Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

Science fiction Critical Essay

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What is a creativity continuum? Is it something from a science fiction? No, or not that I know of, but science fiction does feature on a continuum of creativity, along with other types of fiction, literature and texts from all genres. The focus of this essay will be to look at texts, from those traditionally considered to be creative, artful and even inspirational all the way to those considered to be purely functional and, or informative.

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. I think it is important to make a definition between artful and creative. In my opinion, art is something beautiful and, or inspirational and creativity is the creation of something new and original. Creativity and art however, are highly subjective, their recognition and appreciation are influenced by personal, social, cultural and historical factors amongst others. Linguistic art such as literature is certainly highly creative but there are also many texts that can be considered creative but may not be seen as artful or literary. Carter (1999) sets out three models of literariness, which look at creativity from different perspectives; ‘the inherency model’ which sees creativity as originating from the formal properties of language, (Maybin & Swann, 2006) ‘the sociocultural model’ which sees creativity as originating from the context from which the text emerges and ‘the cognitive’ model ‘which assumes universal human mental propensities for creativity in language’ and considers its cognitive effects (Maybin & Swann, 2006 P. 16) I would like to start by looking at texts which are traditionally viewed as literary and artful such as novels, poetry and plays, which are produced specifically as an art form. In these types of texts it is relatively easy to identify creativity; language is carefully chosen and combined to be pleasing or thought provoking and as Carter says, in order to compact many layers of meaning into the words (Carter, 2004). From the perspective of the inherency model these types of text are the epitome of creative; their essence is the manipulation of the formal properties such as the sounds, rhythm, grammar or meaning. Because of their perceived beauty these types of texts have historically been highly esteemed for their creativity. At the other end of the spectrum there are many texts which are produced for informative or instructive purposes such as technical and scientific textbooks or instructions for assembly, use or procedures. From the perspective of the inherency model of creativity these types of texts are not considered to be creative. They do not usually contain instances of rhythm or rhyme and their writers do not try to imply layers of meaning or evoke emotional reactions from their readers. In fact these texts are usually written to be factual and easily understood. However, if we return to the difference between artful and creative, it is fair to say that these texts may be less artistic, beautiful or inspirational. If we look at how the vocabulary is chosen and combined though, then we are likely to see that in terms of the innovation and originality employed in order to achieve their particular purpose these texts are far from devoid of creativity. As introduced at the beginning of this essay, if creativity is seen as living along a continuum or a scale then the question is not is this a creative text or not, it is in what way is this a creative text? For example, I doubt that a parking ticket or a tax form have ever been considered as creative texts, however there are many ‘shades of grey’ in between parking tickets and canonical literature. As Carter and Nash say ‘Copywriting, report-writing, scholarly exposition, journalism, all fall on the wrong side of a stereotypical fence’ (Carter and Nash, 1990 P. 175) these types of text are not traditionally seen as creative. Fictional texts are valued for their creativity over factual ones because of their obvious innovation. However, if creativity is viewed as a scale then a newspaper article would probably fall somewhere in the middle. I would like to look at two examples of texts that would not traditionally be seen as creative but on a scale of creativity may be found somewhere in the middle. The first is a recipe for a victoria sponge cake. Recipes are essentially a list of instructions, not intended as works of art, but they often still employ metaphors and use vocabulary that is designed to arouse our senses. The title of the recipe is ‘All-in-one victoria sandwich’, the words ‘all-in-one’ say ‘easy to make’ and therefore straight away we can see that the writer has chosen these particular words for their associations and not just their literal meaning. In the body of the recipe metaphorical phrases like ‘dust lightly’ and ‘spread generously’ are used which conjure mental images and have an aesthetically pleasing quality. The recipe is finished by instructing the reader to ‘bake until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed with a finger’ (Mary Berry,2009 P. 0) which again uses metaphor to evoke a sensory impression. This style of language, which is used to evoke images or sensations in the reader, is usually associated with novels, poetry and drama. It is considered creative in these forms and therefore even though a reader may not be expecting to find creativity in a recipe, this shows that it is there. ‘Interpretations of literariness are…. , to an extent dependent on being willing to see things that way’ (Carter, 2004 P. 66). My second example is a local English language newsletter produced in the south of France called ‘Blablablah’. The editorial is full of rhyme, rhythm, metaphor and punning such as ‘cynical commercialism’, ‘the budget may have taken a bashing’ and ‘The delight of wrapping presents and the delicious taste of a mince pie’. When looking at the magazine as a whole we can see how it is written and compiled specifically for British expatriates. Things that are very traditionally British are included