TEXT review

A marketplace of ideas

review by by Jeri Kroll


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Dominique Hecq (ed) 
The Creativity Market: Creative Writing in the 21st Century
New Writing Viewpoints 
Multilingual Matters, Bristol UK 2012
ISBN 9781847697097
Pb 229pp AUD24.95


The Creativity Market: Creative Writing in the 21st Century, edited by Dominique Hecq, offers readers an experience akin to browsing through a marketplace of ideas. Styles range from the scholarly to the colloquial with one creative chapter (a short two-act play) and a poetic Preface included. The collection originated at a formal ideas marketplace ­– the 2008 Australasian Association of Writing Programs ‘Creativity and Uncertainty’ Conference ­– and in the responses Hecq received to her paper, ‘Banking on Creativity?’ Subsequently, that paper was circulated to a range of writer-academics in Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some essays, therefore, critique, echo or develop Hecq’s arguments or respond to motifs, such as Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus as well as Walter Benjamin’s analysis of it. Some provide higher education, national or industry case studies to pursue their arguments.

The introduction announces that: ‘The Creativity Marketboth focuses and broadens the international debate by investigating how the creative and expressive arts are positioned within existing “knowledge economies” [sic] (OECD, 1996: 7)’ (2). It takes a global perspective to contextualise how economic and research discourses have impacted upon the academy and the resulting competing agendas. This summation is accurate, although the book itself doesn’t seem to be very ‘different from other books in that it provides a space where creative workers and educators can engage with the larger theoretical discussions through their craft and reflexive practices’ (2). Many recent books provide just such a space. That said, The Creativity Market is an extremely worthwhile read, in particular for some cogently argued and comprehensively researched chapters. A few are disorganised and perhaps under-researched, missing key articles in the areas under discussion. All engage, however, to some degree with the questions: what is creativity (a noun, a metaphor, a myth?), what are its sources and what is its purpose? In her introduction, Hecq notes that contributors approach the term creativity in either of two ways: ‘those . . . looking at the creative mind, albeit within a specific socio-political context; and those dealing with management and policy, with direct reference to national economies’ (4). The strictures of the publishing industry — and, in particular, the oft-cited thesis criterion that the creative work be ‘publishable’ — also receive detailed treatment and reflect upon how authors must position themselves in the academy. Hecq’s introduction provides a valuable summary of recent research into the creative mind as well as concepts such as ‘“new knowledge products”, “knowledge economy”, “creative economy” and “knowledge capitalism”’ (6).  Indeed, many contributors play variations on the theme of buying and selling: what are we selling in creative arts higher education and why do people buy?

This review does not have space to discuss key points in each chapter, which readers can find in the second part of Hecq’s introduction, so I will focus on those that I found most advance debates in their respective areas. Graeme Harper, focusing on the recent UK political context, asks what might be lost when aesthetic achievement becomes confused with commercial imperatives and, in particular, critiques how we advertise universities as sites of creative activity. Government policy replete with buzzwords such as creativity, innovation, originality and invention exerts unhealthy pressure on the academy. Hecq’s ‘Banking on Creativity’ chapter analyses global developments in higher education. Calling attention to what she calls a  ‘discursive crisis,’ arising from ‘economic and scientific paradigms …. being conflated,’ she considers how ‘quantifying, evaluating and cashing in on creativity have become problematic, as is the case in creative arts research’ (24). She makes the point that policy-makers have difficulty in understanding the nature of artistic practice, where experimentation and failure sometimes go hand in hand. Jen Webb’s ‘Creativity and the Marketplace’ cleverly unpacks the Greek concept of the ‘agora,’ the communal space where political, religious, economic, educational and social interactions took place. The university, she argues, by providing a place where practice can occur freely, can function like the agora, to some extent satisfying marketplace and creative imperatives and, hence, healing the disjunction between art and craft.

Jeremy Fisher’s ‘The Publishing Paradigm: Commercialism versus Creativity’ updates what we have known from previous research and government reports about the economic state of Australia’s writers, and includes an incisive analysis of why digital publishing hasn’t been taken up wholesale by large publishers. He explains commercial pressures, emphasising the financial context of authorship. Useful essays that critique bibliometric and journal ranking systems in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and which analyse the effects of neo-liberal policies on the arts, are otherwise hampered by being somewhat out of date in terms of policy and statistics. This is the result of either a time lag between submission of chapters and publication, or of too narrow a view of program offerings and student cohorts. Some universities in Australia, for example, might take fee-paying domestic students for doctorates, but many don’t, in which case their students are awarded a Research Training Scheme place and, hence, do not pay tuition. Mike Harris’ case study of his TIE (Theatre in Education) company is one of the most entertaining reads, providing an effective model of collaborative community arts work, including how to engage with stakeholders and how to negotiate to maintain the writer’s artistic values. Finally, ‘On the Commercialisation of Creativity in the Merlion State’ by Eric Tinsay Valles engages with creative arts policy in the city-state Singapore and how centralisation affects practitioners. It provides a fascinating case study that raises more general questions about the implications of becoming a ‘creative nation,’ including the role of public support for the arts, the nature of artistic independence and the search for a global audience within the context of postcolonial nation-building.

This collection, focused on creative writing and the global marketplace, contains provocative essays that interrogate the uses and misuses of the term ‘creativity,’ as exploited by government, business, advertising and higher education. It also addresses the question of whether or how creative individuals and those stakeholders can interact profitably, contributing to aesthetic excellence as well as to global knowledge and economic progress.


Works cited

OECD 1996 The Knowledge-based Economy, Organisation For Economic Co-Operation And Development, Paris return to text


Professor Jeri Kroll is currently Dean of Graduate Research at Flinders University where she established the Creative Writing Program. She has published over 20 books for adults and young people. Swamp Soup (2012, for children) and Workshopping the Heart: New and Selected Poems (2013) are recent books. Research Methods in Creative Writing (Palgrave Macmillan 2013) and ‘Creative Writing and Education’ in the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Creative Writing are recent scholarly works. A staged reading of her verse novel, Vanishing Point, took place at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ‘Page to Stage’ Festival (2011). Puncher and Wattman will publish the book in 2014.


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Vol 17 No 2 October 2013
General editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Kevin Brophy & Enza Gandolfo
Reviews editor: Linda Weste