Tourism and invention

Material Information

Tourism and invention
Saper, Craig Jonathan, 1960- ( Dissertant )
Ulmer, Gregory L. ( Thesis advisor )
Cottom, Daniel ( Reviewer )
Ray, Robert B. ( Reviewer )
Flinn, Caryl ( Reviewer )
Bloomer, Jennifer ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Creativity ( jstor )
Cultural studies ( jstor )
Discourse ( jstor )
Film criticism ( jstor )
Inventions ( jstor )
Memory ( jstor )
Movies ( jstor )
Theater ( jstor )
Tourism ( jstor )
Wordplay ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


This dissertation extrapolates a method primarily from Roland Barthes's Empire of Signs. Similar to a travelogue and ethnographer's diary, that text serves as an example of a new genre called invention-tourism. This genre plays through tour guides, travelogues, and the cliches about travelers in order to explore how tourism mediates differences, strangers, newness, etc.. This tourist's discourse suggests a semiotician-on-tour. That on-tour changes the understanding of attractions from objects-to-demythologize to magnets of attention. Attractions of attention change research routes and provoke a lost-sense, a doubt between knowing the way and asking for directions. A sense of loss, and of being lost, sets in motion an inner stenography of textual substitutions, variations, and multivalences. In terms of invention, these variations in expectation indicate emergent ideas. Without deciding on any particular choice, truth, or argument, it creates a setting for an artificial or textual brainstorming. Psychological traits of creativity no longer orient research on invention. A textual theory of invention based on a synthesis of contemporary psychological research and philosophical criticisms of creativity stresses the importance of the organization, accessibility, and provocativeness of knowledge. These textual factors restrict or encourage invention. Invention-tourism, applied to our home language and way of knowing, affects how we package knowledge and how we use our memories. Rhetors have long interpreted memory as a textual practice, an art of memory, rather than a purely cognitive function. By "drawing a blank" in memory or memory theaters, an art of invention emerges. Rather than a theater it functions as an invention multimedia performance. In terms of pedagogical applications, tourism is an oft repeated term for the new attitude required by the electronic classroom. Cultivating access and links among bits of information requires one to move through information as a tourist; informatics and generative assignments supplement memory in invention- tourism.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1990.
Includes bibliographic references (leaves 214-228)
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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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AHN0436 ( LTUF )
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Full Text








ABSTRACT ......................... .................. iii

INTRODUCTION ........................................... 1
Notes ........................................... 10

Maps Of Invention ...............................11
Myth Of Creativity ...............................22
Invention As A Language Game ..................... 43
Notes ............................................53

INVENTION-TOURISM .................. ................... 54
Out-Of-Towners ................................... 54
Attractions ...................................... 75
Wandering ......................................90
Invention-Tourism As A Minor Language ............93
Notes ........................................... 110

INVENTION-TOURISM AT HOME ........................... 120
tcritour ........................................ 120
Tele-Tourism .................................... 133
Epistourmology .................................. 142
Media and Cultural Studies Today ................. 151
Roland Barthes and Cultural Studies .............. 159
Notes ............................................ 164

INVENTION-TOURIST GUIDE ............................... 170
Empire of Souvenirs .............................. 193
Becoming An Invention-Tourist Attraction ......... 200
Notes ............................................ 206

CONCLUSION ............................................ 209

BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................................... 214

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................. 229

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Craig Jonathan Saper

August, 1990

Chairman: Dr. Gregory Ulmer
Major Department: English

This dissertation extrapolates a method primarily from

Roland Barthes's Empire of Signs. Similar to a travelogue

and ethnographer's diary, that text serves as an example of a

new genre called invention-tourism. This genre plays through

tour guides, travelogues, and the cliches about travelers in

order to explore how tourism mediates differences, strangers,

newness, etc.. This tourist's discourse suggests a

semiotician-on-tour. That on-tour changes the understanding

of attractions from objects-to-demythologize to magnets of

attention. Attractions of attention change research routes

and provoke a lost-sense, a doubt between knowing the way and

asking for directions. A sense of loss, and of being lost,

sets in motion an inner stenography of textual substitutions,

variations, and multivalences. In terms of invention, these

variations in expectation indicate emergent ideas. Without

deciding on any particular choice, truth, or argument, it

creates a setting for an artificial or textual brainstorming.

