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Engish Composition, Lesson 13. Relation of Imagination to Experience

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All ideas are based upon and spring from experience, and the imagination merely places them in new combinations. For the purpose of this course, however, it is convenient to distinguish those themes that relate real events, as they actually occurred, from those themes that relate events that did not happen.

That body of writing which we call literature is largely composed of works of an imaginative character, and for this reason it has sometimes been carelessly assumed that in order to write one must be possessed of an excellent imagination. Such an assumption loses sight of the fact that imaginative writings cover but one small part of the whole field.

The production of literature is the business of a few, while every one has occasion every day to express ideas. It is evident that by far the greater part of the ideas we are called upon to express do not require the use of the imagination, but exercises in writing themes of an imaginative character are given here because there is pleasure in writing such themes and because practice in writing them will aid us in stating clearly and effectively the many ideas arising from our daily experiences.


  1. Where do all ideas in our minds come from?
  2. What does the imagination do for us?
  3. Why would it be false to say that the imagination creates ideas?
  4. What is usually meant by the term “literature”?
  5. What false assumption is commonly made about writing?
  6. Why is this assumption about writing false?
  7. What should most students focus on in the study of writing?
  8. Briefly summarize the content of this lesson.