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Poetic Creation

Poetic Creation: Inspiration or Craft

Carl Fehrman
Translated by Karin Petherick
Copyright Date: 1980
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Poetic Creation
    Book Description:

    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 Surealist 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 English-speaking literary scholars and will be of special interest to those concerned with comparative aesthetics and the creative process._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6233-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Documentation and Experimentation
    (pp. 3-34)

    Scholars have proceeded along a variety of paths in their attempts to gain knowledge of the creative process.

    They have used the actual words of writers and artists in letters and autobiographical works.

    They have then compared these pronouncements with available sketches, working papers, and successive manuscripts.

    Professional psychologists have taken another approach. They, in interviews and experiments, have sought to trace the creative process and to investigate its conditions. Particularly in the United States creativity research has become something of a fashionable science.

    Starting from different premises, linguists, aided by computers, have conducted experiments with the word mass a...

  4. Improvisation — Rite and Myth
    (pp. 35-54)

    Are there any other means of gaining knowledge about a work of literature at its moment of inception, apart from the ways indicated in the first chapter?

    At a certain stage of its genesis a literary work, whether prose or poetry, consists of a stream of inner words. Admittedly, these words are already to some extent structured rhythmically, acoustically, and figuratively, but they still have to overcome the barrier of being written down. Is it possible to know anything about the word stream before it becomes set in its written form? The attempt, described in the previous chapter, of an...

  5. Coleridge and His Dream Poem
    (pp. 55-72)

    Shelley expresses a belief common to the whole romantic generation of poets when he writes inA Defence of Poetry: “I appeal to the greatest poets of the present day, whether it is not an error to assert that the finest passages of poetry are produced by labour and study.”¹

    Coleridge’sKubla Khanis a good example of a poem that took shape without any feeling of conscious effort by the poet. For according to Coleridge’s well-known prefatory remarks, the poem was “as it were given to him,” and in the history of aesthetics it has come to represent an...

  6. E. A. Poe and the Aesthetics of Work
    (pp. 73-90)

    Poe’s poemThe Ravenwas first published in 1845 in an American periodical. No author name appeared under it, simply the pseudonym Quarles. It was soon reprinted in other periodicals, now under the author’s own name. In March 1846 in Graham’s Magazine, Poe published his famous essay on how he wrote his poem, under the titleThe Philosophy of Composition

    Looking at Poe’s essay in its historical context, it becomes clear that, consciously or unconsciously, his statement is diametrically opposed to Coleridge’s preface toKubla Khan, written a couple of decades earlier. That Coleridge really was in Poe’s thoughts while...

  7. Paul Valéry and Le Cimetière marin
    (pp. 91-104)

    The French literary historian Gustave Cohen gave a celebrated lecture at the Sorbonne in the early 1930s, arranged as anexplication de texteor close reading of Paul Valéry’sLe Cimetière marin. Valéry himself was present in the audience. When Cohen’sEssai d’explication du Cimetière marinwas published in 1933, Valéry wrote a commentary entitledAu sujet du Cimetière marin, later republished in the third collection of hisVariétés. In the early 1950s L. J. Austin gained access to Valéry’s manuscripts and examined what they reveal about the poem’s genesis in a couple of articles published in French periodicals. In...

  8. The Writing of Ibsen’s Brand
    (pp. 105-118)

    In 1888 the Norwegian writer Henrik Jaeger published a book about Henrik Ibsen, in some ways an authorized biography. Jaeger had been in touch with Ibsen, who had provided him with the autobiographical notes contained in the book. It is therefore likely that Ibsen himself is responsible for an interesting factual note about the playBrand: “Ibsen originally started the work as a narrative poem.”¹ This is the earliest official statement that a “narrativeBrand” had existed.

    The next time Ibsen’s narrativeBrandis mentioned is in reminiscences by Lorentz Dietrichson—republished inTimes Past (Svundne Tider). Dietrichson recalls the...

  9. Gösta Berlings saga and Its Transformations
    (pp. 119-136)

    Gösta Berlings saga, like Ibsen’sBrand, was transformed a number of times. It was originally planned as a series of romances, then for a while projected as a play, and finally completed as a novel.

    In the whole of Swedish literature there is scarcely any other work whose genesis has been more carefully investigated. It was well into the twentieth century before manuscripts covering its various stages became available. The Swedish literary scholar Helge Gullberg presented and analyzed this material in three careful studies.¹ Selma Lagerlöf herself provided information about how she wrote the book, partly in letters from the...

  10. Periodicity and the Stages of Literary Creativity
    (pp. 137-158)

    The two preceding chapters on Ibsen’sBrandand Lagerlöf’sGösta Berlings sagawere chiefly intended to illustrate works that underwent a genre transformation. In addition, they threw light on one typical aspect of the creative life of these two writers: they showed them suddenly experiencing an inner release of creative power and its attendant happiness after periods of literary sterility. Such an experience is far from unique. Many creative individuals are subject to periodicity, a rhythmic alternation between phases of nonproductivity and productivity. Gottfrid Keller wrote in his diary of his contemporary Hebbel, a playwright and poet: “Sometimes he got...

  11. Inspiration Disputed
    (pp. 159-196)

    A theory of creative stages, like the one advanced by Graham Wallas, systematizes a complicated process and thus helps demystify it. But it still leaves us with an irrational factor in the creative process, namely the decisive stage, which Wallas terms illumination. We already noted that the word belongs to the vocabulary of the psychology of religion.Illuminatio interna, the inner light, expresses the sudden experience of inner enlightenment that mystics so often speak of. Graham Wallas’s systematization is based not on the experiences of religious mystics but rather on those of discoverers and inventors, in whose lives he often...

  12. Concluding Unscientific Postscript
    (pp. 197-204)

    A literary, artistic or musical work can be looked at from two opposite vantage points. We can consider it the result of a particular creative activity, which is the point of view we have largely applied so far. But we can of course also regard it as a stimulus to an experience or a series of experiences on the part of reader, listener, or viewer. In short, we can see it either in relation to producer or to consumer.

    The man who introduced these two terms into the field of literary theory was not, as might be supposed, a modern...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 205-220)
  14. Index
    (pp. 221-229)