The production of ‘creativity’

Allington, Daniel (2011). The production of ‘creativity’. In: Swann, Joan; Pope, Rob and Carter, Ronald eds. Creativity in language & literature: the state of the art. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 277–289.




My position in this chapter is that there is no such thing as creativity. I mean this in two senses. First, creativity is not an object: not something that can be looked at from different angles, conceived in different ways. It is a concept, which is to say that unless one subscribes to Plato's theory of Forms it has no existence apart from its own history as a concept. This history is recent and largely Western. Attempts to contrast 'Western conceptions of creativity' or 'post-Romantic conceptions of creativity' with their opposites are, on this understanding, attempts to contrast tautologies with oxymora, one might as well contrast Christian and non-Christian conceptions of Original Sin. Second, creativity is not an objective property: not something that can be present in or absent from particular people, acts, texts, utterances, etc. It can only be ascribed, which is to say that it is always a function of social interactions that - often retrospectively, and always provisionally - produce particular people, acts, texts, utterances, etc. as creative or non-creative. This is the approach that I call 'critical'.

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