Invention and Expanding Creativity

An Abbreviated (Pre)History of Text and Fixed Image Media<br />

Faust frontispiece, 1828

Invention has at least two phases. In order to create, the inventor must be able to synthesize all available cultural, historical, and literary production on a given topic. Drawing on transdisciplinary knowledge, the inventor may proceed to build from the old knowledge in order to create the new. In this way, the influx of creativity and imagination brought on by a market newly flooded with mass-produced and cheaply consumed stories prepared artists for the eventual excursion into text and fixed image dependent narration (Kubler 2008). George Kubler explores the theoretical framework behind aesthetic and useful inventions, and his approach complicates a discussion that can otherwise be read as overly reductive. While Kubler may agree that the final product is necessarily a result of intermediate technologies or developments, he distinguishes between cultural and technological determinism in a way that reveals the true interconnectedness of culture and technology. 

George Kubler explicitly states that “useful inventions alter mankind only indirectly by altering his environment; aesthetic inventions enlarge human awareness directly with new ways of experiencing the universe” (Kubler 2008). In this way, Kubler attributes greater influence to the aesthetic inventions of man, many of which are completely intangible. The compelling narratives, increased influx of narrative ideas, and the development of imagined communities based on fandom, directly contribute to and make possible, the development of the American comic book.

Robert Lesser further complicates our argument by examining how improvements in printing technology and paper-making enabled writers and artists to tell more complex and engaging stories. Lesser writes the book, Pulp Art : Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines, which examines the ways in which the cover art of early pulp magazines provokes the reader’s imagination in such a way that she is better able to visualize and/or experience the events, people, and places described within the related stories (Lesser 2005). It is only through the development of color print technologies that these highly detailed and meticulously painted images find themselves accurately reproduced for mass consumption.

Prior to the advent of color ink technologies, writers were largely dependent upon words to tell their stories. This became particularly troublesome when introducing new genres and modes of writing. For example, Margaret Cavendish wrote The Blazing World in 1666 with no illustrations whatsoever. This pseudo-novel may be the oldest example of science fiction written in English. However, it was and has since been largely ignored, in part, because the things which Cavendish wrote about were so new that they required too much cognitive energy from the reader. Descriptions of glorious palaces made out of gleaming gemstones in a world where the sun never sets led readers to assume Cavendish was mad rather than brilliant (Cavendish 1666). They simply couldn't stretch their imaginations far enough to see the amazing world that she portrayed. Had she been able to illustrate her text in the ways modern comic book and graphic novel artists do, her work may have been received in a very different light.

Invention and Expanding Creativity