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Creativity Crisis

Chapter 1


If I am asked to learn something but cannot engage my imagination, I am disempowered. Absorbing the material feels like an imposition and, if I learn anything, I experience the task as burdensome. Instead of an exhila-rating promise of new and wider perspectives that improve my intellectual compass and extend my personal autonomy, I feel that I have to endure and digest something unfamiliar, putting up with the learning experience like one in the stocks. But if I can engage my imagination when encountering the same material, the experience of learning is not only full of wonder and potential but becomes intimately a part of me.

Imagination is so much more than an impulse to paint a picture or dream up a song. It is the mind’s vouchsafe for thinking afresh and is consequently central to all learning, which is a process of encountering new material and making it your own. It is not your own to start with because, by definition, you do not know it yet. But bringing your imagination to bear on the subject matter is the best guarantee that an idea barely encountered can become your own, that you can entertain the possession of a concept that you are still in the process of understanding. As you contemplate a fact or idea in an effort to learn, something of yourself draws you sympathetically into the unfamiliar: it is your ability to imagine something about it, even if it is a bit naive, a bit wayward and even a bit wrong.

Creativity and imagination are sometimes conceived as a faculty necessary for innovation, for making objects or methods or strategies; and we rightly celebrate inventors and entrepreneurs, brilliant scientists like Albert Einstein or visionaries in business like Steve Jobs or the musical genius of a Franz Schubert. This book does not associate creativity with exceptional gifts but with the regular promise of learning, the daily endeavour to fathom new information or impressions or ideas. Creativity in this conspec-tus means creating an intimate rapport with the borders of your awareness, a zone which is otherwise alienating, perceived as a mental barrier from which the learner—perhaps timid in no other dimension—forbears and recedes.

Between the learner and the stuff to be learned is a gap of awkward ignorance, rather threatening, where the new material that you are expected soon to understand is still foreign. To mediate in those potentially humiliating moments of exposure to something more advanced, the imagination is a necessary helpmate that reassuringly makes you somewhat conversant, that makes you feel that you can handle the oddness of it. Your imagination is always your own; and so, if you are able to apply your imagination to any concept, you automatically think in sympathy with whatever it is, something new to you, something challenging, maybe even alien, that goes beyond your immediate experience. An idea in mathematics, a new tune, a theory of gender or the laws of physics all require an imaginative undercurrent to enable that deeper cognitive appropriation that we call learning. It is an activity, a creative picture-making faculty in the mind, that takes care of the untried, the unaccustomed departure, an idea that you have not been able to think of before but which is presented to you as if in broad daylight, defying your understanding and almost accusing your ignorance. By reflex, you might resist the strangeness of the new input. With imagination, however, you can also begin to create matches, to support the learning process by generating myriad images, figments and fantasies, those blithe meanderings of intellectual potential that transform noisy guesswork into ownership and future imaginative use. So the imagination assists two moments of potential: first, it recommends the unfamiliar to the ego and, second, it disposes the mind, once having done some learning, to gain a hunger for more learning.

We are used to thinking of learning as an active building process where we construct knowledge for ourselves. For many decades of Vygotskyan educational theory, the emphasis has been on the social relations that seem to be necessary to learning; and we are therefore inclined to think of the construction of knowledge outside the private sphere, among communica-tions between people. But the model mistakes the context for the cause. Learning is an organic process that involves my imagination—much more than other people—as I entertain ideas that I do not yet fathom: it is my imagination, not other people, that allows me to embrace the foreign ideas in my proximity. When expedient, warm and engaged, learning has a secret catalyst in the imagination: we create fertile projections, extensions, fancies, most of which are provisional and dispensable but vital to the agency of the receptive intelligence. Without this lush bed of disposable creative attachments, the learning process has no direct route to ownership. The personal affordance of learning is missing.

All too often education does not invite imaginative activity. If anything, it is suppressed, not because anyone wants to deny students a creative experience but because imaginative activity is messy, hard to recognize and inefficient. If I work imaginatively and creatively, my progress is littered with errors and false starts; there are risks that I pass over necessary information and dwell on tangential details that tickle my fancy, or I misunderstand essential concepts because in my imagination they are co-opted by my convenience. I might creatively make of them whatever I want. Teachers, on the other hand, seek to be responsible to the syllabus. They are alarmed at the prospect of random wilful energies appropriating elements of curriculum that benefit, instead, from being learned in a consistent linear fashion, with careful reasoning supporting the narrative throughout. Finding connexions between syllabus and a personal view of yourself seems like illusion, a process of making things up for your own conceit, upon which education must in no circumstance depend. There is a strong pedagogical impulse to eliminate haphazard approaches to learning and sadly imagination and creativity are a casualty.

Good universities nevertheless make many claims for creativity. As if updating their heraldic motto from the renaissance, universities establish their identity by issuing statements of purpose, listing graduate attributes or capabilities, many of which include creativity.1 The aspiration that these statements symbolize is noble and also credible. Universities are self- evidently creative, which we can verify by their research output. The scholars who teach are productively creative, publishing new ideas, methods, insights and facts; they write papers and books, compose music, design buildings and chairs, exhibit challenging new art and stage drama. Academics can afford to be confident about their creativity, because the evidence of clever advances from science to business modelling is boastfully apparent.

The question is how, if at all, they teach this vaunted creativity. We could fail to teach it entirely and still feel complacent in our neglect, on the basis that creativity takes care of itself. Our research graduates will go on to become creative regardless of our apathy in cultivating the faculty, because the underlying structure of knowledge-generation, like the jealous substrate of artistic production, competitively encourages innovation. At a certain point, the distinguishing brilliance of students is neither what they know nor how strategically they can rehearse their knowledge and show off their skills, but what they can do with knowledge to produce more knowledge or insight; and research methods, though seldom speaking of creativity, implicitly encompass creative structures. As I write this page, I jealously look around at every scholar in the vicinity, hoping to clinch an idea or expression that has not been thought of before. This zeal for line-honours in novelty operates in all disciplines by default, because we cannot call it research if someone has said it all before. At best, we would call it knowledge transfer; but the big stakes are known to be research, and all the scholars-in-training at a good university are inducted into the method for being in the lead—however modestly—in order to qualify in research education.

So long as the heat is on research, the heat is off with learning and teaching. With ample signs of innovation through the refereed literature, creativity seems best left to itself. After all, if a paper is written on creativity, it is unlikely to give a physicist an unforeseen boost in ideas and, if anything, academics are inclined to view literature on creativity as woolly, as if the field is hemmed by natural platitudes. This scepticism makes no reflexion on the inherent value of creativity, just that it is too ethereal to handle other than empirically. We know that there is a great deal of creativity in science; it is just that we do not believe that creativity can be helpfully spoken for. As with music, we think of these things as sublimely beyond language, unreachable by theory, inaccessible to analysis, other than a suite of commonplaces which disappoint the mystery that we share. Worse still, creativity is a discourse somewhat tainted with self-help books, vacuous exhortations to introspective improvement, to open yourself up to your hidden internal powers, to realize your inner child-genius. Images of finger painting and amorphous sculptures come to mind, impossible to judge and valorized irresponsibly by the mantra of creativity.

Even artistic fields share the suspicion over creativity. The avant garde would rather speak of ideology, critique, discourse, strategy, irony, sub-version; the mere mention of the word creativity is enough to discredit an artist’s project or proposal. As in science, some kind of creativity is understood to operate throughout production—because art is judged strongly on its originality—but the term is suppressed from the artistic vocabulary. It sounds cheap, populist, vulgar, romantic, immune from intellect, taste, review and discrimination. I too, as an art critic of over twenty years, catch myself blanching at the word, because it seems to signal a naïvety that disqualifies any practitioner from professional ambition. So if even the creative arts shy away from the rubric of creativity, there seems to be no heartland that champions it. So little is to be gained from invoking it in anything other than a high-level mission statement or advertising. In the disciplines themselves, there is little but embarrassment over it.

We could, I suppose, continue in this vein, smug in our prowess of generating new ideas and simultaneously scornful and indifferent to the term creativity, which is tainted with children’s art classes and amateurs. The problem, however, is that relatively few of our students go on to become researchers at university or an industrial lab. Those who continue with a research career are indeed served by the unspoken creativity that we teach by induction in the research culture of the university. But most of our students do not cross the line into a research culture where they can finally escape the withering effects of undergraduate pedagogy, where they can enjoy a life of speculation, constantly adjusting their hypotheses in the face of evidence, stretching their minds in the pursuit of yet-unimagined explanations or solutions, forms, sequences, images, melodies.


It is hard to estimate how uncreative undergraduate teaching is. It varies according to discipline, departmental culture and each teacher’s disposition; but structurally, there is much across universities and colleges that discourages creativity. To illustrate the core problem, let us imagine two students, along the lines of Susan and Robert, two fictitious educational avatars invented by the educational theorist who has so comprehensively renovated tertiary learning and teaching throughout the Anglophone world, John Biggs.2 Our characters, however, are Anastasia and Nalini, who have both submitted an essay in a generalist first year subject on cultural history. They choose the same topic but go about the essay so differently that they could almost be studying a different subject. Anastasia diligently refers to the subject guide and follows the criteria set out in the marking rubric.

She musters the resources listed, either by selectively reading them or noting their content through their synopses. She accurately quotes the sources with the referencing system demanded in the guide. Anastasia does not attempt to propose original ideas but organizes the existing material coherently so that it answers the question. She announces what she will do from the outset and repeats the terms of the question at the conclusion. They are techniques that she has learned at secondary school, with the difference that it is easier to do at university, because the sources do not have to be memorized.

