For a Good Poet's Made, as Well as Born: The Relational Ontology of Shakespeare’s Genius

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Abstract

Folk and scholarly conjectures on the nature of creative genius often focus on intrapsychic processes: The explanations centre on the person, the creator, transcending the more prosaic forces that shape everyday, routine cognition. Focusing on the alleged extraordinary character of a creator deflects attention from the emergent, distributed and relational nature of creativity. A more productive research agenda considers a range of factors, operating at different time scales, that guide and constrain the manufacture of creativity. We argue that a transactional perspective is particularly fruitful for the analysis of the dramatic work of William Shakespeare. Drama is an inherently relational art form created by the writer, the director, actors and audience. Further, Shakespeare’s output is a palimpsest of classical texts and writers contemporary to him, and was shaped by practical constraints. Viewing his work as situated in a historical time period and in a dialogue with other voices gives us a fuller account of the ontological locus of his creativity.

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