thumbnail of Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in literature, part one
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
From the Great Hall of the Cooper Union in New York City. National Educational radio presents the Cooper Union forum series on peace love and creativity the hope of mankind. These programs are recorded by station WNYC. Here I was the chairman of the go for you good for Dr. Johnson. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. German John's new career I was speaking to you for the great hall of the Cooper Union where we're continuing with the program I'm proud to be. And would you have some sort of a home was a piece of hope of learning a topic for discussion to do with through the DNA literature always figure the doctor already talked to a painter and one might
have hoped. Wonderful people that you could possibly do background. Being a sterling professor of French literature of the university he came to New York City from the wilds of them haven. So for his background to do with the higher ups. Cambridge University Britain more interested in a professor of comparative to French literature. And you refer to you or your. Sister like Professor French citizens like you. There was no mean feat. Case anybody doesn't know it was
credible. I want to see here the writer I'm so proud of you know where to shoot cargo Come along be it when those around them are doing it. He was written he has written over 25 books many articles. It is absolutely with us. Darren Prince Harry already better when the nicest people like are introduced to the pair up with Mr. Fairchild ladies and gentlemen creators all of you of course or if not friends of friends of mankind or trying to establish peace in the hope of mankind of the title of the series goes on in this country in order to unfreeze. But in this country probably more than
in any other country or the present time. There is one very I'm wishing problem among all of us who call themselves intellectuals. All we have to deal with the things of the spirit in the things of the mind and that problem is that after all the immense progress which has been achieved in education in the last half century in this country we just. Do not turn out enough. Create enough men of imagination in the arts in literature and in politics and in other realms of life. Enough people might cope with the very difficult events which are surrounding us on all sides. It is indeed a very tragic situation to which all of us in the universities all of us educators are alluded to. We don't quite know what to do about it and I'm not going tonight to give you secrets because I don't have an ear. But certainly if there is a fate which reforms of a nurse educators that is to try to detect future creators training future creators or any rate not time for them to change by metaphor or not dedicate
the potential creative talents which we have in America at the present time and there are many but somehow Certainly we all feel so anxious because we don't have enough to cope with what America should be in the face of history and indeed ending with said in a famous sentence. Time the roads the new roads everything. And eventually all civilizations have perished and ours may well perish from Seoul. But perhaps there will be one thing when they will survive and that is where the creators. In the fields of the arts and literature maybe 20 maybe a hundred five hundred centuries from now the only thing in need by which America may survive and may be remembered when we all realize that with a population of 200 million we proportionately do not have 40 times more creators whatever that may be than we had when the population was only 5 million people at the time of the founding fathers in the middle or at the end of the 18th century. This situation is not unique of course and exceptional in America it
is found to the same extent or more or less the same extent in Germany in France in England and elsewhere. But after all if there is one truth that we can say about this year 1968 it is that the fate of saving the world or attempting to find the word to civilize the world of the future has been thrust upon the shoulders on the laps of the Americans and it is up to them today to effect the breakthroughs which are known. Maybe in the future save mankind and save America we're saving the rest of the world. We have had all kinds of breakthroughs in science in technology in medicine in this country as you know can boast of a growing very large number of Nobel Prizes in a great many years in building computers and so on. America certainly stands under has accomplished what no other country not even Russia which has made some progress in the last 40 years has been able to accomplish. But in a timely fashion. In all that pertains to politics to social studies to social events
to the art of conducting people which after all is politics and he's also the author Richard. There we have not matched the great creative and imaginative achievements which have been affected in those are the rhythms and we don't quite know where to turn I have attended like every one of my colleagues a number of conferences on the subject about creativity about leadership as we sometimes call it or about excellence. Mr. Garner we're just now resigning as you know as secretary of health welfare and education. I've written him self on the subject of excellence many others have attempted to write and written but I repeat we have no secrets. And we're not sure in fact that with modern civilization being what it is with a great development of science specialization technology we are not perhaps preventing we are not in fact stunting the growth of creativity in a number of the young people whom we have literally within our reach. As a captive audience when we teach in the universities in the colleges of America there used to be a time early in the century someone wrote
