Creativity in Literacy Practices:
A TEXTUAL AND CONTEXTUAL APPROACH
by Agatha Xaris Villa
AT PRESENT, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF LINGUISTIC CREATIVITY. THEY DIFFER IN THE WAY THE WAY THAT THEY CONCEPTUALIZE WHAT COUNTS AS CREATIVENESS OR ‘LITERARINESS’ IN LANGUAGE AS WELL AS IN THE METHODS THEY USE TO IDENTIFY AND ANALYZE CREATIVITY IN EVERYDAY LANGUAGE.
This essay begins by discussing and exploring the premises of an analysis of creativity at text level following a textual approach to literacy and creativity; assessing the extent to which it is effective in identify creativity in literacy practices such as diaries, letters and graffiti. However, I would like to continue by presenting the argument that while literacy practices do offer opportunities for creativity at text level, the study and identification of creativity in literacy practices may be more productive when studied with a broader perspective – one that goes beyond the limits of the text and considers the influence of context in the production, reception and processing of texts, literary practices and creativity.
Creativity in literacy practices at text level
LITERACY IS AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF EVERYDAY LIFE AND IS A PART OF EVEN OUR MOST MUNDANE SOCIAL PRACTICES. WHILE THE ROLE WHICH LITERACY PLAYS IN SITUATIONS MAY VARY IN IMPORTANCE, IN THE CONTEXT OF LITERACY EVENTS WHERE LITERACY PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE, INDIVIDUALS DEVELOP CHARACTERISTIC AND PATTERNED WAYS OF USING AND INTERACTING WITH TEXTS. THESE HABITUAL PATTERNS HOLD DIFFERENT MEANING AND VALUES FOR INDIVIDUALS AND ARE WHAT WE REFER TO AS LITERACY PRACTICES.
Creativity in literacy practices at the level of the text may be identified by focusing on special linguistic forms that stand out in texts. This approach is modeled after what Carter (1999) called an inherency perspective which perceives creativity as being ‘inherent’ in the creative uses of language intrinsic in text. The focus is on the writer’s skill in the manipulation of linguistic forms that constitute text on the phonological, grammatical and semantic level.
Roman Jakobson (1960), one of the well-known advocates of this approach, was concerned with the ‘poetic function of language’ which was believed to be in close relation to literariness in text. He argued that the poetic function of language involves the ‘foregrounding’ of language forms which have the ability to draw attention to themselves - making a noticeable impact on the reader.
Foregrounding results from stylistic choices which may come as (1) deviations from the norms of everyday language (e.g. the use of different writing systems, lexis and ‘figurative language’ such as metaphor and simile or (2) prominent patterns of parallelisms in phonology, grammar and semantics (e.g. meter, rhyme, etc.)(Maybin and Pearce, 2006, p.6 - 9).
By highlighting the ‘poetic usages of language’, we can identify creativity in diaries at the text level. The metaphoric descriptions and dramatic portrayal of entities and events in diaries are ways in which individuals attempt to explore their feelings regarding their experience of the ‘real world’ that are often difficult to describe. In addition, repeated structures and rhythms are commonly used in diaries as a form of emphasizing points in the writer’s diary entry. Such examples of ‘poetic language’ may also be identified in letters.
In Margaretta Jolly’s (1997) study of war letters, she states that letters are probably ‘the most common form of creative writing.’ Her examples point out the creative way in which letter-writers are able to use language forms such as imagery, metaphoric and rhetorical devices as well as parallelism (more commonly related to literature) for the purpose increasing the text’s emotional and persuasive impact and highlighting contrast and subtleties of meaning (Maybin, 2006, p.272).
The “art of graffiti” is a long-standing tradition with the ability...
References: CARTER, R. (1999). ‘COMMON LANGUAGE: CORPUS, CREATIVITY AND COGNITION’, LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE, 8(3), P. 196-216
Jakobson, J. (1960). ‘Closing statement: linguistics and poetics’, in T.A. Sebeok (ed.) Style in Language, MIT Press.
Jolly, M. (1997). ‘Everyday Letters and Literary Form: Coresspondence from the Second World War’, unpublished MPhil, University of Sussex.
Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new Media Age. London and New York, Routledge.
Macdonald, N. (2006). Chapter 6. Reading B: ‘The spray-can is mighteier than the sword: graffiti writing and the construction of masculine identity’ in Maybin, J. and Swann, J. (eds) The art of English: everyday creativity. Palgrave Macmillan/The Open University, p. 293 – 302.
Maybin, J. (2006)(Ed.) Chapter 6 ‘Writing the self’, in Maybin, J. and Swann, J. (eds) The art of English: everyday creativity. Palgrave Macmillan/The Open University, p. 261 – 279.
Maybin, J. and Pearce, M. (2006). Chapter 1 ‘Literature and creativity in English’ in Goodman, S. and O’Halloran, K. (eds) The art of English: literary creativity. Palgrave Macmillan/The Open University, p. 6-9.
Papen, U. and Tusting, K. (2006). Chapter 7 ‘Literacies, collaboration and context’ in Maybin, J. and Swann, J. (eds) The art of English: everyday creativity. Palgrave Macmillan/The Open University, p. 312 – 331.
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