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Applied Imagination 2015-16

Have a think...

What is imagination? Can we measure it? When and how do you use your imagination? Do different disciplines engage and treat imagination differently? Is imagination important in academic studies, the working world, or life? What would it be like to not have an imagination? How could you get others to manifest their imaginative and creative thinking?

This module is designed to enable you to make connections between the 'imaginative' thinking and practice deployed within your own and other disciplines and to autonomously explore and develop your own theory of applied imagination. By engaging in inter- and transdisciplinary learning, the module will:

  • Support you in developing a theoretical understanding of imagination and imaginative thinking;
  • Explore the relationship between imagination and creativity;
  • Enable you to articulate and reflect upon your own imaginative practices and those of others;Consider what the role of the imagination is within learning and knowledge;
  • Give you the chance to apply what you learn in a practical way and devise the form your assessment will take;
  • Invite you to explore how what you have learned might be applied beyond the classroom and university life.


The module will consist of ten two hour sessions, for up to twenty students, from across the University's departments. Each week will be split between a subject-specialist led session and an hour in which the students and module leader will work with the week's set stimulus to develop student ideas. This latter part will embody an interdisciplinary emphasis and use IATL's Open-Space Learning alongside reflection and discussion.

Introductory Reading

  • Barry, Lynda. 2008. What it is. Montreal. Dawn and Quarterly. An extract called 'Two Questions' can be found by clicking here.
  • Hyde, Lewis. 2007. The Gift: How the creative spirit transforms the world. Edinburgh. Canongate. This can be found in the library or a pdf version can be found by clicking here.
  • Jackson, et al. 2006. Developing Creativity in Higher Education. Oxon. Routledge. This can be found in the library and the whole collection is worth a read. However, if you're a Warwick student head over to the readings page to access some scanned chapters.
  • Lehrer, Jonah. 2012. Imagine: How Creativity Works. New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This is no longer in print (for very interesting reasons which we may well discuss) but if you're a Warwick student you can find some extracts on the readings page.
  • Clark, Roy Peter. 2012. 'Why Jonah Lehrer's Imagine is worth reading, despite the problems'. Poynter. 2012. Click here to go to the article.

Weekly topics:

1. Naomi de la Tour and Philip Gaydon: Introduction to Applied Imagination

Required reading:

Horizon. 2013. 'The Creative Brain: How Insight Works', television programme, online, broadcast 23:20 19/3/2013, BBC TWO, 70mins., (Accessed 16/09/2014) N.b. the Horizon episode does not start until 03:40. In order to access Box of Broadcasts (BoB) National, you will need your Warwick email address.

2. Philip Gaydon: Moments of Wonder

"Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are."

Some things puzzle, surprise, and delight us to the point that we have an overwhelming desire to know more about them…even if we're not sure exactly what it is we want to know. It may be a beloved childhood book, a troublesome mathematical formula, or a breath-taking view. These moments of wonder are some of the most inspirational in our lives. They spur on our imagination and act as the catalyst for creativity. They are, however, very individual and personal experiences. Should we wait to see if they happen on their own or is there a way of creating a situation conducive to their arising? This week will explore wonder and its facilitation in childhood, adulthood, education, and the working world. You will also reflect upon your own and other's moments of wonder as you look towards week 6's creation of an imaginative stimulus.

Required reading:

  • Blake, William. 2014 (1794). 'The Tyger', Poetry Foundation (Web)

Thoughts: Can you think of an animal or person that captures your imagination or makes you wonder? Can you express why? Do you think your explanation does the thing and the feeling justice?

  • Carroll, Lewis. 1965 (1871). 'Jabberwocky', Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, illus. John Tenniel, New York, Airmont, pp.140-142

Thoughts: What do you think is going on here? Does the poem mean anything? Read the paragraph after the poem, do you agree with Alice?

  • Hughes, Ted. 2000 (1963). 'How the Whale Became', How the Whale Became: And Other Stories, illus. Jack Morris, London, Faber, pp.24-28 (can be found on the readings page)

Thoughts: Can you think of anything on earth (animal, plant, event, emotion...anything) that really baffles you? Can you come up with an origin story for it?

  • LeMieux, Michelle. 1999. A Stormy Night, Toronto, Kids Can Press

Thoughts: The first few pages are here, but where would you go from there?

  • Thomas, Lewis. 2008 (1983). 'Seven Wonders', (Web)
    Thoughts: What would your seven wonders be? Why?

For those of you looking for some theoretical and academic heft, resist the urge to do the further reading until after the class!

Further Reading:

  • Aristotle. 1987. Metaphysics (Book I, Chapters I-II), A New Aristotle Reader, ed. J. L. Ackrill, Oxford, Clarendon, pp.255-259
  • Carson, Rachel. 1998. The Sense of Wonder, New York, Harper

N.b. This book (and many more) can be found at At time of writing they offer 1 month free access...make the most of it!

  • Cohen, Adam. 2012. Wonder in Shakespeare, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan N.b. This is quite a specific study in many ways but it is good to skim read and pick out qualities of wonder which you agree/disagree with
  • Descartes, René. 2010 (1649). 'The Passions of the Soul' (sections 53 and 69-78), Early Modern Texts (Web)
  • Fisher, Philip. 2003. Wonder, the Rainbow and the Aesthetics of Rare Experieince, London, Harvard University Press
  • Head, Georgina and McDonough, Jennifer. 2009. A Place for Wonder, Portland, Stenhouse (short video from a reading group that used this book:
  • Hepburn, R.W. 1980. 'Wonder', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. 54, pp.1-23 (can be found on the readings page)
  • Heubner, Dwayne. 1999 (1959). 'The Capacity for Wonder and Education', The Lure of the Transcendent: Collected Essays of Dwayne Heubner, ed. Vicki Hillis, Mahwah, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (can be found on the readings page)
  • Parsons, Howard L. 1969. 'A Philosophy of Wonder', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp.84-101 (can be found on the readings page)
  • Prinz, Jesse. 2013. 'How Wonder Works', Aeon (Web), 21/06/2013

3. Steve Fuller: The Ideological Imagination

This session will focus on the ideological imagination, especially the extent to which 'left-right' continues (or not) to define the horizon of political possibilities. In this context, it will introduce 'up-down' as an alternative to the left-image that has dominated the ideological imagination over the past two centuries.

Required reading:​

4. Nick Barker: Imagination and Chemistry

Nick Barker runs a schools outreach programme in the Chemistry Department. His work has been described as 'Outward Bound with test tubes'. He believes that this programme can inspire people to believe in themselves and will attempt to show you how and why.

In preparation for this session students should:


  • Outward Bound
  • The Prince's Trust


5. Dave Wood: Mathematics and the Imagination

In the mathematics portion of this module we will approach the use of imagination in this discipline via the visualisation of objects in three dimensions, and higher. Much of post-school mathematics explores weird and wonderful worlds where we prove, and use, the existence of objects which cannot be made in the flesh, and can therefore only exist in the minds-eye. As a warm-up exercise it will be useful to be able to have a cube in front of you, so please print out, cut out, and stick together the attached net. Decorating the cube is obligatory!

The cube can be found by clicking here!

Required Reading:

  • Preface and chapter 1 from Imagining Numbers by Barry Mazur. Click here.
  • Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbot (first three sections especially). Click here.

Suggested Viewing

  • Dr Who, 'Flatline' (season 8, episode 10)

6. Naomi de la Tour: Metaphor and the dark imagination

Required reading:

7. Jonathan Heron: 'Fail better': Performing imagination

This workshop will explore the role of the imagination in theatre and performance, with particular reference to theories of play and studies of failure.

Required reading:

Extracts from the below texts - found by clicking here.

To supplement the reading: What do Artists do All Day? 2014. 'Michael Landy', television programme, online, broadcast 01:20 23/10/2014, BBC FOUR, 30mins. 

Further reading (links to the library catalogue):

Sutton-Smith, The Ambiguity of Play

Bial, The Performance Studies Reader

Le Fevre, Failure

8. Coull Quartet: Imagination and Music

We will be attempting to explain and demonstrate how we 'apply imagination' to our performances. Questions that may arise include:

  • How do we interpret, or re-create, a composer’s music for an audience? Are there a processes or techniques that we use?
  • Is the performance of classical/pre-composed music a craft or a creative skill - or something in between?
  • How do we define Creativity and Imagination in music?
  • How do we learn to play expressively and with imagination? Is it an intellectual process, something that is achieved purely by assimilation of a received language of expression, or a combination of the two?

Required reading:

Extracts from What Kind of Art is Music by Deryck Cooke

Secondary reading:

  • Adolphe, Bruce. 1991. The Mind's Ear, Mmb music - availble in IATL's mini-library
  • Hargreaves, D., Miell, D. & MacDonald, R (eds.). 2011. Musical Imaginations, Oxford, Oxford University Press - available in IATL's mini-library
  • Cytowic, Richard. 2013. 'What Colour is Tuesday? Exploring synesthesia', TED-Ed
  • As came up in the seminar you may want to look into examples of films or television involving no, or very little dialogue, and relying heavily on music (such as The Artist (2011) or 'Hush' (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S.4, ep. 10)) or involving no music at all (such as Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Cloverfield (2008), or 'The Body' (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S.5, ep.16)) and ask yourself about the role music is or isn't playing in these.

9. Sebastiano Massaro and Elliot Ludvig: Neuroscience and the imagination

This session will look at where imagination takes place by exploring our thinking organ: the brain. In this context it will introduce some neuroscience elements that will enable student to better their understanding on what the brain is, its constituents, and their roles in explaining imagination.

Required Reading:

Buckner, R. L. (2010). 'The role of the hippocampus in prediction and imagination'. Annual review of psychology, 61, 27-48.

Further Reading

Damasio, A. R. (2001). 'Some notes on brain, imagination and creativity'. The origins of creativity, Pfenninger K H and Shubik VR (Eds), Oxford University Press, 59-68

10. Ruth Leary: Tantrums and Talent: Managing Imagination in Creative Teams

Industry depends on the imagination in order to generate new ideas for products and services. This is especially true for the creative industries where imagination provides the raw material for new cultural products from music to video games. Sociological literature describes cultural production as a social process; for managers this relates to the challenge of building creative teams and organisations. How do our ideas about imagination relate to the role of teams within organisations? How can creative teams work together to generate new ideas? What kind of dynamics and challenges arise within a creative team? How can managers encourage and promote innovation in teams whose key task is to continually generate creative ideas?

This workshop will examine how collective imagination can be facilitated and managed in a collaborative context.

Required Reading and task:

  • Extracts from Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats. Click here.
  • Before the session you will be given a colour. Pay particular attention in the reading to your colour and see if you can find out more about about your colour in relation to de Bono's theory.
  • Create a hat of your colour for the seminar...there will be a prize for the best hat as an external motivator!

Further reading:

  • Amabile, Teresa M (1998): 'How to Kill Creativity', Harvard Business Review 76 (5), 77 (12) (also available in Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Thinking)
  • Bilton, Chris (2007) Management and Creativity; from creative industries to creative management (Oxford: Blackwell)
  • Bilton, Chris and Leary, Ruth (2002): 'What Can Managers Do For Creativity? Brokering Creativity in the Creative Industries' in International Journal of Cultural Policy Vol. 8 no. 1, pp. 49 – 64
  • Davis, Howard & Scase, Richard (2000) Managing Creativity: The Dynamics of Work and Organization (London: Open University Press)
  • De Bono, Edward (1990): Six Thinking Hats (London: Penguin)
  • Fletcher, Winston (1999): Tantrums and Talent: how to get the best from creative people (Henley-on-Thames: Admap)
  • Kirton, M J (1991): 'Adapters and Innovators – why new initiatives get blocked' in J Henry (ed.), Creative Management (Sage Publications / Open University Press)
  • Paulus. P. (2000): 'Groups, teams and creativity: the creative potential of idea-generating groups', Applied Psychology: An International Review 49 (2) pp. 237 - 262
  • Thompson, Leigh (2003): 'Improving the creativity of organizational work groups' in Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 17 no. 1 (2003), pp. 96 – 109;
  • Ucbasaran, D, Lockett, A & Humphreys, M (2011) 'Leading Entrepreneurial Teams: Insights from Jazz (PDF available by typing title into Google – no direct link)
  • Williams, Wendy M and Yang, Lana T (1999): 'Organisational Creativity' in Robert J Sternberg (ed.), Handbook of Creativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Assessment - further information

Tutors will give support and guidance as to what the relevant 'equivalent' is depending on what type of project you decide to undertake.

Suggestions for an imaginative form of assessment devised by you with the support of the tutor might include a short story, poetry, a play, a short film, a graphic (animated) short story, original music composition, a workshop, and so on. You must demonstrate and communicate the theories and applications of imagination in your piece. If you wish to submit a non-language-based form of assessment, the piece must be accompanied by a reflective piece of written work.

You will be given tutor support both when planning your imaginative stimulus and devised assessment and when bringing them to fruition. This will include some one-on-one time with a module tutor. The university also has a wealth of technological and creative resources which will be highlighted to you and aid will be given in obtaining and using them.

A full rubric can be found by clicking here.


For 15 CATS:

10% imaginative stimulus with annotation (1000 words) OR equivalent (7 minutes - see further information)
45% reflective and critical/analytical journal (2500 words)
45% student-devised assessment (2500-word piece, 15-minute presentation, or equivalent - see further information)

For 12 CATS:

10% imaginative stimulus with annotation (750 words) OR equivalent (6 minutes - see further information)
45% reflective and critical/analytical journal (2500 words)
45% student-devised assessment (2000-word piece, 12-minute presentation, or equivalent - see further information)


Imaginative Stimulus: Due at noon, Monday, week 7, term 1, 16th November.

Student Devised Assessment: Due at noon, Thursday, week 1, term 2, 14th January.

Learning Journal:

Due at noon, Thursday, week 1, term 2, 14th January.

Please see the IATL handbook for general information on how to submit your assessments and the AI rubric for advice specific to this module.