Instability of Creativity…

I mentioned in my last post that Rob Pope is very helpful in exploring the complexities of creativity. He reflects on the many definitions and provides a useful de-construction of them. I would recommend his book ‘Creativity: Theory, History, Practice’ (Routledge 2005) as a great overview of the development of the whole idea. He explores how the whole definition of the term Creativity in the past century is unstable.

When Pope gives a definition of creativity that carefully avoids fixing it with any absolute certainty:

“Creativity is . . .

“…an extended meditation upon a single sentence: Creativity is extra/ ordinary, original and fitting, full-filling, in(ter)ventive, co-operative, un/conscious, fe<>male, re . . . creation. While the sentence may at first look odd, keeping it in mind …will help make cumulative sense of the various versions of creativity in play.

Meanwhile, it remains a moot point whether creativity is anything at all. Perhaps it would be better to open with ‘creativities are . . .’, and recognise straight away the potential multiplicity of what is only a notionally singular term.” (Pope 2005 P52)”

He then goes on to break down this provocative definition. By going down this very self conscious, de-constructive approach in itself lead to a position that is in conflict with other views of Creativity that are equally powerful in our society.  If creativity is that complex then a stable ‘traditionalist’ approach to creativity is unsustainable.

Pope also explores that many versions of creativity that are present within cultural, artistic and literary history. He details the various creation myths, religious, artistic and literary points of view. He links them to the political contexts and tensions between progressive and traditional education, on one hand creativity is for everyone as show it being on national governmental agendas, on the other it is an elitist activity only achieved after years of high level study.

Pope deconstructs the standard definitions: these boil down to the idea of creativity being ‘new and valuable’ or ‘novel and appropriate’. He refers to the Handbook of Creativity (1999), edited by Robert Sternberg that is seen as a standard text in this field. He also deconstructs the traditional eastern view that sees creativity as less about innovative products rather about looking inwards, as about ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ rather than ‘doing’ or ‘making’. He quotes Tod Lubart:

The Eastern conception of creativity seems less focused on innovative products. Instead, creativity involves a state of personal fulfillment, a connection to a primor- dial realm, or the expression of an inner essence or ultimate reality. Creativity is related to meditation. (Lubart in Sternberg 1999)

He reflects that such generalisations change and also lead into contradictions- he comments on the contrast of Buddhist meditation to Japanese car manufacture. He also comments that in Eastern traditions ‘creative’ acts are made more explicit in everyday actions and rituals such as ‘feng shui’. However he also wryly notes that this may be as much to do with such concepts being ‘exoticised’ and then exported and re-sold to Western markets.

Pope self-consciously acknowledges the contradictions and complexities of all definitions of Creativity. Pope’s book has been very helpful in understanding some of the instabilities and agendas that exist in any discussion of creativity and therefore any definition of creative learning.  We cannot simply say ‘Creativity= X’; indeed I think it is unhelpful and limiting. On the other hand we need to develop some concepts to help navigate our understanding of Creativity in order to explore how it is could underpin our approaches to Creative Learning in the context of Education in Scotland today.

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