Cover: The Conversion of Imagination: From Pascal through Rousseau to Tocqueville, from Harvard University PressCover: The Conversion of Imagination in HARDCOVER

Harvard Historical Studies 151

The Conversion of Imagination

From Pascal through Rousseau to Tocqueville

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Product Details


$75.50 • £60.95 • €68.00

ISBN 9780674021884

Publication Date: 03/31/2006


298 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Harvard Historical Studies


A fascinating, dense, mind-stretching, admirably thoughtful book that makes an original argument and is full of arresting and illuminating insights. One comes away from the book with a new sense of the coherence of Rousseau’s thought and with new insight into many of the other writers considered­-Pascal and Tocqueville to be sure, but also Montesquieu, Constant, Stendhal, and others. It is a book that is at once illuminating and highly personal, a book that allows us to see familiar works in new ways and casts a bright light on the complex role that the idea of imagination has played in the work of some of the most important French thinkers and writers since the seventeenth century.—Jonathan Beecher, University of California, Santa Cruz

In this bold book on the expansion of the imagination, Maguire shows how a single faculty of the soul takes over virtually the whole of the soul’s functions, transforming them all. He traces how Rousseau and some of his heirs struggle with the consequences of an exalted imagination, which both constitutes and threatens to destroy the self. This impressive work opens up fresh and provocative perspectives on every thinker it treats.—Christopher J. Kelly, Boston College

Maguire’s book is a superb exercise in the study of an idea. Historically the imagination was deemed not much more than one of the senses and always subordinate to the dominion of reason… Like many studies in this genre Maguire’s ranges widely, is thickly referenced, and abounds in rich insights. In a final chapter on Tocqueville he has some provocative (although not entirely flattering) things to say about the relationship between imagination and democracy that are very germane at a time when many Americans are worried about the integrity of their political institutions.—B. G. Murchland, Choice

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