a book or a dozen titles. When America went through what was called The Age of confidence in the nineteen thousand one thousand two hundred under the time the ideal of most people came from the shores of Europe was to establish themselves in America as only kind of a planned or high class and to conform and to fit in and just to enjoy all the goods of life without having perhaps to fight circlet without getting in tangled into all these alliances against which Washington Jefferson and wanders in the past the ideal that was being concealed. As an idea or a platitudinous as it were I platitudinous one in which all we had to do was just to accept things around and to adopt to adopt the things as they were and to be some kind of benign and well-meaning conformists. Not only does you know it has gotten worse with were one then with the Great Depression of 1929 and then with all of the problems and the intrusion or perhaps the greatest event in the intellectual history of America in the present century. The
intrusion of a sense of tragedy. When I first began teaching here in the early twenties no one could mention even the world tragedy. No one could teach tragedy in universities. Tragedy was supposed to be a thing for the old fashioned countries of Europe where indeed there have been so many worn Rich Rosen racial feuds and so on. But this country thought that it has gone beyond that and never would fall into it again. We have been as you know were indeed very sadly disappointed. We know today that there is tragedy and there is also it has been called by writer Niebuhr the you login an ironic American history a kind of tragic irony outside. Inside the RNA which we all witnessed today in the present war which we did also experience in 1945 when apparently we felt we had to throw atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ironic because it meant trying to do more in fact perpetrating a certain evil with the hope of maybe a vain hope that it would avoid a greater evil or bring about perhaps a
greater good eventually. Ever since then the age of conferences there has been that another book was written by an English poet W.H. Auden who became an American titled The Age of Anxiety. It's not the best book of poetry but it is indeed again a very telling and a very cogent title under age of anxiety they were the age of the generation just before were walked through and it is still in universities now. The age of the generations which are followed will work too. We are doing it in that any given time. We all realise university presidents Deans scholars and so on and even the very humble students that we have got to try and effect also in the fields of the arts in the field of literature in the field of human relations. And after all literature is part of the human relations. It deals with men and women and usually assembled together that we have to deal with those problems. And we have to try today to effect a breakthrough similar to those which we have affected in the sciences. First and I don't mean to be a willful pessimistic thus far we
all confess that we have not been able to achieve it. We have conferences on leadership one or two or three every year we try to get together and explain to each other how we might perhaps detect the future leaders of the very great men who had been down to the Shakespeare or shall we say the Mark Twains maybe on the Melville's on the forms of the great painters and the great musicians of the future in this country. I'm not surprised. We have to confess we have failed or at least we have not conspicuously succeeded. I'm not going to try and redefine it we all know what it is from really works of literature but only a few words to relate it to what is called in creativity in the serious literature as you know of course. With an insight into life and an understanding of life which probably would be devoid of if we did not have literature literature is not life not even realistic literature not even the most naturalistic literature that of Zora for instance or that of drys or in America. But it does give us
trying to cling to a mutual interest. If the elective also portrayal of life which enables us to Sri into life more clearly more insightfully than we would without literature. It helps us live and this is the first function and you know that to do that. It certainly does take people magination more sensitiveness and also agreeing to give sometimes also have suffered more misfortunes and more unhappiness than the average man. Literature a second rate is much more than a merely an understanding of life on insight into like it is also a multiplication of life it is a new gentrification of life as it is it is lived but multiplied by ten or hundred or a thousand or even a million. Because it is only what is turns in life. The tension of the great problems the struggles which come into literature. You probably remember the famous first sentence of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy which is happy families of no Bisquick and happy families in need of no place in crowded dick not even in comedy and
