Theoretical, Empirical, Methodological Rationale
This proposed narratological study seeks to demonstrate the centrality of
pedagogical practices involving openness, recursivity, tolerance of ambiguity
and incompleteness (as well as the resulting anxiety) in accessing a structural
unconscious as the true seat of creativity. Toward this end, the practices of some
of the most accomplished artists will be analyzed and compared in the attempt to
distinguish between essential and inessential features of the creative
Research into the promotion of creativity can be divided into two main
camps. There are studies which
attempt to take the creative subject in isolation and grapple with creativity
understood as “self-expression” and go in search of that quality of the
intelligence which is commonly called“genius.” There are also studies which attempt to
ignore the subject in favor of a view of the dominance of socio-cultural or
communal features that are favorable to innovation.
The former camp tends to uproot the subject from what is clearly an
indispensable context. The latter
tends to obliterate the individual, failing to account for the appearance of
creative individuals (Picasso or Henry James) rather than intercultural
differences. If creativity has
aspects that are only available to those of a given society, to a certain shared
understanding (e.g. Homer’s Iliad),
the transcultural standpoint for comparison seems doubtful, even with respect
to its possibility. The view
presented here does not treat the creative individual as either essentially
isolated or submerged in the culture.
Instead it argues for the conditions that are present in the
manifestation of creativity, whether on the part of an individual (e.g. Leonardo
da Vinci) or collectivity (e.g. Classical Athens).
Review of Literature
Massumi and Steiner (2002) have examined elements of the case presented
here, but without drawing them together and grounding them in a structural
unconscious. Massumi develops the
implications for creativity of the “charged”object.
In other words, a psychological approach that treats objects as if they
were static or relatively fixed things would miss the genesis of creativity
altogether. For Massumi, the
understanding must occur that objects are always in a state of change, whether
that change be internal or with respect to an observer.
As such, while the haystacks of Monet are the same, captured at different
moments of the day they do not show themselves in the same manner at all.
Masters (2002), too, emphasizes the inadequacy of a static or “thingly”
metaphysics for the creative mind but, like Massumi and Steiner, be doesn’t
escape the duality of stability-flux in his explanation.
He doesn’t answer, for instance, the question of why
an emphasis on time and change would make all of the difference.
Steiner speaks of “encountering the idea”or achieving the meditative
state by which the imagination is not obstructed by sensory engagement with the
world. In other words, the world,
at this moment in history, presents its onlookers continually with projects to
complete, ends to be achieved, the overwhelming need for closure.
However, in the meditative posture of “encountering the idea,” thoughts
are attended to in such a way that one leads to another—rather like the strictly
mental or internal version of free association—and it becomes possible to
appreciate and welcome them without the insistence that they serve some
practical end , an insistence that stifles creativity.
the “charged” object and “encountering the idea” have in common is openness, a
willingness to invite the anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with having a
future. The future is that which
always threatens closure in the emergence of the new, of something that might
not conform to existing patterns (closed) of understanding.
The “charged” object is recognized to exist in a constant state of
change, as becoming, and thus resists fixed notions.
The object itself, understood in this fashion, encourages creativity in
the very skepticism concerning common or ossified thinking. However, the
literature that addresses creativity in terms of the nature of the object
(static or changing) and the subject’s relation to her own ideas typically
neglects the decisive role of the unconscious. The object of the external world and
idea or thought are considered in terms of being present to consciousness. However, the openness of the future,
the availability of one to the new as such, is not primarily a conscious
happening, certainly not in terms of that which shows itself, the
innovative. It depends upon a
structural unconscious that is fundamentally welcoming, the existence of
assumptions by which openness to the future is possible.
“Encountering the idea” is the actual experience of cognitive flux. It is an experience which can help us
make sense of all of the literature that relates creativity to mental illness
(e.g. Julian Lieb, Jablow Hershman, Kay Redfield Jameson, Barry Panter, Richard
M. Berlin). “Rationality,” against
which insanity is opposed, is that which guarantees order in the form of natural
laws, fundamental elements, and the closure of certainty.
However, the eminently rational person is not thereby creative. In fact, studies suggest an inverse
relationship of sorts.
“Encountering the idea” can resemble mental illness in that it is
indifferent to order, to shared understanding, to certainty, to the
expected. It is open-ended thought
that dares to go wherever mental contents lead, that does not tremble before the
Pigrum (2001) adopts even more of the elements unified in this proposal in his
“approach to teaching transitional practices as founded on the value of
incompleteness, of postponing definitive closure, of unpredictability” (pp.
