Disrobing the Creative Impulse in Novels by James Joyce and Salman Rushdie




Leach, Holly Suzanne

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We have always searched for the source of creation. The same compulsion that drove adventurers to the rivers' fountainheads continues to manifest itself in literary works. James Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, and Salman Rushdie, in Midnight's Children and The Moor's Last Sigh, both present this search for the source of creation. The search is evident through characters and repeating motifs within the novels. The act of creation is shrouded in euphemism. To create art, or literature, or life, many say, the creator must be stricken by a supernatural bolt of intervention. This thesis hinges on the assertion that creative inspiration may additionally arise from earthly experiences (birth, sex, food, strife, etc.) rather than solely from the traditional "Muses" or Genius." Whether we call it a Muse, Genius, or Divine Grace, we have historically released ourselves from the culpability of creation. Joyce and Rushdie both address humanity's flight from and periodic embracement of creative responsibility through the actions of their primary and secondary characters. Creation defined only as an act of sublime inspiration is not useful to humanity. Releasing ourselves from the responsibility of creation also limits our ability to control when and what we create. Yet, as fiction speaks to fundamental truths of humankind, it exemplifies people who are the sources of their own creativity. Their own actions and experiences fuel the spring. It is an expression which arises from the most basic, essential and carnal experiences of mankind. This theory of creativity's source works on two levels. First, it acts as an anchor for our life's experiences. Using what we know, we are able to extend ourselves into the abstract, or the imaginary. When the abstract is coupled with something we already know from experience, the abstract concept becomes a vivid image in our mind - something unknown and fantastic becomes comprehensible. In other words, it becomes a metaphor. The second level of this theory works in a more practical sense. Because creativity can be linked to experience as an anchor, and can make the unknown understandable as a metaphor, it becomes valuable as a tool for pedagogy. Brain research has shown that metaphorical teaching enables students to learn new concepts quickly and to envision new applications for what they have learned. Scaffolding entails building new areas of skill and knowledge from a foundation of already learned skill and knowledge. In. essence, it is the pedagogical equivalent of a metaphor. This premise can be employed to teach literature such as the novels of Joyce and Rushdie, but more importantly, it can be used to help students to develop a sense of ownership of the creative impulse and process. By demystifying what it means to create art and literature, we give students the ability to act on what they imagine.



creation, literature, Joyce, James, Rushdie, Salman, novels


Leach, H. S. (2001). Disrobing the creative impulse in novels by James Joyce and Salman Rushdie (Unpublished thesis). Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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