certainly no place in modern fiction. It takes not only so. Misfortune to be creative in literature but it takes also that announcement of life as it is which enables us to understand it better but also to live it more intensely and more vicariously. Literature has always been the favorite means of expression of men and women. Ever since as you know the very early times long before even in France Great Literature in Hebrew literature and it certainly has not lost any importance today in spite of the mass media use byte of the competition with other arts and so on. It is more lively than ever it is more to religiously read and develop in the paperbacks. Never a country never have the Bible and agree project writers and even Virgil and Bentley and Shakespeare and Rush and good so many others never have they been read by so many people and probably will miss a truthfully enjoyed also by so many people. Understood and explained also in many books of criticism by so many people as they are
today in the world. Not only because there are more people who can read and write but because there are many more so we are interested in looking at that portrayal of themselves distorting but in some ways more truthful portray of themselves a little bit and lightens them and illuminates them on their own lives or perhaps on the lives that they would like to leave on the lives of other people that they cannot share. Being that we realize today that we need certainly not only emerge richer literature than we have in terms of abundance and plentiful but we need also a much more profound literature with perhaps geniuses of very great talents trying to define the world in a few minutes. And we know we realize that we just do not have them and do not have enough of them. I do not mean invidiously here to mention all kinds of names of modern writers. Some may be your friends. Saul Bellow or Norman Mailer or many others. America certainly has a number of I mean and writers. We don't have many great ones. I don't think there isn't a great one in fact in
England when we are asked to suggest cunning little Nobel Prize in Literature every year. We are very well put. Suggest a new one to write in English language at the present time. There may be a few As it happens and this is not due to and this is the real deal my own countryman. There may be a few more in France people like marrow and certain communities used as you know and perhaps even backward. But even there on the whole we have a rather small number of great men of men of immense creative power in literature or in philosophy than proportionately we had at the time of the Renaissance or the time or the French called the great classical age in the 17th century. Why is that a number of reasons of course can be analyzed. Try here to mention trusting you to complete my very cursory and very hasty remarks with reflections of your own suffering from economists and first saw if you see it which eventually will germinate in some of you and let me hope. Hope is not in vain hope that there might be some creators or some potential creators in the new and
that perhaps even try to understand what creation is or what creation is not and should not be or how we should not perhaps prevent creators from developing themselves letter so that from my own lecture here a very modest one tonight and others in the series. You may have a few more insights into creativity IG and perhaps eventually a rouser on yourselves more creators than we would have otherwise. All that I can attempt to do and this is a very vast program as it is is first of all across to try and describe and analyze the very little we know about creativity. Have been many books on in there is one which sells in the paperback food of all kinds of extracts from mathematicians artists and so on. But on the whole we are very poorly informed on it we hardly know we need what creativity is and we hardly know even what genius is second nature and it is writing more important I would like to try and define or determine for you and call my own sake some of the obstacles which perhaps today in the modern world especially in a very advanced
technological country like this one. The obstacles which missed turn today in the face of it were all in the path of creativity which did not exist to the same extent 10 15 20 centuries ago and certainly addressing myself to myself also as an educator to my own irit. What can we do about it. I think we should be pragmatic about it in the good American tradition. And if we are we educators of all those who are concerned with creativity Let us try and find out how in the future perhaps we might encourage more creators or at least not prevent them from developing or maybe to take them among their own students even the pupils in schools and bring about there for all the flowering of the new source of talents in music in all the arts in architecture and so on in the mass media. Television in the movies and so on and we have done thus far. Let me try without any further ado. All to fulfill the very mention the U.S. very ambitious program I am of course very keenly aware of my own inadequacy my own.
