a form of imagery.
How do I describe this all? Here I will give you a definition of imagery organized around five senses: visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and kinesthetic. Your visual imagery includes what you see. For instance, a person walking across a landscape looking at a thousand-dollar tree falling down with green leaves is visual imagery.
Your auditory imagery has to do with hearing things in order for you to be able to speak or read. So, if you hear a bird singing it is auditory imagery. Your tactile imagery has to do with touching things such as paper, fabric, or a bowl of fruit. G gustatory imagery appeals to gustatory experiences. This would include such things as the smell of a car or a plane taking off or anything else that appeals to your sense of smell. And finally, kinesthetic imagery has to do with using your body to do things.
So, when I use figurative language, it is figurative imagery I am referring to and when I use the word “imagination” I am talking about imagination applied to the written or spoken word. Now, let us take a look at these three different ways of thinking about imagery. Do they really differ and how do they affect you? To help you gain a better understanding of what is imagery in literature I have composed an essay that describes the three types of imagery and their effects on people.
The first type of imagery, we will examine is the birches. The birches, which can be found all over North America, are a type of mythical creature. They are winged bodies with protruding eyes, long sharp beaks, and grayish black feathers. The birches are considered extremely powerful imagery, used primarily in Native American myth tales.
The second type of imagery, we will look at is the tactile imagery of writers such as John Keats, Henry David Thoreau, William James, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here is an example from one of Emerson’s books,” Thoughts appearing as ghosts before the consciousnesses, which are but mirrors ready for the scrutiny of a few selected persons.” The key phrase here is “the souls appearing as ghosts before the consciousnesses.” Trough this technique, these “souls” are seen by the writer as immaterial, almost jelly-like, yet they are very real to the writer. These senses of tactile imagery are often considered to be figurative language and, in fact, are central to the poetic language of some of the greatest poets.
Finally, the third type of imagery we will look at is the use of “kinesthetic” imagery or “figurative language.” kinesthetic imagery is similar to the tactile imagery, except it is used to communicate emotion instead of mere imagery. For instance, a painter might use smudges of paint to convey a feeling of insecurity. This “kinesthetic” technique was popularized by the French Modernists, especially during the Art Deco Period.