Before Creativity, 1860-1940


ACLS Project Development Grants




The concept of creativity is a product of history that was largely absent from US vernacular prior to the 1930s. More democratic than “genius” and more inclusive of the sciences than “culture,” creativity offered a heuristic for explaining a host of active verbs: discover, create, learn, imagine, invent, and sell. Yet it also foreclosed an earlier, more complicated conceptual landscape. This book investigates the vocabularies, practices, and identity scripts through which Americans understood the nature of learning and discovery before the emergence of creativity discourse. The grant will support research and writing during the summers of 2018 and 2019.