My sole consolation is that I've read many books about creativity in the past on many articles. I don't believe anyone knows very much more than probably you do on than probably even I do in my present stage in life and therefore we are all more or less in the same boat. Our real challenge however we have to remember this is not to their challenge with Russia or with communist China tomorrow or with other sections of the world and still be rivalries which eventually lead to wars and more destruction. Our real challenge and we educators repeat that to ourselves very often is with ourselves. It is indeed to try and struggle with all the immense possibilities which are right in this country in the youth of America. And if I may have another world which is somewhat worse. Since you had a very brief sketch of my long but very monotonous career I think I may say this. I have taught in three or four countries and been invited in all kinds of countries again in Europe and so on. I had left America a certain time I've chosen to come back with no compulsion of any kind
religious racial or whatever it could have been and if I had done so it is because I have so much confidence in the youth of America and I'm not mincing words you're flattering about it which I usually foreign profoundly believe is the most given probably anywhere in the world at the present time. Now you mention possibility there is immense. Potentially there is no number of reasons ethnic mixture in the youth of this country and I think we might very well be funny we had perhaps a better system of education if we were more courageous about it. Sometimes we are sort of the more exacting and demanding we ourselves teachers if we talk I think we can make an immense breakthrough or a jump and lean forward which would confound India in all the countries of Europe and of Asia. But thus far we are still only on the eve of it and we are not advancing as fast as we could. Brief historical sketch about creativity since this is the world around which the series tonight has been organized the world is of course a new world to create a god created the world
in the first chapter of Genesis but applied to artists and even mathematicians and scientists and men of letters and so on. It is relatively new if not the world at least as a concept. Very briefly like other worlds of the same ilk like sincerity like originality like genius like authenticity it only came to the fore in the 18th century with people like de Rohan Francis Lessing in Germany two or three others in England it is only a dark time that people realize that there was in the creators a certain spark is a certain quality which was found probably no one else that we might call genius or originality or creativity and that's what is really all that give It was indeed extremely important. Goodwin the famous little poem says that the greatest gift that because of the children of the earth may be and value it is the gift of personally personality and personality Easynews on it and in the eyes of many of us. The essence of creativity of creativeness
a man began to realize when you wrote or painted or compose musical sculpture or architecture that he had also to assert his own singularity and be as different from him. The people of the world might or could not the problem was not in the wrong to allow the singular to be persecuted by the proof that is by the collective and the mass but to let the single individual detach himself isolating himself even from the masses and try and shine out not without cause a great deal of conceit and vanity which was over the typical of the eighteenth century was in the age of the enlightenment of players but I pass on the romantic narrative from did Rowan from Bergen from Lessing and eventually from girl from a girl and that was the famous cult of the genius which was indeed one of the elements of the romantic religion. But you didn't use your Garces somewhere your god was born in 1813 if I remember right and died in
1955 I believe that it corresponds more to the post. Again your generation in Germany and to what we call the romantic age in Europe was thought very deeply about this notion of genius who knew that he himself was and with very uncommon gifts your god system where innocence not even God rules heaven understands genius and there was an everywhere in France we in England with Byron and with philosophy. It was not only we powered it curled in the kind of worship or religious worship of genius Schopenhauer who wrote also about the same time 18 18 18 20 it if published I think is great. The World as Will and representation in 1819 Schopenhauer says in one of his essays on genius a man of learning is a man was revealed a great deal a man of genius is one from whom we learn something. That which the genius from nobody. In other words there was a distinction made and even the cleavage between talent
and genius. Talent is what other people have and that we respect. We can probably mash through very hard work if you give it but genius is where you have the talent Shakespeare was then supposed to be the typical genius in literature and later on of course be Tovan in music up to the top and did finally become recognized by successes and posterity and genius man someone with whom we feel that we could not even by dint of hard work equally. Ah become similar to Isabel and almost as much above. Regardless a would be about the average mankind or maybe shall I say without impudence as most of us human beings feel that we are better than yours that there is a difference not of degree between us and many of us but indeed a difference of degree which is so wide that it is practically can't amount to being a difference of nature they are not the real thing. And those who know the whole 19 century will see that genius this one found cannot be a quark merely by learning the nineteenth century with the
