An historical overview of creativity with implications for education

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Portland State University Portland State University PDXScholar PDXScholar Dissertations and Theses Dissertations and Theses 1986 An historical overview of creativity with implications An historical overview of creativity with implications for education for education Antoinette S. Ellis Portland State University Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Education Commons, and the Intellectual History Commons Let us know how access to this document benefits you. Recommended Citation Recommended Citation Ellis, Antoinette S., "An historical overview of creativity with implications for education" (1986). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3592. This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access. It has been accepted for inclusion in Dissertations and Theses by an authorized administrator of PDXScholar. Please contact us if we can make this document more accessible: [email protected] AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF Antoinette S. Ellis for the Master of Arts in Education presented May 14, 1986 Title: An Historical Overview of Creativity with Implications for Education Dr. v~r-Guy This thesis traced the development of the concept of creativity from the earliest works in the intellectual history of Western civili- zation to the late twentieth century. This historical perspective on the concept of creativity served as a backdrop to current views of the concept and as a reference source for recurrent views of the concept and as a reference source for recurrent and essential themes in the progressing debates concerning this issue. The study proceeded from the evidence of Homeric and early philosophical work concerning the lively and real presence in the thinking of the times of experiences of "breakthrough" creative thought and production. The source of inspiration as external to the 2 creative person and the conflict between the rational and the irra- tional in creative works were documented in the early Greek period of the literature as of central importance to the question of creativity. The unfolding of increasingly incisive visions of the source of creativity and of issues related to the production of creative works were then traced through three more recent historic periods: the Italian Renaissance, the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, and finally the modern period 1900-1985. Two dimensions of changes in thought were of particular importance. The first involved the focal point of the source of inspiration. With Renaissance Neoplatonism, the source of inspiration was retrieved from externality and located within the creative person as pure potentiality to be actualized in living. This concept of the internality of creativity was increasing- ly refined through eighteenth century Cartesian rationalism in France and Neoplatonism in England. The modern orientation to inspiration has proceeded in the direction of deeper penetration into the personal experience of and the creative process involved in creativity. The question of ration- ality vs irrationality, which loomed so large in ancient Greece, re- treated to a secondary position in the thinking of the Renaissance Neoplatonists and of eighteenth century critical writings. With the pronouncements of Kant at the end of the eighteenth century, ration- ality vs irrationality descended out of view as a free-standing question or concern for modern times. 3 The modern issues that have swelled across the stage concerning creativity have been those of tile creative personality, the question of genius, the testing and measurement of creativity and the creative pro- cess itself. With the intensive focus of modern sights on issues of personality, a considerable catalogue of multiple personality traits unique to creative persons has emerged leaving education much to absorb and ponder. Testing and measurement of creativity has, perhaps, suc- ceeded in guiding some attention to capacities of creativity among stu- dents and adults, but it has, to date, failed to provide reliable and valid instruments for measuring creativity or creative potential. Intellectual or academic giftedness has fared much better in the test- ing atmosphere of modern times than has creativity which currently may really be measurable only by a combination of intelligence, creativity, and personality tests. Of particular importance are recent suggestions concerning the creative process, most significantly the central process stages of incubation and illumination. It may be in these areas that the precise and distinct qualities of creativity may be isolated. The conclusions deriving from this overview of creativity involve three central ideas. (1) There has been and continues to be a confu- sion between intellectual capacities and creative capacities, with the latter most often being subsumed under the former. There is a need for an ultimate and clear discrimination between the two. (2) Once focal- ized, creativity needs, if possible, to be measured and assessed. Until a reliable creativity metric has been achieved, however, where necessary, a combination of intelligence, creativity, and personality / 4 tests should be used to identify creative students in schools, albeit tentatively. (3) As all people have creative capacities to one degree or another, it seems that a major objective of education needs to be the encouragement of the growth and development of creativity through- out the entire academic careers of all students. AN HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF CREATIVITY I~ ITH IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION by Antoinette S. Ellis A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MASTER OF ARTS in EDUCATION Portland State University 1986 TO THE OFFICE OF GRADUATE STUDIES AND RESEARCH: The members of the Committee approve the thesis of Antoinette S. Ellis presented May 14, 1986. Dr. Michael Carl, Chairperson APPROVED: Bernard Ross, Acting Dean of Graduate Studies and Research ACKNo,.JLEDGEMENTS All gratitude to my mother and my friend, Paulette A. Ellis, without whose encouraging support this work would not have been pos- sible. Thanks also to Dr. Michael Carl and Dr. Alma Bingham for f acil i tat i ng passage through the "narrov1s" encountered in this task. Finally, to Dr. George Guy, 2800 years of gratitude for his help in refining the concepts underlying this thesis and in delivering them to the written page. TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE ACKNCl.J LEDGEMENTS • • • . . . . . . . . iii LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . . . . . v CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 1 II. CREATIVITY--THE DEVELOPMENT AND EMERGENCE OF THE MODERN PERSPECTIVE • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 4 The Ancients •••••••• The Italian Renaissance . . . . . . . . 4 10 The Eighteenth Century Enlightenment • • • • • 13 The Birth of the Modern Era: 1900-1950 III. CREATIVITY AND EDUCATION •••• The Creative Personality • . . . . . . . The Assessment of Creativity •• The Creative Process •• . . . . Additional Essentials in the Process of Creativity ••••••••••• Inspiration Through Modern Eyes Genius in the Age of Testing •••• IV. