Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking

By Vera John-Steiner | Go to book overview

Foreword

Reading Notebooks of the Mind recalled an incident, a peaceful moment in World War II. During a long voyage on a troopship, a few people who liked poetry somehow met each other and found in the ship's library Edna St. Vincent Millay Conversations at Midnight. We read it aloud, taking turns with the different voices. The long poem presents a fascinating and varied array of people gathered in Millay's mind to reflect upon the great questions of life.

This memory was awakened by Vera John-Steiner's book. For she has assembled a company of "experienced thinkers" (to use her wise and modest phrase) as conversationalists in a quiet and comfortable, yet disciplined reflection on the creative process. Of course, these conversationalists, numbering over fifty, do not ever gather together in the flesh. These are dialogues orchestrated by the author of the book, bringing out certain features of the creative process: the long apprenticeships, the continuous interaction of person and society, the varied languages or modalities of creative thought, and the importance of character in sustaining patient, disciplined hard work.

The author's idea of uniting these reflections differs from anthologies on creativity in which each contributor takes his or her turn and disappears, a rapidly fading memory quickly outshone by the next luminary. In Notebooks of the Mind, speakers appear and reappear, as the author reorganizes their reflections into a serious and many-sided examination of a set of unifying themes. It becomes clear that being creative is a self-reflective process. This is almost self-evident in the case of scientific creativity, because scientific thought must justify itself and

-vii-

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Notebooks of the Mind: Explorations of Thinking
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction to the Revised Edition xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Sources of Thought 11
  • 1 - The Beginnings 13
  • 2 - Apprenticeships 37
  • 3 - The Invisible Tools 59
  • Part Two - The Languages of the Mind 81
  • 4 - Visual Thinking 83
  • 5 - Verbal Thinking 111
  • 6 - The Languages of Emotion 141
  • 7 - Scientific Thinking 173
  • Conclusion: the Creativity of Thinking 205
  • Appendix 1 225
  • Notes 229
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 253
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