Control of the Imaginary was first published in 1989. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
In Control of the Imaginary Luiz Costa Lima explains how the distinction between truth and fiction emerged at the beginning of modern times and why, upon its emergence, fiction fell under suspicion. Costa Lima not only describes the continuous relationship between Western notions of reason and subjectivity over a broad time-frame—the Renaissance to the first decade of the twentieth century—but he uses this occasion to reexamine the literary traditions of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, and Germany. The book reconstructs the dominant frames in the European tradition between the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century from the perspective of a Latin American who sees the culture of his native Brazil haunted by unresolved questions from the Northern Hemisphere. Costa Lima manages to synthesize positions from philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, and history without separating the theoretical discussion from his historical reconstructions.
The first chapter situates the problem and grounds the emergent distinction between truth and fiction in a very close analysis of one of the first European historians, Fernao Lopes, who sets the tone for the condemnation of fiction in the name of the truth of history and the potential for individual interpretation. Costa Lima pursues these notions through the aesthetic debates of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the writings of the French historian Michelet. He also devotes an illuminating chapter to the invention of the strictures imposed on fiction.