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS Summary • • • • • . . . Conclusions and Implications •••••• . . . . . . . . NOTES • • • • BIBLIOGRAPHY • . . . . . . . . . . 24 37 38 44 53 62 67 72 76 76 87 92 109 FIGURE LIST OF FIGURES PAGE 1 Stages in Wallas/Patrick's creative process model and Guyilford's problem solving model . . • • • . • 56 2 Stages in Wallas/Patrick's creative process model, Guilford's problem-solving model and Torrance's theory of the process of creating • • • • • • • . 60 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Since 1950, psychologists and educators alike have focused unprecedented attention on the issue of creativity in both the professional and the educational spheres of society. While the original interest in creativity in modern times resulted from concerns immediately within the domains of psychology and education, the launching of Sputnik in 1957 galvanized the American nation to the need for greater creativity in the country as a whole, particularly in the sciences and technology. As a result, schools increased emphasis on scientific and mathematics achievement and placed new emphasis on the nurturing and development of innovative and creative talents of students. In the wake of the cybernetics and computer revolutions in the last two decades, the educational emphasis has shifted toward technology, in which innovative applications of learning are part of the instructional expectation. Although in the 1980s education has been vigorously redirected toward "excellence" and achievement as assessed by grades and standardized tests, the importance of innovative thinking and creative problem-solving have remained tacit concerns of teachers and the schools. Moreover, business and industry are demanding creative 2 and intellectual breakthroughs to further and continue the unprece- dented developments in science and technology in the twentieth cen- tury. It seems clear that to serve national and global interests, increased achievement within currently known fields and established parameters is not alone what is going to be required for human pro- gress and world peace. The need for technical and intellectual break- throughs across the full spectrum of human endeavors has never been greater. If we must call more upon and therefore foster and encourage the creative power of individuals, it would appear that we need a more complete understanding of creativity and the factors involved in its manifestation. A cursory examination of recent writings concerning creativity revealed a confusion about the scope and meaning of the term suggesting that further examination of the concept was required. Based on previous academic studies in pf1ilosophy and the arts, the author hypothesized that creativity was enough of a unique human characteristic that some insight may well be gained from an in-depth examination of its treatment in the literature of the past. Accord- ingly, a study and review was undertaken of writers and thinkers of antiquity, including Homer and Plato from Hellenic Greece, in order to discern their views regarding this distinctively human trait. Follow- ing this review, the author attempted to trace the development of the idea of creativity through two of the most creative eras in Western civilization, the Italian Renaissance and the eighteenth century European Enlightenment. Finally, the development of the concept through the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century to the 3 present was reviewed with special focus on the emerging conceptualiza- tion of creativity since 1950. While the sources for the review of literature from antiquity to 1950 were generally the acknowledged scholars in the fields of philosophy, aesthetic criticism, and psychology, an ERIC search was conducted to identify significant contributions to the literature since 1950. In an effort to achieve maximum completeness, this search traced references by 19 "descrip- tors" and a "free text search" across three academic levels. Twenty- six Boolean "operators" were used to initiate multiple "overlapping term" searches. The search identified 81 journal articles and 87 ERIC documents related to this subject. From an overview of these materials, key works were identified and reviewed. In this present work, the author was able to abstract represen- tative concepts of creativity and implicit features of the creative process as conceptualized throughout the Hestern history of civiliza- tion. These visions of man's creativity are presented in Chapters II and III. This study concludes with an over-all summary, followed by conclusions and a discussion of their implications in Chapter IV. CHAPTER II CREATIVITY--THE DEVELOPMENT AND EMERGENCE OF THE MODERN PERSPECTIVE The Ancients For Western civilization, the essentially human capacity of creativity came under its first systematic and problematical explora- tion in tl1e works of Plato (427-347 BC). The most famous and enduring image of great creative talent issuing to us through the centuries from the classic Platonic Dialogues is that of the artist who is, at once, "inspired" and "out of his mind," graced with supernatural powers and toucl1ed with madness. In the early dialogue, "Ion," Plato gives his immortal romantic image of the artist or poet in the words: " ••. the poet is a light and winged and holy thing,"l followed im- mediately by a gentle expression of his equally famous hesitation of reason: ••• and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he-ii'as---ri'"ot"a:tta1ned to this state he is ~owerless and is unable to utter his oracles (emphasis added). For this double-image of creative greatness, Plato did not as- sume credit of authorship for either himself or his teacher and main protagonist, Socrates. Even at the end of his momumental philosophi- 5 cal work in which, along with other issues, this duple character of creativity is carefully and severely examined, Plato assures his reader that this double-view of the poet (or creative genius) is: 11 ••• according to the tradition that has ever prevailed among us, and i s a cc e pt e d o f a 11 men •••• 11 3 In fact, however, the only part of the image that appears from a modern perspective to have a significant ancient heritage is that of the grace of vision through divine inspiration itself, not the impli- cation of senselessness or madness. Plato's most immediate source from recognized antiquity was Homer (c. 800 BC) whose revered Iliad opens with the poet's appeal to divinity for direct inspiration--in fact, for something like immediate divine dictation of the epic: Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son, Achilleus and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians •••• 4 Although this prologue vrns, in Homer's time, already a formal style of opening a grand epic, it was by no means empty form. Throughout the heroic tale, Homer charges divinities with his needs for inspiration, information and insight. A dramatic example is encountered at the midpoint in the epic account when the tensions of military prepara- tions have reached the breaking point and the Trojans whirled about and stood their ground against the Achaians, and the Argives against them pulled together their battle lines. So the fighting grew close and they faced each other, and foremost Agamemnon drove on, trying to fight far ahead of the others.5 Here Homer breaks the narrative with an appeal to higher powers for vision: