Poetics of Creative People
Jan Niklas Howe
The project is centered around the idea of creative subjectivity, which has exercised a perennial fascination from the aesthetics of genius to the current creativity apparatus. My attempt is to discern which rhetorical strategies and poetic techniques are accountable for this constancy. Rather than retracing a linear development of banalizing creation and universalizing creative potentials, this analytical comparison of 18th-century exceptional genius and the norms of creative individuals in the 20th and 21st centuries is aimed at reconstructing an elaborate dialectic — one that enables the updating of an aesthetic superlative repeatedly declared used up.
The approach to genius aesthetics within literary studies and the approach to creativity within cultural studies have each focused on one complementary aspect of creative subjectivity; genius as an aesthetic paradigm is separated from the economic conditions of its emergence. On the other hand, the creative class as an economic paradigm since the 1950s is represented as touching upon aesthetic production merely by analogy. By lifting this divide, I am seeking to establish a largely neglected historical continuity: that the concept of creative subjectivity that structures large parts of our professional and private life stems not only from 18th-century aesthetics, but also from the century’s political and economic order.