Poetic Creation: Inspiration or Craft
by Carl Fehrman
translated by Karin Petherick
University of Minnesota Press, 1980
Paper: 978-0-8166-5758-2


Poetic Creation was first published in 1980. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

Myths of creativity have changed throughout Western literary history. The Romantic era cherished the idea of creativity as a spontaneous, unpremeditated act, closely related to improvisation. In the twentieth century the myth of the writer as a worker among workers has competed with the Surrealist myth of the spontaneous author who writes in a sort of trance. Yet there can be no doubt that the creative process as such crosses historical boundaries. Carl Fehrman devotes this book to the process of artistic creativity, focusing on the dichotomy between inspiration and effort and using texts and manuscripts from the period of early Romanticism to present.

Fehrman is primarily concerned with the creativity of poets and draws on authorial accounts of the process, the analysis of manuscripts in successive drafts, psychological and linguistic experiments in creativity, and accounts of creativity in other fields. At the heart of the book are case studies: on Coleridge's writings of "Kubla Khan," Poe's composition of "The Raven," And Valery's account of his prolonged work on "Le Cimetiere Marin." Fehrman also deals with literary works that have undergone genre transformation, Ibsen's Brand and Selma Lagerlof;s Gosta Berlings Saga. In closing chapters he draws upon his case studies and other materials to provide fascinating insights into both productivity and its converse, blocked creativity, and in this context discusses the general problem of periodicity in a creative life.

Fehrman works within a Swedish aesthetic tradition which has attracted philosophers, art historians, and literary scholars since the turn of the century, all of them intent on discovering the origins of the work of art. This translation brings his work to Englishspeaking literary scholars and will be of special interest to those concerned with comparative aesthetics and the creative process.

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