Discourses of creativity

Authored by: Camilla Nelson

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Creativity

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  September  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415839730
eBook ISBN: 9781315694566
Adobe ISBN: 9781317439967


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Historians of the creative idea have traditionally taken what might be called a substantialist approach to their object of study, so that creativity has been quite commonly understood as an ideal or essential reality that exists outside and beyond the cultural and historical field. The result of this approach is that the manifold possibilities of history have been progressively reduced to a narrative about approaches to, or departures from, this fixed constant, so that the task of the historian becomes one not of theorisation, but of identifying and describing pure and unadulterated forms of the idea, or unmasking corrupt and alienated versions (Nelson, 2010). Hence, for example, even an exemplary scholar such as Raymond Williams (2001: 37), in his influential histories of the creative idea, is concerned to designate the successive historical figures who have come ‘very near to’ apprehending creativity for what it really is, or else depart from this extrahistorical constant in ways that Williams (1985: 84) judges to be ‘confusing and at times seriously misleading’.

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