19th Century Concepts of Creativity

Notes from "Unleashing the Right Side of the Brain - the LARC Creativity Program" by Robert Williams and John Stockmyer

In the modern world, people have increasingly begun to feel that creative ideas come not from "beyond" but rather from "within" - from some hidden part of the mind.

By the beginning of the 19th century, men were referring to this secret part of the brain as man's "inner Africa", like the yet-to-be explored Dark Continent itself, a plaec of danger but also of promise. But how could a person tap this mysterious mental land, the very source of fruitful visions?

Since the rational, reasonable side of human nature did not seem to produce original thoughts, it was hoped that the emotional side of man might be the ket to imaginative inspiration.

It was thought that if you led an unusual "Creative" life - breaking out of the social constraints of the late 19th century, and becoming passionate, unconventional or even rebellious, then you could be creative. People that fit this mold include the poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron.

Artists, dancers, actors and poets have lived in cold-water, walk-up apartments, moved to the Left Bank in Paris, or adopted ununusal life styles (Bohemian, Beatnik, or Hippy for instance) - all as a way of courting flashes of creative insight. And some truly creative individuals have led rather peculiar lives. Still, the fact remains that adopting "strange life styles" does not seem to generate creativity for the vast majority of people.

Charles Cave writes:

Turn of the century Paris, and the culture of the "Left Bank" was another haven for artists and creative types. In the late 1960's, the hippie movement and Summer of Love rebelled against the cultural normals. Oriental mysticism is another path followed in recent times to seek new experiences. Creativity happened in these environments, but how much was it a result of that environment?

On to Wallis's model.