Creativity from Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough

By Patricia D. Stokes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Constraints for Creativity
in Literature

What can we learn from Proust? What can we
learn from Calvino? What can we learn from
Kundera? What can we learn from Byatt? What
can we learn from Dillard? What can we learn
from Styron? What can we learn from Woolf?

What constraints, including first choruses, help structure the creativity problem in literature?

Novelists, essayists, journalists, writers of prose or poetry are subject to a shared, general set of task constraints: audience, organization, grammatical conventions. The idiosyncratic ways in which these are met and modified generate what is called the individual's [voice.] Three recognized and recognizable voices—those of Marcel Proust, Milan Kundera, and Italo Calvino—considered, each in his singular way, the same motif, memory. We will see how this subject constraint generated a remarkably varied trio of self-imposed specialized task constraints that are clearly structural. To do this, Proust, Kundera, and Calvino precluded the novel's traditional structure in order to promote a trio of novel scaffolds.

The traditional structure is linear, a coherent story line moves forward in time logically progressing from introduction to climax to denouement. For example, for the first sentence, which announces its theme ([Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,]

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