Nalini, on the other hand, is inspired by the essay topic. She reads the resources on the subject website with mixtures of curiosity and impatience, because they contain little experiential pregnancy that she can see in the topic. She notes their existence in her essay but produces an argument which is substantially independent of their contentions. In ambitious colourful prose, she makes her own attempt at cultural history, which is impassioned, if somewhat naive. She concentrates on the primary literature mentioned in lectures rather than the secondary sources in the subject guide, adducing lines by poets which are eloquent but only partly support her argument. She imaginatively connects the verse forms with artworks, albeit of a slightly different epoch, which is ingenious and potentially powerful, though difficult to bring off. She confesses that she is not altogether answering the question but observes that a better question would frame the cultural material in more critical terms.

Nalini gets a begrudging credit for her essay. Her tutor is concerned that there are too many mistakes and that the essay is messy. She feels unsure of some of the wandering structure, with its multiple contentions and wonders where they have come from, especially given that moments in the essay are well written, revealing a phrase-making impulse. She feels uneasy about these colourful flashes, even suspecting that they may be someone else’s work, because they have an astonishing confidence about them. Above all, however, the virtues of the essay do not align with the marking rubric, which definitively supports the verdict of a mediocre mark.

Anastasia, on the other hand, receives a high distinction for her essay. She has given the same tutor no room in any of the categories on the rubric to assess the essay as anything but excellent. She has a strong argument, which admittedly comes from the secondary literature. She backs up every claim with evidence, again drawn from the secondary literature. She never trips herself up with poetic links or historical conjecture or dangerous connexions to personal experience. She does not attempt to engage levels of meaning through polemic or even mild disagreement with the terms of the task. She is strategically compliant, acquiring an authoritative air by judiciously assembling the sources in date order and rehearsing their narrative in a coherent structure.

To be fair, Anastasia is not without imagination. It takes skill to organize the words of others into a coherent argument of your own, even if your own argument is only a synthesis of theirs. Anastasia has learned the process well and has the same gift of responsible and compelling case-building that would be needed for defending someone in court. This legalistic imagination, though clearly functional, is not exactly creative. Anastasia has attempted none of Nalini’s daring; she never ventures into risk, taking ideas into her own hands and synthesizing an original thought. To be creative involves certain hazard. To advance new ideas in an old field is a risk that Anastasia would instinctively avoid, understanding that she would never have the rhetorical smoothness to sound credible with her own conjectures, which is where Nalini comes unstuck. Being young and unpracticed, Nalini is bound to make mistakes in her attempts at originality; and inevitably some air of immaturity—which she does not conceal with the language of her quotations—will contribute to a lower mark. In a sense she is punished for her creativity.

Undergraduate essays are often constructed around scholarly conventions, in which creative approaches are seen as premature; and in this quest, Anastasia has done well, and has exercised a skill which will be useful in many contexts, including the manipulative task of writing research grant applications. Nalini, however, has exercised a skill of enormous potential, the kind which, in time, distinguishes a brilliant scholar from a good scholar: she already manifests an inclination to make connexions, to upend the question, to query the very terms of an inquiry, to deconstruct the task by matching it with her own experience. Seeing that she only gets mediocre marks in a subject which initially seemed to invite her imagination, Nalini will either suppress her creative responses in future essays or abandon the field in search of one that does not tempt her to use her imagination. Either way, the creativity of this adventurous student is in shock.

Imaginative behaviour is possible within a tightly controlled framework of learning outcomes. Anastasia reveals how it is done, even in the face of an exam. In a well-aligned subject, even this gruelling form of assessment will have been prefigured by learning outcomes, delivery and learning activities, which Anastasia assiduously studies. She knows approximately what question will arise in the exam but not exactly, because the exam questions are kept secret. So she prepares extensive ideal answers for every area likely to come up. However, during the exam, she must exercise her imagination to adapt the exemplary answers to the topic in hand. It is a clever skill. We could call it imagination but we would stop short of calling it creativity. To exercise imagination in the direction of creativity rather than mere manipulation, we would have to observe Nalini’s innocence before the challenge, as she takes the exam question on an interrogative journey that explores her experience and takes advantage of her sense of paradox or humour or persuasion. But in exercising episodic imagination rather than strategic imagination, she will not do so well.

The exam or undergraduate essay with marking rubric is by no means the worst academic instrument for suppressing student creativity. As digital learning expands, the role of the quiz expands, offering assessment by robot, without human eye needing to sight the students’ work. In the algorithm of the learning management system (LMS) there is no room for creativity and, in most senses, student creativity is not valued for the same reason that it does not fit into the mechanistic structure of a quiz, because it is disruptive and does not match a template. The spontaneous wit of creativity is noisy, messy, unwieldy; it invokes subjectivity and the affections; it is hard to measure and therefore hard to assess reliably. The more a student is creative, the more any two assessors looking at the same piece of work are likely to come to different conclusions about its merit.

Theoretically, it would be possible to set up assessments with a marking rubric that accommodates creativity. Creativity could be one of the criteria, at least signalling to students that creativity is valued and therefore encouraging the risks of unfounded statements, incoherence, excessive colour or metonymy. But there is a problem with this inclusion among the other staunchly measurable criteria, namely that it is a lot harder to calibrate. Engines that help academics write learning outcomes even discourage using the verb ‘understand’ because understanding is reckoned not to be measurable, not sufficiently demonstrable or capable of proof; it is considered too vague because you do not know what students can achieve when they understand something. Being creative—for which a single verb does not even exist—is even less measurable than understanding, which is the cornerstone of all epistemology and, you might have thought, learning. We cannot say that we have learned something if we do not understand it; further, understanding is not just a precondition of learning to do something but a legitimate end in itself. No one has a problem with understanding in any corner of the universe except in the rarified discourse of learning outcomes, where understanding is reckoned not to be sufficiently solid and attestable relative to describing or demonstrating or naming or calculating. Actually, I am not sure that describing is very measurable either, because one can describe any given phenomenon in so many different ways. But apparently understanding is tainted with even more vagueness. We cannot measure it objectively through an activity; so it should not be used as a verb in a learning outcome. So obsessed are we with measurement that even this stalwart of comprehension is banished from legitimacy as a learning outcome. What chance does creativity have to be recognized as a legitimate learning outcome?

We could insist and overrule the need for measurability in the case of creativity, because it is so important that it features as a university graduate attribute. But even so, the directive to students that they must be creative seems uncomfortable. Is it reasonable to demand that students should have to demonstrate creativity, which in a sense forces them to be creative? Creativity can be accommodated but it is still uncertain how much it can be taught; and every assertion of the teachability of imagination or creativity is a surreptitious challenge to the definition of creativity itself.3 If students read ‘creativity’ in the marking rubric, they will feel compelled to demonstrate it. I feel uneasy about this incumbency. Being smart and savvy, Anastasia will have no difficulty developing a strategy to meet the challenge. She will simulate the look of creativity by using clever headings and interspersing the well-referenced text with cartoons and memes. If it is part of the brief, she will introduce the necessary element as a strategic ornament. Meanwhile, Nalini will not necessarily do well because her zeal to enjoin impulse in a piece of academic writing will not necessarily be recognized as creativity—because it is not demonstrably artistic—but rather as wayward and immature daring. Her essay will still be seen as falling short of the tailored appearance of Anastasia’s, which is an uncreative essay in creative clothing.

Creativity is not an easy topic to reconcile with university education. Almost as a symbol of our embarrassments, there are many analogous terms in our lexicon of graduate attributes: creativity, imagination, originality and innovation. In most bureaucratic contexts, the term innovation is preferred,4 presumably because it is so strongly associated with progress and positive change; it is understood as profitable for human welfare, equivalent to the visionary and the forward-thinking. Innovation is also highly marketable and features in graduate attributes. There is no downside, almost by definition; because an innovation that is also a failure is somehow expunged from the history of innovation itself: in hindsight it was not innovative but foolhardy or stupid. Stripped of all its false starts, innovation is creativity sanitized, without the wilful mess, the indulgence of caprice or whim that might characterize creativity or even imagination. Innovation is the purely profitable extract of the naturally fruitful waywardness that the mind comes up with.

In all cases, the prior issue is imagination, because no creativity, originality or innovation occurs without it. Imagination is also the faculty that was recognized from ancient times, where the word ‘creativity’ is an artefact of the industrial age. The Greeks had a word to describe creation (δημιουργία) but it normally involved handicrafts, even though it led to the concept of a divine creator or demiurge.5 The Greeks had numerous conceptions to indicate creation,6 among which the most glamorous is the productive making (ποίησις) which has given us the word poetry.7

Even the adjective ‘creative’ in the English language is an invention of the industrial period. A convenient snapshot of the relevant dates is given in the Oxford English Dictionary: the word ‘creativity’ only appears in 1875.8 Creativity is an abstract noun derived from the adjective ‘creative’, which is somewhat older and based, in turn, upon the truly ancient verb to ‘create’.

