Verbal Art

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  • Topic: Writing, Palgrave Macmillan
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“All literacy practices can be considered creative.” Discuss.
(2000 words)

Prior to any discussion on the topic, it is imperative that the definitions for the key terms are given so as to ensure complete clarity.

Literacy practices refers to “people’s everyday practices of producing and interacting with texts.” (Papen and Tusting, p312) This can include basic and tedious practices such as filling in forms, to more interesting practices such as writing a newspaper article, or composing a song perhaps.

Creativity refers to “making something which is new, which did not exist before the creative act,” or “making something which is original, which is unlike things that have been made before.” (ibid, p.315) While the term is particularly fluid and open to different interpretations, this definition will suffice here for the purpose of this assignment.

Although there are various approaches to the study of creativity – Carter (2004, cited in Maybin, p. 414) coined the term inherency model for creativity relating to the “formal aspects of language as an abstract system of sounds, grammar and meaning” – for the purpose of this paper, Carter’s second identified approach to understanding creativity in language – the sociocultural model – will be utilised. In this model, creativity in language is seen as determined to a greater or lesser degree, by social, cultural and historical factors.

Studying specified texts and drawing out elements of creativity, in for an example a poem, is a specific task with a specific purpose, and is generally something pupils may do in school, but the real creativity, as highlighted by Camitta (Papen and Tusting: Reading A), is the collaborated effort to create a poem, song or rap purely for personal reasons.

In her case study over three years at a Philadelphia high school, Camitta studied varieties of literacy among students who believed that “writing is central to transacting social relationships,, to making meaning out of their lives, and that the act of writing signals that the truth is being told about them.” (Camitta, cited in Papen and Tusting, p332) For them writing was an active form of self-expression, much similar to music, dance, and drawing.

The types of texts they produced were vernacular – unofficial and closely related to culture, and as such, collaboration and performance were central processes to producing the texts. The author, in his/her free time, would read out or perform their text – be it rap, song, poem, letter – to an audience, who would then collaborate and suggest changes. This highlights the author’s creativity in the first instance, but also the creativity of the audience. As is evident, this is quite different to the classroom setting, as these are texts that the collaborators can make suggestions about for changes which will actually lead to amendments, as opposed to commenting on set-in-stone texts. 
Context is an important factor in creating creative literacy practices. Camitta’s study focused on pupils who were constrained to a degree by the need to be in certain places at certain times, and hence had to fit their writing around that, but there are people who are much more constrained, and in that sense, their creativity is much more astounding.

Wilson’s research focused on prisoners’ use of creativity. While the Philadelphia high school students used language as a form of self-expression, and also for play and innate creativity, Wilson states that “the vast majority of innovation in the prison setting is used not for play, humour or dalliance, but in order to “keep your mind” … “and to encourage a sense of mental agility in a world designed to reduce everything and everyone to conformity and orthodoxy.” (Wilson Papen and Tusting, Reading B, p.341)

Wilson goes on to highlight an important factor, that creativity and language are situated and contextualised by the environments, spaces, times and cultures in which they are located. In the case of the prisoners, their...
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