MIMESIS Munich Doctoral Program for Literature and the Arts

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Research Group

International Junior Research Group
in the Humanities and Social Sciences: "Creativity and Genius"

Affiliated Program within the Elite Network of Bavaria

Creativity is an imperative that aggressively structures postindustrial societies. Media, entertainment, design, architecture, consulting, public relations and research are creative industries in the narrower sense; moreover, creativity is a key concept for self-fashioning in social networks, lonely heart ads or job applications. Theoretical conceptions of universal creativity, ranging from “aesthetic regime“ and “aesthetic capitalism” to a “regime of creativity”, all interpret it as an expansion of aesthetic practices and preferences to non-aesthetic areas of life. This interpretation poses three main challenges to the Humanities: to identify these practices, to contextualize them historically, and to establish creativity as an object of theory.

The Junior Research Group Creativity and Genius adresses these challenges. For a starting point the observation ist taken into consideration that 20th century creativity discourse relies on rhetorical strategies and poetic techniques first established in 18th century aesthetics of genius. In both historical conceptualizations, creative potential features the same remarkable contradiction: it describes, on the one hand, a superlative of extraordinary, singular individuality, and, on the other hand, a universally accessible resource. Surprisingly, there is no historical succession of singularisation and banalization, but rather an internal tension within the concepts of both “genius” and “creativity”: both imply the singular and the universal. The research group attempts to establish a first link between literary scholarship on genius and interdisciplinary research on creativity. The key question is: How could the marginal figure of the poet become a paradigm for entire branches of economy? We will search for answers not with regard to the varying terms of content creativity can show, but in the constant poetic structures that shape the discourses on creative potentials, and in the social functions they serve.

Head: Dr. Jan Niklas Howe

Members: Anna Baccanti, Christian Hartwig Steinau, Antonia Stichnoth

Duration: 5 years

Contact: jnhowe@posteo.de