It is a pattern replicated by ‘originality’. First there is a venerable conception of ‘origin’ (origo). Then there is a more recent adjectival form ‘original’; and finally, we end up with the abstract substantive ‘originality’, the quality of being original. Unlike these artificial nouns, however, imagination is an ancient conception, indicating the faculty of generating wilfully an image in the mind. It was recognized by the Greeks in the word that we still use, namely fantasy (φαντασία), though without the modern associations of irreality or delusion, for which the Greeks had other conceptions, like vain belief (κενοδοξία) or wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the deep history of this beautiful cerebral phenomenon is delicate and embodies certain marvellous contradictions which perhaps inhere in the word and lead to some of the embarrassments that we face today. Imagination in ancient Greece denotes an appearing or appearance of something which is implicitly absent and yet also somehow true. The origin of the word relates to a physical manifestation, to appear in reality (φαίνομαι), that is, to have a visual form, whence a verb arose to indicate that this visual form can arise in the mind (φαντάζομαι), whether wilful or involuntary, whether actual or illusory or perceptual or in memory. Already in ancient Greece, fantasy is easily pluralized: it is not one thing, like that unique faculty of gathering ideas from the air, but also inheres in its multifarious ghostly instances. Aristotle says that like feelings (αἰσθήσεις) fantasies are sometimes true and eventuate and sometimes they are false (ψευδεῖς).9 Plato had already linked feeling and fantasy, but in the sense of perception;10 but Aristotle is keen to distinguish it as the faculty of imagination, neither perception nor feeling11 nor belief (δόξα, because faith is absent) nor understanding, mind or discernment,12 nor even supposition.13

Meanwhile, the high destiny of fantasy was prepared by the Greeks in their identification of a certain metaphorical mental agility, in which an ability to see things is used as a cypher for an ability to connect things productively. Thus fantasy already in Greek language could be used for creative imagination14 and, while these instances admittedly arise in the Hellenistic period, the concept of fantasy happily married a much earlier conception of poetic inspiration, whence fantasy was used of imagery in literature.15 The culture of the muses had given to poetry the divine prestige of contact with ancestral memory, a level of clairvoyance and lucidity. It seems no accident that one interpreted Homer as the blind bard. His sight is internal. He is exceptionally in-contact with some inner part of the mind which is the abode of fantasy, upon which poets with their own imagination always depend. The Roman conception for imagination (imaginatio) which gives us our word in modern language carries all those poetic connotations but, like the Greek, consists in a slightly ambiguous relationship with a physical reality, the image. The image is not quite the reality but a reflexion or a record of the reality. It could be held to be either correct or false.

The ancient world invested much in imagination. It follows a richly promotional trajectory, akin to the generation of the literary masterpieces and possessing a unique gift for vividness (εὐφαντασίωτος). The Greek conception was conserved throughout the renaissance and beyond, where especially subtle shades of inventive sensibility were called for. An example from the sixteenth century is Baldassare Castiglione, explaining how people’s dress should not prejudice your opinion of them; but, he notes, the costume nevertheless is ‘no minor element in the fantasy that I carry of the person’,16 where ‘fantasy’ is an image that you carry (portare). But on other occasions, the same author in the same text sees fantasy as a phantom, a falsehood.17 In the wonderful novelle of Matteo Bandello of the same century, fantasy can be used as a plan, an idea for frightening a husband, for example,18 but at the same time it can mean ‘liking’, as when a man does not even entertain a woman in his fancies.19

As fantasy broadens in its appeal and functions throughout language in ubiquitous contexts, however, it becomes morally ambiguous. Within the range of opinions about imagination, some enthusiastic and some reserved, we may propose a pattern which becomes telling for the contemporary educational setting. When imagination and fantasy are confined to personal or autonomously creative ends, they are valorized. But when they apply to the social order, they may be held in suspicion. Throughout the renaissance, the word was used of the stubbornness of an idée fixe, some preconception or suspicions, imaginary opinions (sospetti ed imaginarie openioni) that deceive you but have stuck in the head (si ficcano una fantasia nel capo) which are the cause of ruin;20 they can be a raving in the mind,21 a tenacious obsession or ‘fantasy and crickets in the mind’.22 The objective in such narratives is to shed the sticky fantasy.23

In art and architecture, fantasy is fulsomely honoured, because it sits perfectly in the discourse of personal invention, which is hugely popular in writers like Giorgio Vasari, whose biographical output identified creative impulse so much with the individual genius.24 We never find the word invention used pejoratively, because it is understood as one of the defining features of beautiful and meaningful art and architecture, work that is in some way extraordinary, ornamented and invested with copious ideas. So closely is fantasy identified with art that the fantasy is counted as the art itself, as when Pollaiuolo does wax reliefs and other fantasies25 or Giorgione creates his history pictures and other fantasies26 and, of course, the fantasia was to become a staple of music in the baroque. More usually, however, fantasy is something that comes into your head, as it did in Leonardo’s.27

But even in these wonderful texts, so much a paean to artistic autonomy, there is some suspicion about fantasy in the social order, revealed in discussions about the difficult personality of Piero di Cosimo, whose ‘fantastic life took him to a miserable ending’, where ‘fantastic’ has the value of crackpot. If he had been a bit more domestic and lovable toward his friends, says Vasari, his old age would not have been so wicked.28 His fantasy life made him both insular and unrealistic, fantasizing in solitude and making castles in the air,29 because even his deformity made him extravagant, bizarre and fantastic.30

In today’s language, fantasy contains this ambiguity to a heightened degree, where it can be sublime but also ugly, a bit sordid—as in sexual fantasy, which is now distributed to the social order, where it may be suspected of bad taste—but above all unreal. These pejorative meanings become persistent in the baroque, as in Boileau’s ‘fantastic code built from vain laws’31 or Dryden’s ‘false fires of a fantastic glory’, also applying themselves unhappily in the social order.32 In the sober eighteenth century, the playwright Carlo Goldoni suggests that when people are so proud that they become ashamed of not knowing something, ignorant judgements are produced by a distorted fantasy, misguided and wicked.33 As if anticipating Google, the librarian in Il cavaliere di buon gusto explains to the Count that one can easily become learned through consulting dictionaries; but his patron deplores the tendency to study without fundamentals. One has recourse to the dictionary and learns superficially; one makes an embryo in one’s fantasy; nothing is really digested and people themselves become indexes and dictionaries.34 For the rest, one reads a string of pejoratives, like ‘all madness, all tricks of fantasy, tricks of ambition’.35

Similar observations may be made of imagination which, as noted, has an analogous structure through its Latin root (imago) of something seen as a kind of substitute for reality, which may or may not equate with the truth. As a faculty, imagination is highly esteemed, and for obvious reasons, because poets, architects, scientists and composers can hardly function without it. Even if they function within tight conventions, they need to be able to make as-yet-unimagined connexions to create original verses, buildings, discoveries and melodies. If we think of creative process, the imaginative element is more labile than the construction that results from it. Mechanically, to imagine is easier than expressing something in words; because we imagine things all by ourselves, in the intimacy of our thoughts; whereas expression indicates relationships with others who are either swayed or unconvinced. Already in the fourteenth century, Petrarch described the relation: I could never imagine, much less tell (nonché narrar) the effects that the soft eyes make on my heart.36 Imagining the effect of the eyes is hard enough but speaking about it is harder. The Western genius seldom separates the two phases, because they are organically linked; and in imagining, one also needs a sense of what one might be imagining for, in the same way that when one is building upon something imagined, one needs yet more imagination to find the beautiful techniques and vessels that best accommodate and nourish the imagined potential. Perhaps for that reason, there is sometimes an air of strategy in the term. In Boccaccio, writing at the same time as Petrarch, the word is associated with analysis and planning. Masetto, about to decide on his diabolical plan to infiltrate a nunnery under the cover of dumbness, is described as imagining—after parsing many things in his mind (molte cose divisate seco, imaginò)—what his chances will be. Having decided on this plan (imaginazion), he set out and achieved his fill till exhaustion.37 In the sixteenth-century poet Ariosto, imagination is equated with design;38 and even when not set out as a rigid plan, the imagination is tellingly guided by desire, as when one studies a person and imitates her, imagining how she would act and appear; and through this hungry vision, using mirrors and acting, one seeks to replicate the attire, hair and mannerisms.39

In the history of ideas, imagination is used in processes of reason and logic but, rather like fantasy, it is not responsible to reason. It is independent and enjoys the same privileges of wilful travel, metaphor and extrapolation conjoined with desire. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it is sometimes coupled with fantasy, as in Bandello in the sixteenth century, where both words in the one sentence indicate a nascent intention.40 By the same errant instincts, imagination can be wrong but it can also be generative and create the true.41 And in the renaissance, imagination can be pluralized in the same way that we pluralize fantasies. Bandello speaks of imaginations, meaning things imagined and, as it happens, these imaginations are untrue (false imaginazioni) or hysterical phantom worries (chimerici affanni).42 They are monstrous because they constitute an ill-fit in the social order.

Renaissance culture was also passionately attracted to the generative faculties of invention, the idea that you find something or, by the blessing of inspiration, that something comes to you. The motif of an idea coming to you is somehow inseparable from the motif of you going out to look for it. The idea comes, a verb which is the origin of the word invention (venire), to come. It comes to you personally, not to anyone else in the same way. The art of biographical literature is inflected with a subtext of the peculiar imagination of a person whose destiny is to happen upon certain novelties, either to come to the ideas or for the ideas to come to them. The ambiguity as to which is the destination and which is the agent is immaterial; it is in all events the peculiar statement of fecundity, where the fertile imagination generates copious ideas that find their way into miraculous works of art and architecture. Vasari speaks often of this gift, like the incessant thinking (frequente imaginazione) with which Antonello da Messina constantly (del continuo) enriched the art of painting.43 The substance of imagination is thinking of spectacle beyond your ken, beyond your conception, like the sadness of a compassionate painting showing what ‘is so impossible to imagine’, the pain of having lost the most precious thing that you have and then to face losing the second.44

The more common use of the imagination is coupled with the prolific production of strangeness, the bizarre and capricious, the variety of angels, devils, earthquakes, fire and ruin, nudes and perspectives, as Vasari represents Luca Signorelli ‘strangely imagining’ his beautiful but terrifying invention of the Antichrist.45 The bizarre, the ornamented, the sense of plenty and variety are hard to imagine.46 With Michelangelo, even the ancients would have had difficulty imagining (imaginandosi appena) something so strange and difficult that the force of his most godly ingenious wit (divinissimo ingegno) achieved with industry, drawing, art, judgement and grace.47 The quality of a person’s wit or mind (ingegno) is tied to imagination48 which, in large part, exists outside the social order.

