- For Teachers
Could you please help me check the essay for its content. This is the question:
‘There are three approaches to examining creativity – a focus on (a)
the text itself; (b) sociocultural factors; and (c) cognitive aspects of readers and texts.’ Discuss.
There are three approaches to examining creativity - a focus on the text itself, the sociocultural factors and the cognitive aspects of readers and texts. In this essay, I will discuss how creativity in everyday spoken and written language could be defined and analysed using the three approaches. Firstly, I will be looking from an inherency perspective. I will discuss about word and image; how printed literary texts use visual communication as a meaning-making resource. Different aspects of texts, such as typography and images and the way they are combined will be considered with a view to understand how their analysis can illuminate aspects of literary creativity. Secondly, I will discuss about literature and technology. I will discuss the impact of technology on literature. I will be looking at examples given by some of the scholars and then consider how technology may afford new possibilities for literary creativity. Lastly, I will be considering the literary mind. I will focus on what happens in our heads in literary reading. I will explore the notion of reader cognition in relation to literary and non-literary works.
WORD AND IMAGE
First I will look at printed texts to see what and how combinations of word and image communicate to us as readers. For this, I will be using three approaches: semiotics, a ‘literary studies’ approach, and a look at what postmodern theory can illuminate about visual playfulness in literature.
Semiotics is a well-established approach to the study of language and other forms of communication which are socially and culturally meaningful. A semiotic framework is applicable to language, images, photographs, and diagrams – any aspect of the text which can be seen to carry meaning. It also helps to account for meaning created by letterforms, typeface and page layout. As readers or viewers, our recognition of semiotic domains will vary according to our social and cultural background.
The use of different forms of communication in a single text is known as multimodality. It forces us as readers to focus on the message for its own sake and pay fresh attention to departures from routinised conventions of literature of poetry. There are many modern picture books where the images assume a central role in telling the story and creating the central meaning of the narrative. This is achieved in a variety of ways. Images are often wholly integrated with the words, and layout, image and typography are inextricably intertwined. One has to be very careful when assigning the ‘creative’ label to any text purely on the basis of its visual nature. Multimodal texts are ubiquitous in everyday life. But although these are often analyzable in terms of poetic structures such as deviation or parallelism, some, like dead metaphors, are now so routinised that they deliver little by way of illumination of creativity, even if they might be interesting for other reasons. According to Pope (2005) not everything that is created is creative, perhaps – some texts and artifacts are simply ‘made’ or ‘produced’. We tend to use a combination of approaches when faced with a multimodal text, as they provide us with different tools. Semiotics, for example, relies on an understanding of social and cultural connotations to find the meaning of the linguistic or visual sign in the text.
LITERATURE AND TECHNOLOGY
The combination of our increasing engagement with multimodal texts produced with technology, and the collaborative nature of their production, means that there are limitations with seeing ‘creativity’ as text intrinsic, as the Formalists did. First of all, when we need to change, for example a piece of narrative, to a different medium, such as television we have many possible ways of creating this piece into semiotic modes, to make it work as an adaptation for television. We need to think about what to show and how to show it. The characters may have certain physical qualities and we also need to think about the setting. Secondly, when we read a novel, we have a certain pattern to follow, for example, read from left to right and top to bottom. We have a sequence to the story. But if the same story is in the mode of a CD-ROM, then we have different options. A basic CD-ROM is usually presented as a series of sequential screens, which the viewer navigates through by pressing a button to see the next part of the text. Choices have to be made about which mode will be used for which aspect of the story, and how these will be combined. For example the images could be placed at the top of the screen and the text underneath, like some traditional illustrated books. For children’s stories, the text could be programmed in such a way that when clicked, the viewer could hear the word.
One of the affordances of the technology of dissemination is that it is also a technology of production, and as such it enables readers to produce their interaction through different genres, through different forms of engagement. Understanding the semiotic affordances of medium and mode is one way of seeing how technologies shape the learner, and the learning environment, and what it is that is to be learned.
In terms of medium, the CD-ROM exploits the potential for interactivity. This is because a reading path is not totally prescribed, the reader is freer to move around the text in a different order and become a producer of alternative meaning. The CD-ROM brings forth a different kind of reading that requires a different kind of imaginative work. The reader of the novel as CD-Rom has to choose from the elements available on screen, to decide what elements and modes to take and make meaningful, and then to order them into a text.
Reasearch on new communication technologies tends to foreground the affordances of medium at the cost of neglecting the affordances of representational modes. Carey Jewitt (2006, P.329) makes a point that the meaning of a text is realized by people’s engagement with both the medium of dissemination and the representational affordances (whether social or material) of the modes that are used.
THE LITERARY MIND
Schema theory derives from the field of Cognitive Psychology, but since the early 1980s, a number of theorists have applied this theory to the analysis of literary texts. Of major importance is the contribution of Cook (1990, 1994), who suggests a definition of literariness that is based on the notion of schema disruption, namely the challenge of readers’ existing schemata. According to his definition, literariness emerges when text and linguistic deviation lead to schema disruption and to actual schema change, or schema refreshment. Discussing general changes to schemata, Semino (1997) claims that a potential schema refreshment is more likely to take place, since readers tend to ignore those experiences that clash with their expectations rather than alter their schemata.
Tony Bex argues that in the absence of practical applications, literary texts involve the reader in a search for ‘relevance’ and meaning in the language itself and through the creation of a text world with which they can compare their own experience. To him, a literary text has no necessary practical consequences and does not directly refer to the actual world. He argues that because there are no necessary practical consequences from a literary text, the reader only has the imaginary world they generate to attach relevance to. In cognitive poetics, this imaginary world is known as the ‘text world’. (2006, P.366-367)
On the other hand there are certain texts with direct reference, such as autobiographies, which have attained a valued literary status, for example, St Augustine’s Confessions or Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Confessions. Therefore, it is more prudent to say that literary texts have indirect reference prototypically speaking. Bex (2006, P.366-367) also argues that there may be circularity in how he makes his case. For him, literature is recognizable because it has no necessary practical consequences. But one might argue that one has to read something as literature in the first place to recognize that it has no necessary practical consequences.
Mental processes stimulated in the reader by literary texts are distinctively different from those required for the interpretation of non-literary texts. It is true that readers prize certain literary works because they have changed their attitudes and perspectives in some way – perhaps even changed their life. However, whether a poem or any other text for that matter leads to schema refreshment ultimately depends on a reader’s willingness for this to happen. Relevance theory and schema theory can be used separately and in combination to explain the effects of literary texts on the mind of the reader and to examine this aspect of literary creativity.
The conclusion is missing though.