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Temporary copy of Applied Imagination


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 have the chance to use this autonomously to create your own pedagogy. As such, the module will:

  • Bring you to a theoretical understanding of imagination, imaginative thinking, and creativity, as well as their processes and applications
  • Engage you on an interdisciplinary level
  • Enable you to reflect upon and articulate your creative practices
  • Have you reflect on how imagination might help you become a more effective learner and producer of knowledge as well as aid you beyond university studies
  • Explore the relationship between "imagination", "rational thinking", and "knowledge"
  • Give you the chance to apply what you learn in a practical way
"Imagination rules the world! The defect of our modern institutions is that they do not speak to the imagination." Napoleon Bonaparte


The module will consist of nine 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.

See the bottom of this page for suggested introductory reading.

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 [Edited]

3. Steve Fuller: The Sociological 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.

Suggested reading:​

4. 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 of this cube is optional.

The cube can be found by clicking here!

5. 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:


7. Coull Quartet

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

8. 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

9. 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.

Key References: Please choose one of the below articles to read before this session.

  • Amabile, Teresa M (1998): 'How to Kill Creativity' Harvard Business Review 76 (5), 77 (12) (also available in Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Thinking)
  • De Bono, Edward (1990): Six Thinking Hats (London: Penguin)
  • 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
  • Kirton, M J (1991): 'Adapters and Innovators – why new initiatives get blocked' in J Henry (ed.), Creative Management (Sage Publications / Open University Press)
  • 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
10. Shama Rahman (neuroscience, creativity, and music) and Careers and Skills (reflective practice)

In the first part of this session Dr Shama Rahman (who has a PhD in the neuroscience of musical creativity as well as being a professional actor and musician) will lecture and run a workshop on the focus of her PhD research.

In the second part of the session, Warwick's Careers and Skills will lead a workshop on reflective practice that will aid you in capturing your thoughts on and journey through this module, not only for you Reflective Journal but for life beyond university as well.

Required task:

Reflect on an activity or concept from the module that has had the greatest impact on you. Write a succinct description, including how you felt at the time and how you now feel writing this reflection.

Also, bring a short example piece from your reflective journal.

"Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create." Maria Montessori

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 full 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.

"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." Thomas Edison

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.
For 15 CATS:

20% imaginative stimulus with annotation (1000 words) OR equivalent (7 minutes - see further information)
40% reflective and critical/analytical journal (2500 words)
40% student-devised assessment (2500-word piece, 15-minute presentation, or equivalent - see further information)

For 12 CATS:

20% imaginative stimulus with annotation (750 words) OR equivalent (6 minutes - see further information)
40% reflective and critical/analytical journal (2500 words)
40% student-devised assessment (2000-word piece, 12-minute presentation, or equivalent - see further information)