But even in Vasari, imagination is dangerous when it conspicuously intersects with the social order. Leonardo, for example was so intelligent and strove so hard to achieve impossible perfection through his imagination that many of his projects came to nothing. His imagination led him to unrealistic ambitions. Further, his caprices were so many that while he philosophized about science, he formed a concept in his mind so heretical that he distanced himself from any religion, considering himself more a philosopher than a Christian.49 Even technically, his imagination led him to try painting with oil in plaster, which was disastrous.50 These somewhat monitory instances of peril, where imagination goes too far, are the grit that proves the mettle of the artistic mind. The great artists do with imagination what you can never do just with the hand,51 achieving superlative grace or beauty beyond our capacity to understand, as in Raphael.52 With great artists, you cannot desire or imagine better, because their work is miraculous.53 The miraculous is so marvellously converted into the empirical through art; and imagination is so powerful that its figments can appear to a person or come to the artist in a dream.54

The phrase ‘I cannot imagine’ is not always reserved for something unthinkably great. There is no reason why it would not equally apply to things that are abysmal55 or even to relief from something negative;56 though usually it is for marvel and stupendousness, delicateness, abundance of forms that a sophisticated mind of genius can imagine.57 Capricious inventions are learned, achieved with a poetic pictorial sense of much elegance, and realized in such a considered way that you would consider the figments real rather than imaginary.58 The word ‘imagined’ is used to separate work done-from-life and work done-by-memory or construction59 and sometimes it is therefore synonymous with ‘idea’.60

In many ways, the canonical artistic literature—lauding the irresponsible invention of the bizarre and the copious—did not recommend freedom of imagination to future generations. It accorded with the baroque in Italy but already in the formation of academies in France and England a strong preference arose to regulate, to resist any form of excess, to achieve conformity of taste under the governance of measure and reason. And so begins the contemporary institutional suspicion, already foreshadowed in Vasari’s embarrassment over Leonardo’s heresy, that imagination might need to be controlled. It leads as much to silly things as to brilliant things. Like a dream, it is impossible to control: individuals may or may not be able to manage their imagination through internal creative process; but any society which enjoys the constancy and pride of orthodoxy may be threatened with impotence over this runaway thinking, a conceptualizing without recognized parameters, an errant flow of ideas that leads in unforeseen directions. Imagination needs to be curbed.

The seventeenth-century writer Jean de La Bruyère, himself endowed with fabulous wit and imaginative expression, takes a dim view of imagination as a liberty: lively wits, full of fire and whom a huge imagination transports beyond the rules (emporte hors des règles) and beyond niceness (la justesse) can never slake their hyperbole. As for the sublime, even among great geniuses, there are only a few at the top who are capable of it.61 He typifies the taste of women uncharitably, saying that a vain and indiscreet man who is a great talker and a poor friend, who speaks assuringly about himself and scornfully about others, a man who is impetuous, haughty, audacious, with neither manners nor probity, a man of zero judgement but a very liberal imagination, lacks nothing to be adored by women if not some nice features and a good figure.62 As for literature, he declares that we do not need to have too much imagination; it often only produces vain and puerile ideas that do not at all serve to perfect taste and improve us: our thoughts have to be taken with good sense and right reason and must be an effect of our judgement.63

La Bruyère deplored the artificiality of his contemporaries. In conversation, polite society leaves to the vulgar the art of speaking in an intelligible fashion. Things of little clarity are joined by others yet more obscure; and to their vagueness one attaches total enigmas, always followed by long applause. People end up not being understood by one another. Nothing is needed in holding these conversations like good sense, judgement, memory nor the slightest intellectual capacity: one only needs wit, not of the best type but a false one, where the imagination has too great a role.64 It is flashy, over-rich, effusive, silly and false, as even La Bruyère’s contemporary John Dryden says: ‘The gaudy effort of luxuriant art, / In all imagination’s glitter drest.’65 There are cases where La Bruyère uses imagination in a positive way but he also tellingly uses the term to denote phantoms or things that do not exist.66

Suspicion over imagination arises in regulatory cultures of any epoch. Uneasy or apprehensive feelings over imagination are not just a historical quirk of baroque culture, because the suspicion is structural. In all periods, imagination has shades of magic, to which authorities once reacted with horror and persecution, chasing witchcraft from contact with a pious society. The enduring distrust of imagination ensues from its irresponsibility to command, its intellectual waywardness, its idiosyncrasy, its eccentric vagueness, its disregard for authority and rules. Though not at all opposed to reason—indeed frequently functioning through reason, in fact intimately a part of advances in reason—imagination represents thought closer to the unconscious, the dream, the joke or rapture, the faulty pattern, the haywire. By that token, though imagination can be a party to advanced reason, it is not intrinsically conducive to measurement, fairness, comprehensiveness or closure. To any bureaucratic process, imagination seems largely aberrant. It self-evidently has a place in art of one kind or another; but its comfort in the creative arts equates to its marginalization in mainstream fields.

Much jockeying has occurred around the concept of creativity in education, which remains the marginal Other, both desired and anomalous, sought and needed but a bit monstrous at the same time. A particularly well- intentioned trend has arisen to redefine creativity in favour of the institutional, to sanitize it so that it is more compatible with the priorities of measuring and sorting students. A good example is summed up by Erica McWilliam, who distinguishes ‘first generation creativity concepts’ from ‘second generation creativity concepts’. In the first category, we have the implicitly outdated romantic concepts of genius, where creativity is aligned with the ‘serendipitous and non-economic’; it is characterized by ‘singularization, the spontaneous / arising from the inner self ’; it is ‘outside the box or any other metric’, ‘arts-based, natural or innate, not amenable to teaching, and not assessable’. Second generation creativity concepts, clearly more advanced, accommodate the ‘“Hard” and an economic driver, the pluralized / team-based, the dispositional and environmental’, something that ‘requires rules and boundaries’ and is ‘transdisciplinary, learnable, teachable, assessable’.67 By this language, the romantic view of creativity is anachronistic, discredited, backward; and all is redeemed through a new promise of seamless infusion through the agenda of the contemporary academy. Alas, the alignment of creativity with group-work, measurement and teachability contains as much witchcraft as might the romantic view that it would replace; and none of it is any use to Nalini.

Contemporary coursework education is a highly regulated business and, all rhetoric over innovation notwithstanding, imagination does not sit comfortably within it. The mismatch may be understood through the need that educators now feel to spell out learning outcomes which, as noted, demand to be measured. Creativity and especially imagination cannot be measured without distortion, because they are about potential, about a process rather than an outcome. Creativity and imagination are like curiosity in the sense that they are about wanting to know more, not wanting strategically to demonstrate what you already know. When education is structured rigidly around those tangible signs of satisfying what is laid out from the outset, the focus on the outcome forecloses on the potential of the process. Imagination and creativity depend on the gestational; they operate on the basis of non-fixity, freedom from linearity, or the finite. In any case, imaginative responses are heterogeneous and culturally inflected. They respect Nalini’s vein of reflexion, where she seeks to square an exam question, say, with her personal local experience. Alas, imaginative responses are therefore not so suitable for comparison, for ranking or benchmarking. The education system that follows these regimes of measurement is structurally hostile to creativity, because it intrinsically denies the open-endedness of imagination.

It may be objected that imagination and creativity, if they are worth anything in the cultural sphere, result in monuments, that is, tangible products, and are not merely invested in processes. The same Vasari who applauds the imaginative genius of the masters was the most recognizing of their masterpieces. Could it be that creativity and imagination are just an overactive random generator? If it is a kind of machine that is good for the gestation of anything—silly things as much as clever ones, ratbag ideas alongside clairvoyant ones—then it makes no sense to measure imagination or creativity in any circumstances other than through their results. Certainly, that objection may hold. It makes no sense to measure imagination or creativity. But why would we want to in the first place? Our aim is to cultivate them, not to measure them. If imagination and creativity are suppressed, we will never know what they are capable of in any given individual and in society as a whole.

Today’s tertiary education system is governed by a structure that begins with learning outcomes. If syllabus is introduced outside the learning outcomes, it may be deemed not to belong. Imagination and creativity tend inherently to sit outside the learning outcomes, because learning outcomes have to be measurably assessable. Creativity and imagination belong, more properly, to the unknown learning outcome, the outcome that has not been prefigured, the surprise, colour, the unforeseen. When we are imaginative, no one else has been able to see what we are thinking unless by imaginative sympathy. The student who is imaginative is likely in some sense to transcend the learning outcomes. Alas, we can never write this unknown learning outcome. It makes no sense to suggest: ‘by successful completion of this unit, you will have thought of something that we cannot predict’. There is no protocol or logic for handling the imaginative process in a learning outcome. Learning outcomes, meanwhile, are good and systematic for uncreative processes. They systematically produce uncreative outcomes.

There are lecturers who feel comfortable writing a learning outcome that includes ‘originality’, which potentially fills the creative vacuum. If originality is included in the learning outcomes, it might then feature on the marking rubric. There is some scope, then, that Nalini will be redeemed. ‘Originality’, however, is like ‘innovation’, an impeccable and sanitized form of creativity which we aim for and seek in our doctoral studies and unfortunately seldom find in great measure. And there is the rub. If originality is hard to achieve or detect, can it be easily measured? And, above all, can it be taught? Are you really teaching it in your unit or subject or module? You might believe that you are personally original and, by dint of some charismatic induction, you are passing on the gift as you teach. That would be ideal; the colour of your own thought and delivery can indeed become infectious. But can you honestly claim that you are teaching your students how to be original? If you are not actively and effectively teaching originality, you cannot include it as a learning outcome. It would be a breach of constructive alignment.

In principle, it is good to call for originality—and heaven forbid that we discourage it!—but in the context of learning outcomes, it remains a difficult fit, because it is also shy of measurement and is liable to overstatement and delusion. Even for professors, originality is a tall order, and few of us can claim it without some shame. As La Bruyère warns us from the beginning of his major work, ‘everything has been said and you have arrived too late after seven millennia of people who think’.68 Nalini is both imaginative and original, but the proof of originality is harder than that of imagination. Unless you define originality as superficially putting a personal inflexion on something already known, the proof of originality would entail a long search for everyone else’s thoughts on the topic to distinguish the novel content that Nalini has come up with. If we demand that students themselves conduct the proof of their originality, Anastasia will do a better job, because she will more systematically summarize what everyone else has said and cleverly craft a statement that diplomatically shows a modest but significant detail or combination or inflexion that supposedly exists nowhere else. In order to transform itself into a learning outcome, the labour of originality descends to manipulation.

Invoking balance, the word originality can be used in the learning outcomes alongside other outcomes that reward knowledge and skills of classification, identification, organization or calculation. So fairness would prevail. No academic wants to set up learning outcomes that make life hard for Anastasia or punish her for her diligence. She is not creative and her excellence in acing the assessments up to this point does not compromise her learning. She is a good learner and should be encouraged in her systematic methods. Her view of herself is modest enough to know that she is not original: rather, she considers herself a brilliant plodder, a dogged adept, a persevering strategist. She loves the word ‘effective’. She is already thinking, correctly, that she can achieve great success beyond her coursework either in a profession (most likely) where she will valuably clarify complexity and help make decisions, or even become an academic, where she will also make an excellent contribution, judiciously matching offerings with needs and producing research of a highly organized and referenced kind, albeit with unremarkable conclusions. If, as a student, Anastasia sees a unit that demands originality, she may consider it to be too risky and choose another unit instead.

Could we reconcile the two extremes, the system that demands the learning outcomes and the latitude that wants to transcend them through ‘irresponsible’ flights of comparison, metaphor, extrapolation and imagery (especially, as we know from Nalini, that they are likely to be somewhat embarrassing in their immaturity)? Could there be, as paradoxical as it sounds, an unknown learning outcome that accommodates imagination and creativity? The only unknown learning outcome that could ever embrace imagination and creativity would be ‘love for the subject’, that is, an investigative affection, a thrill with the speculative content or the delight in the use you might make of it in another context. Alas, we could never contemplate this learning outcome. Love is also not measurable. We cannot adequately assess people’s love; and even if we could, it seems unethical to proceed, because we cannot oblige anyone to love anything in the same way that we cannot teach this: compulsory love is a contradiction in terms.69

In our allegory of creative approaches to writing an essay or sitting an exam, Nalini is prepared to show more love, which perhaps necessarily has a reckless dimension that can easily lead to embarrassments. Anastasia is too circumspect and strategic to lose control over any emotional investment, other than the zeal to excel with high grades. She is imaginative with her skill of matching available texts to the demands of the task; but this exercise of clear-thinking does not entail much creativity and could easily be fouled up by creative passion.

Creativity does not directly equate with imagination. Although imagination is prior and an essential ingredient, it is not the whole of creativity. As a necessary but not sufficient criterion for creativity, imagination is an important element in human empathy. For example, in a text by Martha Nussbaum, we encounter ‘the narrative imagination’ which

means the ability to think what it might be like to be in the shoes of a person different from oneself, to be an intelligent reader of that person’s story and to understand the emotions and wish and desires that someone so placed might have. The cultivation of sympathy has been a key part of the best modern ideas of democratic education … 70

Nussbaum emphasizes that ‘the arts in schools and colleges … cultivate capacities for play and empathy in a general way, and they address particular cultural blind spots’ and describes how important it is to link empathetic imagination to the motif of equal human dignity. She warns that we can have high levels of sympathy for people close to us and none for people of different colour or religion. No humanist panacea, then, imagination can be used toward racist or chauvinist ends71 and the same, incidentally, can be said of creativity. Creativity may or may not create a bond between people and encourage empathy (one might think of the pugnacious Italian futurists, for example); but the beautiful use that Nussbaum finds for imagination—the ability to identify with the experience of others—is a receptive faculty. Creativity, on the other hand, is a productive faculty.

Creativity is a disposition toward the productive use of imagination. Any given person might be very imaginative (anyone who is funny, for example) but the gift is confined to seeing connexions in an inspired instant and without necessarily seeing its operational opportunities, its extrapolations, its borders with the absurd; so the imaginative activity remains a flash, without necessarily entailing a communicative outlet that builds a vision or contributes to culture. Creativity, even in the modest case of learning with which we began, involves a vision of the individual growing toward something within culture. The imaginative response to learning is to see yourself enlarging your identity: you take on material which already exists in a way which embellishes the person that you are or are going to become. The same motif of adding to your identity may extend, in time, to adding to the very culture that has created or enhanced your learning persona. At that point, the zeal to add to common stock, to augment or embroider or extrapolate, means using imagination ambitiously in order to extend not just your own thinking but that of others. The creative part of a person is the disposition to bring imaginative resources to bear on a project. However naïve, it presupposes a rush of passion for a project, for an inflexion that leaves a mark, perhaps a bit big-headed but ambitiously reaching for immanence. It is no accident that in the history of ideas, imagination is sometimes the thing imagined, in the same way that fantasy is both the faculty and the transport, the ability to fantasize and the thing fantasized about; and still for Nietzsche, the two words—concept (Begriff ) and imagination (Vorstellung)—are put together as synonyms.72 This folding of the quality upon the faculty never arises with creativity. Creativity is always a faculty and cannot be hypostasized. The gift of creativity can never be collapsed into a creation. It is an inalienable dispositional characteristic in anyone who has it.

In education, we may or may not be able to influence dispositional characteristics of students; but there are nevertheless certain preconditions that allow us to realize our dispositional potential. We cannot necessarily teach imagination or creativity; but we can encourage them. Some students have great advantages over others in their readiness to make imaginative leaps, in the same way that some can make jokes or possess an uncanny acting ability. These talents may derive from early upbringing, where a parent or carer rewarded the child for the risks taken for witty purposes. It may be possible to teach; but it is more obvious how creativity and imagination can be drummed out of students. The pedagogical challenge is not necessarily to teach creativity or imagination or invention but just to encourage them. In competitive education, discouragements abound; and many of these inhibitions arise without any conspiratorial plan or intention to diminish the confidence of the student. On the contrary, the machinery of constructive alignment is created in excellent faith to achieve the most effective learning, to empower students with self-regulated learning, which depends on being able to plan according to clearly laid-out learning outcomes and consistency of resources and assessment. There would be no problem if there were never a need or desire for creativity. Perhaps because creativity cannot with confidence be taught, it easily slips from the parameters of the syllabus. But then it is all the more important to find a pathway for the faculty to be encouraged. No one is so naturally creative that creativity will survive an uncreative ambience.

We could be gifted, for example, in conversation or storytelling but find that there are few opportunities comfortably to exercise the talent. Someone is always counting our performance, weighing up our attainments and whether or not we have conspicuously included in our performance a great number of requirements that have been stipulated. Faced with these strictures, students are more likely to become paranoiac about being punished for some non-inclusion than to extrapolate beyond what they have been told. Their comfort with invention is likely to suffer, because creativity requires confidence and withers with anxiety. In order for students to make use of their imaginative faculties for productive ends, the encouragements need to be felt more compellingly than the risks.

Structurally, students are also discouraged from imaginative academic behaviours because they are trained to be dependent on literature. It is understandable and, up to a point, necessary that students develop a curiosity for what has been written in the field, that they base their work on becoming informed, that they begin to read in the spirit of doing research rather than just swatting prescribed authorities. This bibliographic care is also a powerful form of learning and there is clearly nothing wrong with it. But if there are no encouragements to offset the flow of information with the triangulation of experience and imagination, the learner becomes dependent upon the sources, unprepared to reach ideas beyond the texts by comparing them to experience, a sense of justice or humour or paradox, to paradigms set out in other less scholarly sources, such as movies or memes or provocative skits on a video channel. The moment of leaving the bibliographic dependence behind is cause for anxiety and is sometimes not only judged to be too risky by the student but also for lecturers who run research methods units in preparation for masters and PhD. There is pressure to remain bibliographically dependent, because the student feels punished for departing from sanctioned methods. As she bases an essay on 15 scholarly books and articles, Anastasia saves herself the dangers of uncited speculation but also limits her chances of achieving independence.

Potentially, the learning outcome of ‘critical thinking’—which is often embedded in university-wide graduate attributes—will encourage Anastasia to exercise sceptical review and rate one author against another; but this excellent faculty of discrimination may still not enable her to generate independent ideas: on the contrary, it may force her to approach her sources with a legalistic vein to the point of pedantry. Her scrupulosity with critical thinking does not necessarily win her independence but reinforces a conceptual imprisonment within the walls of the given. The grid of references is tyran-nical; because Anastasia’s job in exercising judgement among the sources has no proactive agency; like the juror in court, the apprehension of the case is passive, without opportunities to set independent terms for the discourse.