31-32). Transitional practices are the polar opposite of what has come to be
called “teaching to the test.”
Transitional practices emphasize the engagement of teacher and learners
in activities that change according to the direction given to them by the
students. That is, there isn’t a
single, fixed objective or set of objectives in the traditional sense. The goal is to foster opportunities for
innovation in communication, problem solving and the framing of questions. A somewhat similar approach is
evidenced in what Jarvis calls “process knowledge” (2000, 45).
existing research supports the thesis of this proposal without ever articulating
it in its unity, as a single dynamic.
MacIntyre (2007) warns against a rigid style of learning—one overly
dependent upon memorization, arriving at the correct answer or following
mechanical means of reaching conclusions.
He claims that the “internal goods” of these educational practices are
foreclosed to learners (44). The
learner never becomes self-possessed in his or her knowledge or means to
generating insight. For
internalization to obtain, one must exercise the creativity that is a byproduct
of intellectual self-reliance, of the self-possession by which there is
confidence in one's abilities to think things through and to enjoy a rich
internal life (what John Stuart Mill listed among the higher pleasures).
literature moves closest to the position taken in this proposal in the work done
by Sylvester (2005) on non-finito.
He describes, with respect to Cezanne, the deferral of a definition in
order to change the character of one’s intention, to leave it open for constant
revision. Landau and Parshall
pursue something like the same point, locating the non-finito
sketch in the Renaissance. Here
one can see that the dualisms of subject-object and individual-collectivity
obstruct a fuller appreciation of how these terms work together in the
generation of innovative minds. It
isn’t a question of the culture of the Renaissance as against the aspiration of
individuals. It is instead how the
structural unconscious (at the level of the shared sign and ontologically of the
disposition toward the future) and individuals interact, foreclosing and
fostering certain imaginative possibilities at the expense of others.
Landau and Parshall (2003) describe a central feature generally of the
Renaissance workshop, the circulation of drawings and the emphasis upon “the
copying of these prototypes [to capture] the lineaments of a style or figural
invention” (182). Central to the
evolution of the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci was the appropriation and
transformation of the ideas of others.
And this underscores a crucial feature of this proposal: the
impossibility of assembling an adequate dynamic in accounting for creativity
given the assumption of an entire series of concepts that flow from the
acceptance of subject-object and individual-group dualities.
Leonardo has possibilities made available for him in the shared
“prototypes” of his art, and it was these that enabled him to transcend the
given, the conscious cultural given.
However, in order to do this he had to occupy a position outside the
conventional order of repetition, or shared perspectives and
understandings. He had to look to
the structural unconscious or the unavailability of the future and draw upon it
in the name of the new, of innovation.
Leonardo was important not only as a towering figure among innovators but
also in his explicitness on the subject of processing ideas (repeating received
ideas) in such a way as to engage in a repetition that is not a mere repeating
of the same. In this regard, his
eye is consistently turned toward one’s disposition to the future, the means by
which closure can be forestalled.
According to Pigrum, his advice “was related to the compositional
painting practices of his time [but has also had] a pervasive influence on
creativity in the arts and other fields”(56). However, aspects of this influence
have been distorted from the very beginning given the application to them of the
wrong kind of thinking, dubious assumptions.
Leonardo advises his
fellows to stare down the blank piece of paper and then record things in such a
fashion that they remain open to further development, revision and
analogy is of course to writing, poetry in particular. And the writer’s anxiety before the
blank page is a familiar saw, doubtless due to the close correspondence of such
a page to the future. The page
overwhelms the poet with what has not been composed, with the possibilities that
are available for composition. In
other words, Leonardo is saying that the true artist has adopted the disposition
toward the openness of the future of non-anxiety—indeed as indispensable to
Previous research has found a certain conceptuality of binary opposition
(subject-object, individual-collectivity) inescapable.
However, previously unnoticed formative relationships open up once this
way of thinking about creativity is challenged. What if subject and object, the
individual and the group, the conscious and the unconscious are taken as
fundamentally interactive and mutually implicated in each other?
A fissue is revealed in the existing literature with respect to the
relationship between the necessary conditions for creativity and cultural
acquisition and between consciousness and a structural unconsciousness. In fact, this proposal becomes a
performative confirmation of its substantive claims.
It draws upon the existing literature, it repeats a certain shared
understanding, but it repeats it within the non-repeatable realm of openness to
the future, of the structural unconscious.
for Use of Qualitative Research Design and Methods
The formative questions which spawned this study did not permit the
employment of a quantitative approach.
There are no Cartesian coordinates for creative potentialities, for
openness, for recursivity, for the future, for the new as such.