Psychological traits of creativity no longer orient research

on invention. A textual theory of invention based on a

synthesis of contemporary psychological research and

philosophical criticisms of creativity stresses the

importance of the organization, accessibility, and

provocativeness of knowledge. These textual factors restrict

or encourage invention. Invention-tourism, applied to our

home language and way of knowing, affects how we package

knowledge and how we use our memories. Rhetors have long

interpreted memory as a textual practice, an art of memory,

rather than a purely cognitive function. By "drawing a

blank" in memory or memory theaters, an art of invention

emerges. Rather than a theater it functions as an invention

multimedia performance. In terms of pedagogical

applications, tourism is an oft repeated term for the new

attitude required by the electronic classroom. Cultivating

access and links among bits of information requires one to

move through information as a tourist; informatics and

generative assignments supplement memory in invention-



This training manual provides general advice about

textual methods of invention and specific suggestions for

designing guide books, intellectual attractions, and

information agencies. In offering these suggestions, it

describes a specific project, the project's potential uses,

and the facilities and facilitators needed. As a guide to

thinking your way to somewhere you have not visited, this

manual extrapolates a textual method of invention primarily

from Roland Barthes's Empire of Signs. Similar to a

travelogue and ethnographer's diary on Japan, that text

serves as an example of a new genre called invention-tourism.

This genre plays through tour guides, travelogues, and the

cliches about travelers in order to explore how tourism

mediates differences, strangers, and otherness. The

institutions of an invention practice will function according

to a tourism model. This tourist's discourse suggests a

semiotician-on-tour which changes the understanding of

attractions from objects-to-demythologize to magnets of

attention. By focusing on the organization and retrieval of

information rather than on the characteristics of genius,

invention-tourism follows the contemporary research in

psychology and cultural studies. A textual theory of


invention based on a synthesis of contemporary psychological

research and philosophical criticisms of creativity stresses

the importance of the organization, accessibility, and

provocativeness of knowledge. These textual factors restrict

or encourage invention. Invention-tourism, applied to our

home language and way of knowing, affects how we package

knowledge and how we use our memories. By examing the

metaphors and images we use to frame our thinking (about

invention), we can study the implications of the ways

scholars organize knowledge for invention. Rather than merely

a scholarly analysis of theories of invention, the chapters

that follow present a program for thinking differently.

In the early 1980s Yale French Studies published a

special issue on pedagogy which argued that French

poststructuralist theory can inform teaching as well as

reading and writing strategies. Articles turned to Derrida,

Lacan, and Barthes as guides into a theoretically informed

teaching practice. One article, Steven Ungar's "The

Professor of Desire" later became a book with the same

title.1 This dissertation responds to Ungar's challenge to

understand Barthes as a writer and a teacher. Specifically,

it uses Ungar's book as a spring-board to explore, for

example, attractions, and the mediations of differences in

both the tourism and invention. In this sense, the

dissertation extrapolates an institutional practice (of

invention) from Barthes's textual method. Just as his trip

to Japan becomes the pretext for an exploration of writing,

playing through his writing becomes the pretext for an

exploration of invention. Barthes wants to assert and play

through an otherness which resists the control of semiotic,

ethnographic, and positivistic mastery. For example, in his

own image "Japanned" and in his attempts to find the words

for "drawing a blank," he finds an alternative perception

somewhere between lost and found. The impasses and failures

in his own mastery force "a change in perception that Barthes

responds to in a desire to write"(Ungar 50). Through

writing, he works through that image of "himself displaced--

dis-Oriented?--by the loss of meaning that a foreign culture

sends back to him"(Ungar 50). Ungar concludes that "it is

this loss--and its impact on Barthes as the

writer/semiologist on vacation--that he recasts in L'Empire

des signes as a momentary exemption from the mastery of signs

he had sought to write out" in earlier texts(Ungar 50).