Achieving independence, as with creativity, requires confidence. It is easy to say that encouragement makes for confidence, but the case is somewhat circular. Encouragement is a beautiful word—etymologically giving students heart—but of course students cannot be encouraged in any undertaking whatever, regardless of its imprudence. It would be irresponsible to encourage students in their conceit or wrong-headedness or a project which is doomed. The teacher’s role in education is also monitory, providing corrective advice as well as encouragement. But if the student experiences the balance of influence as benign, there is scope for more emotional investment in the curiosities of a project and consequently greater imaginative growth. This benignity of the teacher, not the alignment of the syllabus, is the condition most consistently reported by students as important and memorable in their studies, alongside the enthusiasm and humour of the teacher.73


This book has been conceived as acting out the imaginative independence that is sought in pedagogy. In planning the structure of the argument, I took a radical decision not to base the claims on pedagogical literature in the field, a modest but growing body of scholarship which, however—summarized with an excellent genealogy by Joy Whitton in her comprehensive doctoral investigation of creativity and imagination— brings me no closer to the revaluations that seem due. Instead, I have sought an independent viewpoint subtending chronologies of hundreds of years rather than the last couple of decades. As La Bruyère has reminded us, we have had sophisticated thought for a long time and, with its copious originality still richly accessible in the library, powerful intuitions on education are available to match. Very little of that time-span has involved constructive alignment or marking rubrics or learning outcomes but the most tantalizing incentives for deep thinking, invention, wit, imaginative extension to the ideas of others, sometimes blatant disregard for the ideas of others, cheek, rapture, rudeness, satire, indecency, lyricism and charm. The stock and methods of two millennia before constructive alignment are instructively unsystematic and provide, I feel, all the independence that I need.

For many years, I too have taught the doctrine of constructive alignment. The motives behind constructive alignment are enlightened and there are powerful reasons that the tertiary education sector throughout the Anglophone world has followed it. The impulse accords with all the right concerns related to learning-and-teaching quality but also social inclusion, equity, student-centredness and the democratic impulse behind massification. Constructive alignment is not a product of corporatization or the fiscal engineering of academies. Its tenets are deeply believed as the centrepiece of effective learning. My personal apostasy has nothing to do with a conspiracy theory and I still respect many initiatives created in the name of constructive alignment, clearly well intentioned, dispelling much that is obscure and mystifying and, by creating greater levels of transparency, potentially aiding in the self-regulated learning of students. Rather, my concerns derive solely from observation of syllabus and intellectual growth that are harmed by constructive alignment. These concerns have led me to form a belief that there must be something more, something beyond constructive alignment that is more congruent with creativity; and this desire to reach a more imaginative destiny for education in turn has led me to formulate an idea of post-constructivism, that is, an educational philosophy that is not based upon the student assimilating knowledge but gaining an identification with beautiful opportunities, an educational ontology rather than an epistemology.

Through Piaget, constructivism has given us a powerful model for how we make meaning for ourselves, namely by drawing phenomena to interact with our experiences and ideas. Coupled with the brilliance of Lev Vygotsky, we understand the importance of practical activity in a social context for learning. We no longer see education as a suite of hermetic instructions or lectures or even reading. All cognition, in fact, is mediated by a multitude of signs and symbols of a cultural nature; and consequently cognition itself is somewhat indivisible from the cultural practices, language and traditions that form those semantic conventions. So learning is highly socialized and must be developed in a socialized direction. Further, we acquire new knowledge by grafting it upon previous learning, embodied in the concept that Vygotsky named ‘the zone of proximal development’, where we make connexions with stock that we already possess. Part of the appeal of these formidable tenets of constructivism is that they make useful models in practice. Aided by the efforts of John Biggs (who coined the term constructive alignment) they have transformed education from a kind of pulpit-paradigm to a more learner-centred activity-rich set of educational practices. These mutations have been valuable and, up to a point, necessary. But they are structurally all based upon learning as knowledge-gaining and skill-gaining. They are fundamentally epistemological. They have little to do with the creative processes of what you do when you have some of this precious knowledge, how you synthesize it, adapt its language, challenge its premises, extrapolate from it, jettison it or worry over its implications. These creative phases are not necessarily about acquiring more knowledge but acquiring a reason to handle conversively the knowledge that one already has. The process within the learner is akin to that of the artist, that is, one discovers within oneself a kind of desire or amusement or vengeance that prompts a fresh treatment of the available knowledge, that pulls it out of indifference and makes it a vehicle for a vital impulse within the learner.

This vein of discovery is ontological because it is integral to the learner’s sense of self, to longing and predilection, a host of emotional investments that urge us to make use of what we have already encountered and to seek more of it as we go. We are not talking merely about the individual constructing knowledge in an active way (hence constructivism, the construction of meaning by the learner) nor even an idiosyncratic personal way. Rather, we are talking about prolific constructions—more than you can recognize— circulating in a learner’s mind and finding a match with an intuition, a fond idea that reinforces some growing view that the learner may have of herself or himself. Creativity is not a dispassionate process; it evolves amid seething conceits, identifications, frustrations and at times indulgence. Great editorial struggles are involved within the creative learner in an agony of big-headedness and self-containment.

Until we have an ontology of (post-constructivist) learning, we will only handle creativity apologetically, retrofitting unimaginative learning outcomes with an artificial creative spin. Even in arts and humanities, which ought to be a natural haven for the creative impulse, the liberality of students finding their own poetic desire, purpose and interpretation is receding. We have thoroughly bought the idea that constructive alignment is a necessary step toward learner-centredness; and the priority of learner-centredness, in turn, is essential to handling the great diversity of our students. In this mood, it seems aristocratic and utopian to want to return to a pre-constructivist world that had no learning outcomes. We envisage this reactionary backlash as the revenge of the old educational elite, wanting to revert to an exclusive system of self-motivated humanists. To want to abolish all the checks and balances of transparency and accessibility means disadvantaging all but the privileged students who were cast in the glamorous image of their lecturers. I find this dread illogical, because there is an equal and opposite call to democratize creativity; and at the present time, creative cultures are reserved for only a handful of privileged students who compose, make films, write poems and exhibit art and design. To democratize creativity means discovering and nurturing the underlying creativity among people who are not creatives. To extend the blessing to those currently shut out is just as important as the equity push of the last thirty years, that is, enticing into university the great diversity of learners who have until now been excluded.

This book develops a sceptical view of the current episteme that dominates the tertiary systems in our language. If our current emphasis on syllabus design is somewhat unfit to cultivate the autonomous thought of creativity, there is a question of what might be needed to offset it. A generation of academics has been brought up with the belief that greater engagement and student success—and with them greater levels of student-centredness, metacognition and self-regulated learning—can be achieved with better syllabus design. If academics use technology, institute active learning, and align their learning activities, delivery and assessment with the learning outcomes, excellence will prevail, as if educational effectiveness can be achieved with a relatively mechanical fix. I argue instead that we will find a more creative future through less mechanistic means, targeting rather the relationships between student and teacher and the economy of affections throughout the student learning experience. We do not necessarily have to abandon everything recommended by constructivism, as if to bury a mechanistic shibboleth; but for creativity’s sake, we must circumvent the more mortifying effects of constructive alignment on the student’s imaginative growth.

This book argues for cultivating certain happy aspects of the natural drama between teachers and students. The book rather emphasizes the niceness of the teacher; it seeks to penetrate the very fabric of expectation, student subjectivity, the inner meaning of engagement, the core dynamics of performativity and the live event in the classroom. These topics are conceived to offset the mechanistic emphasis which is the new comfort zone of educational design. I feel that the case is necessary, no matter how disruptive, to reassign these dimensions of learning and teaching to the priorities of educational development; but if we examine them with the long lens of history, the field turns from anxious entrapment in learning outcomes to the promise of a creative future.

1 A commonplace at variance with delivery: ‘despite its ubiquity in higher education discourse, creativity was not found to be explicit as a strategy or approach to practices of learning and teaching’. Erica McWilliam, Carrick Associate Fellowship Report, December, 2007 (retrieved December 2016 from

2 John Biggs and Catherine Tang, Teaching for Quality Learning at University (1999), Open University Press, McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead, Berkshire, 4th edition 2011, pp. 5 ff. (chapters 1 and 2).

3 See Erica McWilliam, ‘Is creativity teachable: Conceptualizing the creativity/pedagogy relationship in higher education’. Paper presented at the 30th HERDSA Annual Conference: Enhancing Higher Education, Theory and Scholarship, Adelaide 2007; and Erica McWilliam & S. Dawson, ‘Teaching for creativity: Towards sustainable and replicable pedagogical practice’. Higher Education, 56, 633–643 (doi: 10.1007/s10734- 008-9115-7).

4 Beautifully discussed by Joy Whitton in her doctoral thesis Fostering Imagination in Higher Education Teaching and Learning: Making Connections, Monash University, 2016.

5 Plato, Republic 401a—but could extend to the divine creation of animals, as in Plato’s Timaeus 41c. There is an adjectival form but this is also understood as ‘being of a craftsman’, Plato, Phaedrus 248e. Occasionally, the word surfaces adverbially, Aristophanes, Peace 429. See LSJ, sv.

6 e.g. ἐργατεία, which could be done by an artisan (χειροτέχνης); cf. creator on his or her own (αὐτοκτίστης), a prime generator (γενεσιάρχης), a founder in the sense of beginning things (κατάρχης), the maker of the world (κοσμοποιητής, κοσμουργός), a creator (οἰστρογενέτωρ), creator by hand (χειροτονητής) and life-fashioner (ζῳοπλάστης).

