The End of ‘Genius’ – NYTimes.com

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Don’t be fooled by the title. This is about creativity and creative breakthroughs. It also uncovers myths like the “solitary creator” and may add to the libraries that contradict the Horatio Alger myths that are prominent in American thought. This article blows the mind. Think about it: “as the feudal and agrarian gave way to the capitalist and industrial, artists needed to be more than entertaining; they needed to be original, to profit from the sale of their work. In 1710, Britain enacted its first copyright law, establishing authors as the legal owners of their work and giving new cultural currency to the idea of authors as originators.”

Meanwhile, the media and creativity critics promote the myth of the solitary creator. The 21st Century models of education that focus on collaboration and communication are on the right tracks, but the common core is also helpful in educating students for studying evidence, reasoning, problem solving, and writing.

Collaboration and resistance–push and pull–is at the center of many creations: “In fact, none of these men were alone in the garrets of their minds. Freud developed psychoanalysis in a heated exchange with the physician Wilhelm Fliess, whom Freud called the “godfather” of “The Interpretation of Dreams”; King co-led the civil rights movement with Ralph Abernathy (“My dearest friend and cellmate,” King said). Picasso had an overt collaboration with Georges Braque — they made Cubism together — and a rivalry with Henri Matisse so influential that we can fairly call it an adversarial collaboration. Even Einstein, for all his solitude, worked out the theory of relativity in conversation with the engineer Michele Besso, whom he praised as “the best sounding board in Europe.”

 
The article ends with some various questions: “What is the optimal balance between social immersion and creative solitude? Why does interpersonal conflict so often coincide with innovation?”
 
Valuable quote: “the core experience described by the muse-creator interaction — that of one entity helping to inspire another — is almost always true.”
 

This puts arguments about education’s destruction of creativity in its proper place: the dustbin. Because, as this article demonstrates, exploring creators and their relationships with others indicate that education and communication enhances creativity, but the seeking of creativity in schools should prove to be misguided, because the realities of maintaining public identities and the promotion of ownership complicates matters and hides the partners, muses, or influences: “It’s going to take some time to truly accept the significance of pairs in creative life, in part because so many partners, if they do their job well, remain hidden to the outside world. Most Vera Nabokovs never get acknowledged. Partnership is also obscured when the two people have distinct public identities. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t “collaborate” in the traditional sense, but, as a scholar of their work, Diana Pavlac Glyer, has shown, the influence of each on the other was critical to the work of both.

via The End of ‘Genius’ – NYTimes.com.

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