Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

The UnEssay: Making Room for Creativity in the Composition Classroom

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

The UnEssay: Making Room for Creativity in the Composition Classroom

Article excerpt

Creativity is an extraordinarily vital and luminous human capacity that has been largely ignored in recent discussions about college readiness, curricular alignment, and the teaching of composition. Outside of our discipline, however, there appears to be an emerging consensus about its importance and value. It may be time for writing teachers to think carefully about how this radiant and revolutionary human capacity might be nurtured in our composition classrooms, grades 6-13-and not hidden away, its marvelous powers unmainstreamed and segregated in creative writing classes. Lewis Hyde, in his famous book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, suggests that creative expression is a unique and important way of producing knowledge and knowing the world. He positions creativity outside of and often in opposition to the market economy, suggesting that creativity as a form of human expression and activity offers us something that business models can't. As Hyde notes,

there are categories of human enterprise that are not well organized or supported by market forces. Family life, religious life, public service, pure science, and of course much artistic practice. (370)

An imposing body of scholarship has developed over the last twenty years that confirms Hyde's central premise here-that creative expression is a unique and vitally important human capacity.

In this essay, I invite readers to survey this scholarship with me and to examine ways that this research might help inform our approach to teaching writing-at all levels of instruction and across institutional boundaries. There are a number of questions I would like us to explore together, including perhaps this most essential one: Might there be some value in embracing creativity as an integral part of how we theorize writing? A number of related questions also call for careful attention from our discipline, which I would also like to examine in this essay:

* How do contemporary scholars and researchers define creativity?

* What is the general consensus at the moment about the value of creativity in the marketplace, in the classroom, and in human history?

* Is creativity important?

* Should creativity be taught and nurtured only in art courses and creative writing classes?

* Where, if at all, should we place creativity within the hierarchy of traditional academic skills like critical thinking?

* What does current scholarship tell us about how creativity can be nurtured and supported?

After reviewing this research and scholarship, I would like to spend some time discussing what we might have to gain from integrating creativity into our writing classes, with a case study of one such attempt drawn from my own teaching practice.

At the Heart of What It Means to Be Human

There has been a remarkable surge of interest in creativity from a wide variety of disciplines in recent years. Even a cursory glance through The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity (2010) and The International Handbook of Creativity (2006), both edited by James C. Kaufman and Robert J. Sternberg, suggest the range, depth, and complexity of this work. The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity, for example, includes scholarship that examine theories of creativity, the role of creativity in society, cognition and creativity, the function of personality in creativity, how visual artists create artwork, organizational creativity, everyday creativity, the neurobiological foundation of creative cognition, developmental approaches to creativity, functional creativity, cross-cultural perspectives on creativity, creativity and motivation, individual and group creativity, the relationship between creativity and intelligence, and creativity in the classroom. The International Handbook of Creativity examines creativity in a variety of very different cultural contexts, including those in Latin America, Spain, Italy, Africa, India, and China. As this research demonstrates, creative individuals are not only good at solving problems but also at "finding" and creating new "problems" and questions to explore and consider, thus driving innovation and change (Runco Creativity; Runco Problem). …

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