7 With adjectival (ποιητικός) and extensions such as creative of life (ζωοποιός).

8 Oxford English Dictionary: ‘1875 A. W. Ward Eng. Dram. Lit. I. 506 The spontaneous flow of his [sc. Shakespeare’s] poetic creativity. 1926 A. N. Whitehead Relig. in Making iii. 90 The creativity whereby the actual world has its character of temporal passage to novelty. Ibid. 152 Unlimited possibility and abstract creativity can procure nothing. 1959 Radio Times 23 Jan. 3/1 He [sc. Burns] was a man of overflowing creativity in so far as the phrase applies to his poetry.’ sv.

9 On the soul 428a12, or Metaphysics 1024b24; cf. Rhetoric 1370a28.

10 Plato, Theaetetus 152c, Sophist 264a, 264b.

11 οὐκ ἔστιν αἴσθησις, On the soul 428a5 and 22, 24.

12 ἐπιστήμη, νοῦς, διάνοια ibid. 428a17.

13 ὑπόληψις, On the soul 427b14.

14 ‘σοφωτέρα μιμήσεως δημιουργός’, Philostratus the Athenian, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 6.19.

15 Longinus 3.1; ‘rhetorical fantasy’, 15.2, 15.11 and ‘poetic fantasies’, Plutarch 2.759c.

16 ‘non è piccolo argomento della fantasia di chi lo porta, avvenga che talor possa esser falso; e non solamente questo, ma tutti i modi e costumi, oltre all’opere e parole, sono giudicio delle qualità di colui in cui si veggono.’ Il libro del cortegiano 2.28. All translations are those of the author, unless otherwise noted.

17 ‘“E’ non è possibile che tu non ci vegghi; egli è una fantasia che tu t’hai posta in capo”. “Oimè”, replicava l’altro, “che questa non è fantasia, né vi veggo io altrimenti che se non avessi mai avuti occhi in testa”.’ Castiglione, Cortegiano 2.86.

18 ‘Era in quel punto montata la fantasia a la donna di far una solenne paura a l’amante, e per questo invitava il marito a voler tagliar la veste, non perciò avendo animo che l’effetto seguisse.’ Bandello, Novelle 1.3.

19 ‘Essendo adunque Lattanzio a cena assettato, s’abbatté a caso a seder a canto a Caterina, la quale piú non gli pareva aver veduta, e, se pur veduta l’aveva, non gli era altrimente entrata in fantasia.’ 1.9.

20 ‘Il Bandello al molto cortese signore il signor Ermes Vesconte’, letter at Novelle 1.27.

21 ‘l’era entrata questa fantasia nel capo che non era bastante cosa del mondo a levarle questo farnetico di mente.’ 1.27.

22 ‘né gli metteva fantasia e grilli in capo, essendo il caso tale che quanto piú se ne parlava piú putiva.’ 2.24.

23 ‘l’essortò assai a deporre questa fantasia e pentirsi’, 2.22; ‘né si poteva levar questa sua fantasia di capo’, 2.32; ‘E non si potendo cavar di fantasia la sua Beatrice’, 2.28; ‘questa ladrona di Catella la quale non mi posso cavar fuor de la fantasia.’ 2.36; ‘Pertanto levati di capo queste fantasie, che sono piú per annoiarti e recarti danno che piacere né utile.’ 2.36.

24 There are approximately 150 instances in his Lives of the painters.

25 ‘E molti anni seguitò l’arte, disegnando continovamente e faccendo di rilievo cere et altre fantasie, che in brieve tempo lo fecero tenere (come egli era) il principale di quello esercizio.’ ‘Vita di Antonio e Piero Pollaiuolo’

26 ‘Nella quale oltra molti quadri e storie et altre sue fantasie, si vede un quadro lavorato a olio in su la calcina; cosa che ha retto alla acqua, al sole et al vento, e conservatasi fino ad oggi.’ Life of Giorgione.

27 ‘Nondimeno, benché egli a sì varie cose attendesse, non lasciò mai il disegnare et il fare di rilievo, come cose che gli andavano a fantasia più d’alcun’altra.’ Life of Leonardo.

28 ‘la stessa vita fantastica gli conduce a fini miserabili; come apertamente poté vedersi in tutte le azzioni di Piero di Cosimo. Il quale a la virtù che egli ebbe, se fusse stato più domestico et amorevole verso gli amici, il fine de la sua vecchiezza non sarebbe stato meschino’, Piero di Cosimo.

29 ‘Era costui tanto amico de la solitudine, che non aveva piacere se non quando pensoso da sé solo poteva andarsene fantasticando e fare i suoi castelli in aria.’ Piero di Cosimo.

30 ‘per la deformità sua è tanto stravagante, bizzarro e fantastico’; also an accusation levelled at Michelangelo: ‘Onde ne fu tenuto da chi superbo, et da chi bizzarro et fantastico, non havendo ne l’uno ne l’altro vitio, ma (come à molti eccellenti huomini e avvenuto) l’amore della virtù et la continua essercitatione di lei, lo facevan solitario, et cosi dilettarsi et appagarsi in quella, che le compagnie non solamente non gli davan contento, ma gli porgevan dispiacere, come quelle che lo sviavano dalla meditatione sua’, Ascanio Condivi, Vita di Michelagnolo Buonarroti (Rom 1553) 44r.

31 ‘Bâtit de vaines lois un code fantastique’, Boileau Satire 11.174. 32 John Dryden, Mariage à la mode 4.1.

33 ‘la fantasia stravolta, sconsigliata e maligna.’ Le donne curiose 3.4.

34 ‘In oggi vi sono tanti bei dizionari, che facilmente un uomo si può erudire.’ The count Ottavio replies: ‘In oggi non si studia più un’arte con fondamento. Si ricorre al dizionario, si apprende la cosa superfizialmente, si fa un embrione nella fantasia, non si digerisce bene veruna cosa, e gli uomini stessi diventano indici e dizionari.’ Carlo Goldoni, Il cavaliere di buon gusto 1.6.

35 ‘Sior Florindo caro, tutte pazzie, tutti inganni della fantasia, inganni dell’ambizion, che lusinga i omeni, e ghe dà da intender, che la vendetta più facile sia la più vera, e che per vendicarse del reo, sia lecito opprimer anca l’innocente.’ Le femmine puntigliose 3.5.

36 Canzoniere 73.61–63.

37 ‘in questa imaginazion fermatosi’, Decameron 3.1.

38 ‘Questa imaginazion sì gli confuse / e sì gli tolse ogni primier disegno’, Orlando furioso 9.15.

39 ‘Come ella s’orna e come il crin dispone / studia imitarla, e cerca il più che sai / di parer dessa, e poi sopra il verrone / a mandar giù la scala ne verrai. / Io verrò a te con imaginazione / che quella sii, di cui tu i panni avrai: / e così spero, me stesso ingannando, / venir in breve il mio desir sciemando.’ 5.25.

40 ‘Ora io su questo fatto tutto il dí discorrendo e diverse imaginazioni facendo, non v’ho mai altro compenso saputo ritrovare, se non uno che assai piú di tutti gli altri mi va per la fantasia, che è che io me ne vada a la corte del nostro supremo signore re Mattia.’ 1.22.

41 ‘si vede che talora l’imaginazione fa quello che farebbe il vero, come in questa novella intervenne.’ Letter al gentilissimo messer Domenico Campana detto Strascino 3.20.

42 ‘Andate col malanno e non mi rompete piú il capo con queste vostre false imaginazioni. Mò che febre peggio che continova è la vostra? Io non potrò ormai piú con voi vivere. Se avete gelosia de le mosche che per l’aria volano, che ve ne posso fare? Andatevi ad impiccare, e uscirete di questi vostri chimerici affanni.’ 1.43.

43 ‘e con la frequente imaginazione che del continuo aveva di arricchire l’arte del dipignere.’ Antonello da Messina.

44 ‘Èvvi lo svenimento della Madonna che è pietosissimo, ma molto più compassionevole lo aiuto delle Marie in verso di quella, per vedersi ne’ loro aspetti tanto dolore, quanto è appena possibile imaginarsi nel morire la più cara cosa che tu abbia, e stare in perdita della seconda.’ Ercole da Ferrara.

45 ‘la fine del mondo: invenzione bellissima, bizzarra e capricciosa, per la varietà di vedere tanti angeli, demoni, terremoti, fuochi, ruine e gran parte de’ miracoli di Anticristo; dove mostrò la invenzione e la pratica grande ch’egli aveva ne gli ignudi, con molti scorti e belle forme di figure, imaginandosi stranamente il terror di que’ giorni.’ Luca Signorelli.

46 ‘Dicono che in detta opera erano sei perle come nocciuole avellane, e non si può imaginare, secondo che s’è visto poi [in] un disegno di quella, le più belle bizzarrie di legami nelle gioie e nella varietà di molti putti et altre figure, che servivano a molti varii e graziati ornamenti.’ Lorenzo Ghiberti.

47 ‘Ma quello che fra i morti e vivi porta la palma e trascende e ricuopre tutti è il divino Michel Agnolo Buonarroti il qual non solo tien il principato di una di queste arti, ma di tutte tre insieme. Costui supera e vince non solamente tutti costoro, che hanno quasi che vinto già la natura, ma quelli stessi famosissimi antichi, che sì lodatamente fuor d’ogni dubbio la superarono: et unico giustamente si trionfa di quegli, di questi e di lei, non imaginandosi appena quella cosa alcuna sì strana e tanto difficile, che egli con la virtù del divinissimo ingegno suo, mediante la industria, il disegno, l’arte, il giudizio e la grazia, di gran lunga non la trapassi.’ Proemio terza parte.

48 ‘Et è cosa maravigliosa a considerare, che e’ penetrasse mai con lo ingegno in sì alta imaginazione.’ Tommaso Fiorentino (Giottino).

