Complexity, creativity, and conventionality are vital notions in literary interpretation, and their exploration may provide substantial help in drawing a map of literary practices. The tension between convention and creativity has long been identified as the central structuring principle of literature qua signifying practice, the root cause behind the fascinating complexity of this polymorphic, heteroglossic, multifocal “worlde of wordes”. To date, however, the notion of literary complexity continues to remain elusive, due to the absence of a single, authoritative definition of its nature and workings, as well as of a systematic description of its multifarious embodiments.
We aim to contribute to fill this critical gap by inviting a theoretical reflection on the concept of literary creativity in both its diachronic development and its synchronic modulation within texts, as well as an extensive charting of literary complexity in its actual manifestations in English Literature across different genres, thereby enabling a more inclusive and in-depth understanding of its phenomenology,
The creation of literary texts involves various forms of complexity, based as it is on crucial choices at the level of language, style, and structure. Literary language is always the result of a “creative struggle” with conventional language on the one hand, and with the language of previous writers on the other. This struggle is fought by ways of manipulation, interpolation, translation, contamination, invention, and even by the “zeroing” of language itself when the writer’s particular choice is silence. Moreover, complexity in the structuring of literary texts also involves such key issues as the organization of their spatial and temporal dimensions, the choice and interplay of poetic and narrative voices, the harmonizing of the aesthetic urge with other functions such as the emotional and the ethical.
The concept of creativity also plays a fundamental role in the dialectics between originality and normativity which, far from being limited to the historical paradigm of Classicism vs. Romanticism, constitutes in fact one of the basic polarities presiding over the development of literature through the centuries. As an index of the statutory complexity of literary texts, the notion of creativity has had a shaping influence on the development of critical practices and ways of reading, specifically with reference to the construction and subversion of normative frameworks, the universalism/historicism binary, and the still ongoing debate about the Canon.
Last but not least, literary creativity is an essential issue at stake when considering the ways in which literature deals with life and the world, through representational strategies that range from the mimetic to the self-referential, from the documentary to the fantastic, in order to either consolidate received meanings or challenge them and provide alternate views of reality, of man, and of art itself.
We are persuaded that a broad variety of methodological approaches to literary production and reception would be highly beneficial to an investigation of this kind and scope.
Possible levels and angles of analysis might include:
- the processes and mechanisms of textual construction: narrative complexity and polyphony; the voice and function of unconventional narrators; metamorphoses of the poetic self; the dialectical tension between creativity and accessibility; the structuring of time and space in literary texts; intertextuality and adaptation; generic hybridism; different regimes of multimodality and multimediality;
- the structuring of literary language: the friction between conventionality and innovation; the many shades and shapes of ambiguity; monoglottism vs. plurilingualism; translation, translatability and translationality; the interplay of verbal and non-verbal codes;
- the dialectics of originality and normativity in literary history: the concept of the literary genius; authorship, authority and their expression in/as textuality; the notions of imagination and artistic inspiration; classicisms vs. romanticisms; intertextuality as creative interpretation, the poetics and politics of ‘misreading’);
- the “uses” of literature across different domains and areas of knowledge (literature’s intersections with ethics, law, ecology, politics, history, philosophy, science, psychology, the visual arts); the poetics and politics of adaptation; transnational crossings and contaminations;
- engaging with complexity in the literature classroom: complexity theory and the theory of learning in an anglophone context; recognizing, assessing and valuing complexity in the teaching of literature; complexity-oriented approaches to stimulating students’ critical skills and creativity.
These topics and lines of inquiry are by no means exhaustive; we welcome proposals and contributions on all aspects and manifestations of literary complexity, conventionality and creativity across the entire diachronic spectrum, and including interdisciplinary approaches.
Prof. Carla Dente (email@example.com)
Prof. Roberta Ferrari (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dott. Sara Soncini (email@example.com)
Prof. Alessandra Marzola (firstname.lastname@example.org)