This book represents both a culmination and a beginning: a culmination in that it brings together my lifelong interests in the phenomena of creativity and the particulars of history; a beginning in that it introduces a new approach to the study of human creative endeavors, one that draws on social-scientific as well as humanistic traditions. It is a book I hungered for as a student, but one that I was only able to write after a detour of a quarter of a century. In this preface, I look back on that journey.
As a studious youngster growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s, I loved to read. What captured my interest most were biographies and histories, drawn from many lands, but focused particularly on Western Europe, from which my family came, and the United States, our new home. I had scarcely heard of psychology when I entered college, and so it was natural for me to declare myself a history major. But only when I encountered the psychohistorical and psychobiographical writings of Erik Erikson did I find an intellectual home. And so, I shifted my studies to social relations (roughly, the social or behavioral sciences) and found myself increasingly drawn to the psychology of human development.
A conflict between an interest in the emotional side of human experience and curiosity about its more cognitive dimensions was resolved--at least temporarily--in favor of cognition when I began to read the works of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget at the close of my college career. I read Piaget intensively during a postgraduate year in England. During that time of leisure, I also became far better acquainted with the ideas and art forms of the modern era: the music of Igor Stravinsky, the paintings of the cubists, the writings of T. S. Eliot, and the astonishing outpouring of scientific, artistic, and political creativity that had taken place in the principal European countries in the first decades of the twentieth century. While I decided to pursue graduate studies in developmental psychology, I had already become keenly fascinated with the society that had produced such sparkling works while at the same time plunging into two devastating world wars and a dogged cold war.
My interests in history and biography took a back seat for a while, as I