49 ‘Trovasi che Lionardo per l’intelligenzia de l’arte cominciò molte cose e nessuna mai ne finì, parendoli che la mano aggiugnere non potesse alla perfezzione de l’arte ne le cose, che egli si imaginava, con ciò sia che si formava nella idea alcune difficultà tanto maravigliose, che con le mani, ancora che elle fussero eccellentissime, non si sarebbeno espresse mai. E tanti furono i suoi capricci, che filosofando de le cose naturali, attese a intendere la proprietà delle erbe, continuando et osservando il moto del cielo, il corso de la luna e gli andamenti del sole. Per il che fece ne l’animo un concetto sì eretico, che e’ non si accostava a qualsivoglia religione, stimando per avventura assai più lo esser filosofo che cristiano.’ Leonardo da Vinci.

50 ‘Et imaginandosi di volere a olio colorire in muro, fece una composizione d’una mistura sì grossa, per lo incollato del muro, che continuando a dipignere in detta sala, cominciò a colare, di maniera che in breve tempo abbandonò quella.’ Leonardo.

51 ‘la quale pare impossibile ch’egli potesse non esprimere con la mano, ma imaginare con la fantasia’, Antonio da Correggio.

52 ‘E così la accompagnavano alcuni putti bellissimi quanto si può imaginare bellezza.’ Raphael. cf. ‘La quale invenzione, avendola fatta Rafaello sopra la finestra, viene a esser quella facciata più scura, avvenga che quando si guarda tal pittura ti dà il lume nel viso e contendono tanto bene insieme la luce viva con quella dipinta co’ diversi lumi della notte, che ti par vedere il fumo della torcia, lo splendor dell’angelo con le scure tenebre della notte sì naturali e sì vere, che non diresti mai che ella fussi dipinta, avendo espresso tanto propriamente sì difficile imaginazione.’ Raphael; and also ‘Il quale fece egli finire con tanta perfezzione, che sino da Fiorenza fece condurre il pavimento da Luca della Robbia. Onde certamente non può per pitture, stucchi, ordine, invenzioni più belle né farsi, né imaginarsi di fare.’ Raphael.

53 ‘Oltra che e’ non si può desiderare o imaginar meglio d’un velo postole intorno, lavorato da lui con tanta bellezza e con tanta leggiadria, che il vederlo solo è miracolo.’ Andrea Sansovino

54 ‘E dilettossi tanto Spinello di farlo orribile e contraffatto, che e’ si dice (tanto può la imaginazione) che la figura da lui dipinta gli apparve in sogno, domandandolo dove egli la avesse vista sì brutta e perché fattole tale scorno co’ suoi pennelli.’ Spinello Aretino.

55 ‘Quivi fece nella Pace sopra le cose di Raffaello una opra, della quale non dipinse mai peggio a’ suoi giorni, né posso imaginare onde ciò procedesse, se non ch’egli gonfio di vana gloria di se stesso, niente stimava le cose d’altri: per che gli avvenne che, ciò poco apprezzando, la sua fu poi meno stimata.’ Rosso Fiorentino.

56 ‘Et il primo che vi fece, fu in San Petronio in una cappella un San Rocco di molta grandezza, al quale diede bellissima aria et a parte per parte lo fece veramente molto bene, imaginandoselo alquanto sollevato da ‘l dolore che gli dava la peste nella coscia, il che mostra con la testa guardando il cielo in attitudine di ringraziare.’ Francesco Mazzola.

57 ‘A San Simeone fecero la facciata de’ Gaddi, ch’è cosa di maraviglia e di stupore nel considerarvi dentro i belli e tanti e varii abiti, la infinità delle celate antiche, de’ soccinti, de’ calzari e delle barche, ornate con tanta leggiadria e copia d’ogni cosa, che imaginare si possa un sofistico ingegno,’ Polidoro da Caravaggio; and later in the same text: ‘E sopra altre storie lavorate con alcuni vasi d’oro contrafatti con tante bizzarrie dentro, che occhio mortale non potrebbe imaginarsi altro, né più bello né più nuovo, con alcuni elmi etrusci da rimaner confuso per la moltiplicazione e copia di sì belle e capricciose fantasie, ch’uscivano loro de la mente. Le quali opere sono state imitate da infiniti che lavorano in tali bizzarrie. Fecero ancora il cortile di questa casa, e similmente la loggia, colorita di grotteschine picciole, che sono stimate divine. Insomma ciò che eglino toccarono, con grazia e bellezza infinita assoluto renderono.’ Polidoro da Caravaggio.

58 ‘Le quali capricciose invenzioni dottamente con senso poetico e pittoresco ha garbatissimamente finite … la quale opera fu talmente considerata d’imaginazione e poi sì ben condotta, che non pitture o cose imaginate, ma vive e vere si rappresentano, perché qui si ha paura che non ti cada addosso, et il calor del sole nel friggere e nell’abbruciar l’ale de ‘l misero giovane fa conoscere il fumo e ‘l fuoco acceso.’ Giulio Romano.

59 ‘parte ritratti di naturale e parte imaginati’, Perino del Vaga.

60 ‘Infelici secoli possono chiamarsi quegli che privi sono stati di così bella virtù, la quale ha forza, quando è da dotta mano, o in muro o in tavola, in superficie di disegno, o con colore lavorata, tenere gli animi fermi et attenti a risguardare il magisterio delle opere umane, rappresentando la idea e la imaginazione di quelle parti che sono celesti, alte e divine, dove per pruova si mostra l’altezza dello ingegno e le invenzioni dello intelletto,’ Andrea Taffi.

61 ‘Les esprits vifs, pleins de feu, et qu’une vaste imagination emporte hors des règles et de la justesse, ne peuvent s’assouvir de l’hyperbole. Pour le sublime, il n’y a, même entre les grands génies, que les plus élevés qui en soient capables.’ Jean de La Bruyère, Les caractères 2.55.

62 ‘À un homme vain, indiscret, qui est grand parleur et mauvais plaisant, qui parle de soi avec confiance et des autres avec mépris, impétueux, altier, entreprenant, sans mœurs ni probité, de nul jugement et d’une imagination très libre, il ne lui manque plus, pour être adoré de bien des femmes, que de beaux traits et la taille belle.’ 4.31.

63 ‘Il ne faut pas qu’il y ait trop d’imagination dans nos conversations ni dans nos écrits; elle ne produit souvent que des idées vaines et puériles, qui ne servent point à perfectionner le goût et à nous rendre meilleurs: nos pensées doivent être prises dans le bon sens et la droite raison, et doivent être un effet de notre jugement.’ 6.17.

64 ‘L’on a vu, il n’y a pas longtemps, un cercle de personnes des deux sexes, liées ensemble par la conversation et par un commerce d’esprit. Ils laissaient au vulgaire l’art de parler d’une manière intelligible; une chose dite entre eux peu clairement en entraînait une autre encore plus obscure, sur laquelle on enchérissait par de vraies énigmes, toujours suivies de longs applaudissements: par tout ce qu’ils appelaient délicatesse, sentiments, tour et finesse d’expression, ils étaient enfin parvenus à n’être plus entendus et à ne s’entendre pas eux-mêmes. Il ne fallait, pour fournir à ces entretiens, ni bon sens, ni jugement, ni mémoire, ni la moindre capacité: il fallait de l’esprit, non pas du meilleur, mais de celui qui est faux, et où l’imagination a trop de part.’ 6.65.

65 John Dryden, Marriage à-la-mode; cf. ‘Seen by a strong imagination’s beam, / That tricks and dresses up the gaudy dream’.

66 ‘les points d’honneur imaginaires’, op. cit. 11.12; see also ‘Ainsi le sage, qui n’est pas, ou qui n’est qu’imaginaire, se trouve naturellement et par lui-même au-dessus de tous les événements et de tous les maux’, 12.3; ‘Les enfants ont déjà de leur âme l’imagination et la mémoire, c’est-à-dire ce que les vieillards n’ont plus, et ils en tirent un merveilleux usage pour leurs petits jeux et pour tous leurs amusements: c’est par elles qu’ils répètent ce qu’ils ont entendu dire, qu’ils contrefont ce qu’ils ont vu faire, qu’ils sont de tous métiers’, 12.53; ‘Ceux qui, sans nous connaître assez, pensent mal de nous, ne nous font pas de tort: ce n’est pas nous qu’ils attaquent, c’est le fantôme de leur imagination.’ 13.35.

67 Erica McWilliam, Carrick Associate Fellowship Report, December, 2007, retrieved December 2016 from

68 ‘Tout est dit, et l’on vient trop tard depuis plus de sept mille ans qu’il y a des hommes et qui pensent.’ Les caractères 2.1.

69 It is notable that Martha Nussbaum specifically invokes the concept of love in her analysis of imagination in education when she explains that ethical exhortations ‘can only be promoted by a culture that is receptive in both curricular content and pedagogical style, in which, it is not too bold to say, the capacities for love and compassion infuse the entirely of the educational endeavour.’ Not for profit: why democracy needs the humanities, Princeton University Press, 2010, p. 112.

70 Nussbaum, Not for profit, pp. 95–96.

71 Nussbaum, Not for profit, pp. 108–109.

72 ‘bald auf den Begriff und die Vorstellung’, Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie: Versuch einer Selbstkritik, 19.

73 In 2016, my colleague Gerry Rayner commissioned students as part of Monash University’s ‘Winter Research Scholarships’ to investigate what students find most conducive to their learning. All the descriptors developed by the students were on the side of the enthusiasm of the lecturers.

Creativity Crisis

   by Robert Nelson