such as recipes for bread and butter pudding and jam roly poly, an article describing Scottish hogmonay celebrations and the words to the song Auld Lang’s Syne. This is combined with some suggestions for typically French items that could be bought as Christmas presents and sent to relatives and friends in Britain. Although the newsletter is a compilation of texts, some of which are original and some of which have been re-used, the author has drawn ‘together a variety of elements from different sources, reshaping them for a particular purpose, and thereby crafting something new’ (Maybin & Swann, 2006 P. 314). When viewing creativity from the perspective of the sociocultural model, we can see how the author has creatively compiled texts to produce an overall tone of patriotism and solidarity for people who may be missing their native country at Christmas time. This type of creativity can be seen as originating from the social and cultural factors as well as the specific time period of the year. As both of these examples show, creativity can be found in texts that may be considered more ‘everyday’ and is not the preserve of high literature. They have also shown that creativity is not always in the same form. It may be found in the formal properties of language or may be born from the way that a text is used to fit a particular context or achieve a particular goal. In this way, creativity can sometimes be time and context bound. When a text is taken out of its time and context it may cease to be seen as creative, ‘today’s creative chat room usage may be tomorrow’s accepted internet convention’ (Maybin & Swann, 2006 P. 415). I have also approached the issue of subjectivity. Creativity is likely to be conceived differently depending on the social and cultural position of the reader. It is probable that people with more experience of reading literature will be likely to draw more meaning from a text than those who don’t (Carter, 2004). Equally readers from the time, place and, or context from which a piece of text originates may recognise its creativity more than those who are not. Texts which come from situations of difficulty or constraint seem to be particularly creative. Historically, great works from across the different fields have been associated with some form of torment or hardship. Perhaps it is strength of emotion which inspires these great works. In Margaretta Jolly’s study of wartime letters, poetic function is used prolifically to convey the horrors that are being witnessed and experienced (Maybin & Swann, 2006 P. 272). In Jolly’s study and also in Anita Wilson’s study of prison literacy, literary creativity is described as a means of maintaining a sense of individuality in situations where communication is constrained (Maybin & Swann, 2006). It is also in situations of constraint that people must be creative to overcome the boundaries and achieve their goals. We can see this in Anita Wilson’s study, for example when she talks about prisoners writing first down the page and then continuing around the outsides because of the lack of paper. Equally the advantages of a context can serve to inspire creativity. For example the knowledge and input of other people can be a great resource and inspiration. Many of the great writers have been socially connected such as Wordsworth and Coleridge and thus it is likely that some collaboration if only in the form of peer evaluation took place. In almost all texts some level of collaboration will have taken place and ideas will have creatively emerged from the interaction between people involved (Maybin & Swann, 2006). This leads me to the question of, how far can the definition of creativity extend? The question of whether creativity can be found in any text is highly dependent on how creativity is defined ‘does anything go and is everything creative or is it possible to undertake analyses which make such comments more specific’ (Carter, 2004 P. 63). As we have seen with the different models of creativity, as well as there being different forms of creativity there are many different perspectives from which it can be identified. Creativity may be found in the formal properties of language, it may be found in the social functions which the language plays, it may be located in the literary practices involved in production or it may be seen in the way that texts is combined with other modes of communication. Linguists and in particular stylisticians use different types of analysis to identify different types creativity in texts. Analysis however, can show the existence of creativity everywhere but the existence of features may not necessarily constitute creativity (Carter, 2004) Some believe that creativity can only be the product of an intentional act . At the far end of the spectrum there is the viewpoint that ‘all meaning making is creative and so, therefore are all uses of language’ (Maybin & Swann, 2006 P. 414). From this perspective we must ‘examine a text and try to categorise it as being ‘more’ or ‘less’ creative’ (Maybin & Swann, 2006, P. 316) rather than in order to find creativity. If creativity is in all language then analysis starts to seem pointless but if we go back to the idea of the creativity continuum then analysis still has its place. Although creativity is ubiquitous it is still a matter of degree (Carter, 2004). Everyday creativity and linguistic art are at different ends of this continuum. In linguistic art the creator ‘uses the mechanisms of everyday thought, but it extends them, elaborates them and combines them in ways that go beyond the ordinary’ (Lakoff and Turner, 1989 P. 67 cited in Maybin & Swann, 2006 P. 52). In conclusion, in terms of originality and innovative use it is easy to find a level of creativity in the all texts. By definition the creation of a new text requires a level of creativity. However I have shown that there are different forms and degrees of creativity. I have also shown that highly creative, artful language is not only found in the texts where it is expected but also in more everyday productions

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