great center of learning and scholarship to be sure but they soon realize that it is not because you are you do you. And I've had the very best kind of traditional and even conventional education that you have been years wondering many of us who know too much cannot create too much knowledge means that we are so conscious of what other people of done and this is important where creativity is concerned we become so humbled by the realization that so-and-so has done paintings or a day which operates greater than what we could achieve. So once was over the compose music probably greater and more overwhelming than anything we could attend and the same in literature the same in architecture the same even in greasy ink that in fact only fountain already gives enough impudence enough insolence enough Americans who will be created so that he brushes aside all the others and he says to himself one day well I won't care any more about what the others of done I forget about them. I even scorn them. My own personality my own original individuality
and I shall try that way to be a genius. Scholarship is not completely unnecessary of course and it is important to know in order to think and even to know in order to feel better more acutely. But certainly it is not a big condition of yours as very soon the 19th century realize the fact that the 19th century also became aware of is that it was probably wrong of that period to go into sources and into what we call the genetic explanation of one of the mistakes which I think that's untrue and that we make also at the present time and perhaps winning number of geniuses among us is that we try to explain the genius by its antecedents by what you come from. Right. Buy all kinds of borrowings which we in this crowd thought we would find in writers were preceded him or bankers or musicians would come before we resort to the genetic explanation that is explanation by the causes or by
what came before. And I personally believe that it was a mistake and it is still a very grave mistake today which hampers many of us in the university world among geniuses all writers of creators and that mistake is to start from the worst to rise gradually to the highest it has been nothing the fundamental mistake committed by psychoanalysis and progeny is among so many others and lightening of their theories maybe oh great an egg they always take it for granted that if you rub a little the skin on the surface. If you scrub all that seems to be beautiful and sublimated as they call it you may get the real essence and that the worst is probably also the most authentic on the truth. I think it is a mistake and I think it has indeed prevented a great number of people from being themselves and rising above those complexes or obsessions or repressions which they may be afflicted with or that they might very well also rise above if only they are the courage to do so. My point if I may make it clear more clearly in a nutshell is this. Normally I think I
will imitate in literature the yacht and most walks of life the methods of science which is in chemistry especially to start from the lower the simplest and randomly through a kind of synthesis to concoct something which will be only be the highest. There is so much difference between their own run around it because so do they owe a matter only you or I or some of the great men of the modern world and earth average men that we should devalue Binion study them and not try and see all the fullness of the pettiness and often all the vices and the problems which they have in themselves and God knows geniuses have always had in it we should try and see is that what is valuable and as you will notice in them even in the moral sense instead of always trying to bring them to the average. And right of humanity this implies all kinds of discourses about the methods of criticism that we follow today or the kind of the banking boundaries that we have been writing in the last two or three or four decades. What have we done in the last century which gradually are basically two geniuses
was not training them. I think one of the developments of democracy has been the isolation and the growing isolation of genius of talent or let's call them to be simply of superior people in their community the masses have not kept up with them. A very regrettable development of the last century is that we do not have the audiences which could understand a very great man around them which could occur in them which would see the world through them. To say somewhere it's one of the finest epigrams that the greatness of a man of letters was a superior man of letters like Dostoyevsky for instance and maybe Proust himself on the US market the ponies on the eve meant is that your neighbors are no longer to be the citizens of the prisoners of one man or no one in any one country excuse me on the one and only for the juniors on the very great career your painter musician and so on and neighbors I was also to develop a kind of historical imagination and to be contemporaries with the past and with the present and
indeed probably also contemporaries of the future.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind
Creativity in literature, part one
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-2f7jtt3q).
Episode Description
This program features the first part of a lecture by Henri M. Peyre, Sterling Professor of French Literature, Yale University.
Series Description
This series presents lectures from the 1968 Cooper Union Forum. This forum's theme is Peace, Love, Creativity: The Hope of Mankind.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Speaker: Fairchild, Johnson E.
Speaker: Peyre, Henri, 1901-1988
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-10-29 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:47
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in literature, part one,” 1968-06-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023,
MLA: “Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in literature, part one.” 1968-06-13. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <>.
APA: Peace, love, creativity: Hope of mankind; Creativity in literature, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from