Instead, creativity is always grounded in and inseparable from its
context, so that an innovation in art or science, thought or technology, depends
entirely upon the historical moment.
That is, there was something about 9th-century China and the
emergence of gunpowder. However,
what must be kept in mind is that this emergence wasn’t simply the appearance of
a new “thing.” Gunpowder at this
time was inseparable from the understanding that was brought to bear upon it,
the conditions which made it good for one use rather than another.
The central ideas necessary to a much fuller account of creativity than
presently exists in the literature are historical, semantic, ontological,
epistemological—and these can only be treated qualitatively.
We must look to what creative individuals and peoples have done,
practiced, and believed with respect to newness to isolate the operative factors
and set them into proper relationship to each other.
methodology adopted for this study is narratalogical.
The research will identify indispensable elements in the understanding of
creativity in its emergence and establish them within a new dynamism given an
internal critique of foundational dualisms. In other words, through the close
reading of the literature on creativity and a careful comparison of historical
exemplars (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci), it will be possible to reenact the creative
movement thus described and present a new model that more comprehensively
accounts for innovation in its most general sense.
of the Study
This study will be thoroughly intertextual.
It will concern itself with the scholarly literature on the subject of
the emergence of creativity.
Research will be conducted and findings grounded upon the
established canon of scholarly work on the subject of creativity.
This work will be described so as to permit an internal critique by which
the informing assumptions give way to new ones, ones which can then be judged in
their theoretical power against those already extant.
of the Researcher
researcher for this study will acquire and demonstrate a mastery of the
scholarly literature with respect to the emergence of creativity.
In addition, the researcher will perform a reenactment of the creative
movement by introducing a dynamic model for the creative process in its
necessary conditions by conducting an internal critique that preserves the
established findings in the field while recontextualizing them, putting them
into previously unformulated relationships.
Procedures: The responsibility to properly preserve
the work of past and fellow researchers, to reproduce their work with fidelity,
is incumbent upon any new study.
Even if previous work is to be challenged, it is obligatory to maintain
the rigor of academic standards, to avoid the erection of straw men, and to
steer clear of misleading ones colleagues and readers.
Otherwise, the collective endeavor to reach a better understanding of the
subject matter at issue is thwarted, the result very much the contrary of
ethical academic investigation and publication.
In that this is not a study that pits the domain of the
individual against that of the collectivity but instead makes the case for the
mutual implication of one in the other, the “participants”selected extend to all
of those who have been influential within the scholarly community in the field
of creativity in its emergence. The exemplars of creativity (e.g. Leonardo da
Vinci, Renaissance Italy, Cezanne, Henry James, William James, Sigmund Freud,
etc.) were selected on the basis of a more or less indisputable claim to
recognition in any imaginable treatment of the subject.
The intertextual or narratological approach taken in this study
will proceed by way of accounting for the body of work that has been done in the
field while setting it against the empirical details evoked in a number of
significant exemplars—both individuals and cultures.
The inadequacy of extant models will be demonstrated by way of this
comparison, a comparison that will also serve to introduce and ground in its
explanatory superiority of new model for the emergence of creativity. The data will be historical in
The data will be analyzed in terms of the reigning paradigms in the field
as against the new one proposed in this study. That is, both will be put to the test
of accounting comprehensively for the instances of creativity presented with
respect to the chosen exemplars.
The criterion of coherence will be logical rigor, though it will come to
light in the process that a new style of thinking (and of logic) is necessary
for adequately explaining the historically communicated empirical data.
The best possible means of verifying the reliability and
accuracy of the present study is internal. That is, the critical movement by which
a new model of creativity belongs to the existing literature itself.
It belongs to it and as such can be replicated, but in its replication it
is not simply repeated. Instead it
opens up the space for a new configuration by which the phenomena in question
are better explained, and the theoretical extension of a given claim is
conducive to demonstration.
The data will be interpreted according to two different systems
of rational appropriation: the traditional logic of the law of noncontradiction
and a dialectical logic that has existed largely on the margins (e.g. in the
work of certain poststructuralists).
The traditional system will prove itself inadequate to the task
of accounting for the coherence of the empirical evidence.
The dialectical “system” will drive home its superiority by reproducing
the canon of scholarly literature by reinscribing it otherwise—that is, by
executing a performative “proof” in the very procedure of this study, by
permitting the observation of a repetition that is not a repetition of the same
but that preserves previous findings within a new and more far-reaching
The model presented in this study should be of interest to
students of creativity, cognitive science, psychology, sociology, education and
art theory. I will offer my paper
for publication to the leading journals in the field.
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