[-empyre-] Creativity as a social ontology

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Sun Aug 1 02:00:38 EST 2010

Hi, everyone,

I would like to thank Simon and all of you who have posted such 
provocative thoughts on creativity throughout the month, and 
apologize for my silence which resulted from pressures to keep up 
with the daily chores of teaching at the School of Criticism and 
Theory (SCT)  at Cornell throughout the summer, which is a six-week 
intensive series of seminars, colloquia, and lectures offered to 
advanced graduate students and "junior" faculty in the humanities and 
whose participation tends to run about 60% US and 40% 
"international" (the participants in my seminar on "digital 
discourse: art, archive, theory" were from the US, China, Germany, 
Spain, Turkey, Netherlands, Canada, England, and France).

Interestingly there was a strange return among some of the faculty at 
SCT (professors in literature, anthropology, political science, and 
media) toward redundant models of authorial intentionality and the 
imperative of "reasoned thinking" as the means most likely to result 
in engaged political thinking and action.   As I was struggling 
against these efforts in the public discussions of the School (it's 
probably not surprising that the participants in my seminar were 
equally resistant to favoring reasoning and dialogue aimed at 
Habermasian consensus at the expensive of more flexible and creative 
modes of expression and thinking that would incorporate performance, 
artistic production, philosophy, fantasy,  and creative writing into 
the mix), I couldn't help but welcome the many interventions that 
appeared at the same time in my -empyre- mailbox.

I've just been rereading the month's posts and can't help but reflect 
on the importance of what Simon  calls "the  image of dynamic 
rhizomic relational meshes, perhaps layered upon one another, as a 
palimpsest, within which and out of which people become, that could 
be considered an image of creativity. I would like to believe this is 
something which will resist, even disprove, the reductive logic 
necessary in any attempt to instrumentalise something."  First and 
foremost, I want to suggest, is the explosive power of such now 
traditional forms of shaped discourse, such as the listserv, the 
seminar, and new media sites such as CTHEORY Multimedia, Turbulence, 
Furtherfield, MUTE and fibreculture,  to build on combinations of 
creating/thinking as ongoing palimpsests whose gaps, folds, and 
intervals yield as much if not more creative energy and result than 
comes from more rigid formulations of argumentative closure and 
reasoned jockeying for position.

This is one of the creative powers, I think, of our collaborative 
efforts on -empyre- whose authorship is necessarily collective and 
whose themes break out of their monthly enclosures (as helpful as 
this month's has been very much thanks to Simon) as they move back 
and forth in trace and dialogue across our online archive 

It is also interesting to note how frequently our discussions in 
-empyre- mirror those happening on related lists and sites, such as 
iDC or Furtherfield, that extend across the network the "rhizomatic 
relational meshes" encouraged by Simon.

Regarding this week's discussion, here speaking as someone who 
finances his curatorial endeavors (and the institutional hosting of 
-empyre-)  by teaching in English and Comparative Literature 
departments, I concur that there is every reason to lament the lack 
of enthusiasn for these very same meshes within the institution of 
literature and creative writing departments.   Just lack week I 
listened to a faculty member at SCT lament that too much attention is 
being given in the academy to the "entertainment" of creative 
writing, performance, and the arts.   It is precisely this kind of 
srtrange infantalization of our work as "entertainment" and the 
misguided competition between literary criticism (in its highest 
forms) and creative thinking that limits, I think, the extension of 
electronic writing and new media presentation and thinking in the 
academy.   Although we can all cite strong pockets of these 
activities, they tend not to have extended very far into the academy, 
which, I think, is seduced perhaps even more today by the fiction of 
the "author function" even, and perhaps most discouragingly, within 
the academic ranks of creative writing.   I will  welcome further 
reflection on these tensions in the fall when we return from an 
August break on -empyre

So thanks ever so much, Simon, on behalf of me and Renate (who also 
was overwhelmed teaching this month) for providing us with a platform 
for thinking creative practice and activism anew.



Timothy Murray
Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
27 East Avenue
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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