Barthes called this his only successful book, and yet, it

"asserts loss against mastery"(Ungar 50-51). This

alternative perception attempts a writing practice neither

critical nor fictional, but with elements of both. Images of

deviations, twists, and turns around empty centers become not

objects of study, but ways to understand a loss of

confidence. This sense of loss resists any meaning projected

"out of a need to assume mastery and appropriate

difference"(Ungar 54).

This dissertation extrapolates an invention method out

of this simulation of Barthes's images of momentary loss. By

"drawing a blank" in something like a memory theater, he

discovers another dimension or lost-sense. This encounter

with, what I refer to as farblonzhet--the Yiddish term for

the affect which corresponds to an undecided pause at an

intersection--sets in motion detours and necessitates

rhetorical detours around impasses of knowledge. It uses the

fascinations or manias usually discarded by conventional

reading practices and understands these variations of

expectation as indicators of emergent ideas. Those little

gifts fascinate and divert the attention, changing our path

long enough for one to wonder, "am I lost yet?" Those

moments, which resist a meaning within current symbolic

systems, take on implications of an unheard-of symbolic

system. In this sense, the failures of empirical reading

strategies offer an entrance into a model of invention.

In chapter one, I introduce a textual theory of

invention based on a synthesis of research by psychologists

and Paul Feyerabend's criticisms of creativity. How we

organize our knowledge and the questions we pose determines

the accessibility and provocativeness of knowledge. These

textual factors of organization can restrict or encourage

invention. Chapter one introduces which textual factors will

help and which will hinder those efforts. Neither

psychological traits of creative geniuses, nor personal

histories function as central characters in the current

research on the textual factors of invention. As I

demonstrate, this stress on cultural and textual factors has


influenced changes in the models used to describe creativity

and invention. Problem setting, rather than problem solving,

has become the crucial factor in determining how to make

knowledge accessible and provocative. In this scenario, art

and literary works change from objects of study to models for

research. Sifting out relevant information, combining

isolated fragments into new groupings, and, by using analogy,

relating newly acquired information to information from past

situations function as the major textual factors in

invention. These information processing strategies of

selective encoding, combination, and comparison create a

situation, I argue, of artificial brainstorming. Part of

this "storming" of information makes use of the plundering of

cultural history, common places, or even funny coincidences.

The textual factors currently considered to encourage

invention are used by Roland Barthes in, what I call,


In chapter two, I explore Empire of Signs as a lesson

on, and model of, informatics, on how to find questions to

ask and how to package our knowledge. In preparing our

situations for invention, Barthes argues for an openness to

otherness. Through the impasses and circular

misunderstandings, he allows differences to rattle the

foundations of sameness. Even temporality is disrupted by

"anachronisms of culture and illogicalities of itinerary"(ES

79). I extrapolate from this text a way to make knowledge

more suitable to non-academic problems. These problems are

messy, ill-defined, and sometimes unanswerable. Merely

identifying that there is a problem can determine the

solutions offered. Solving these problems requires more

inventive textual settings rather than heuristic methods. As

Paul Feyerabend argues, even scientific breakthroughs depend

on making moves forbidden by methodological rules.

In this alternative textual setting, myths and cliches

become important. The myths and cliches of tourism become

the initiators of research. It is these paradoxical

moments, cliched (representations of stereotypes) and unique

(infinite combinations and distortions), which Barthes-as-

tourist seeks to find. He offers a method to deal with

uncertain problem situations: invention-tourism. Tourism,

in this scenario, functions as a trope: a way of creating

and directing the trajectory of research. In a general

sense, this research uses the procedures of selecting,

turning, and sifting through objects and attractions (in

every sense of that word). I argue that Barthes's (often

unsuccessful) efforts to find his way through Tokyo leads to

a kind of rhetorical way-losing--a lost-sense necessary for

invention. As an alternative way of knowing, which depends

neither on traditional notions of the human subject nor on

conscious memories without forgetting and the unconscious,

invention-tourism disrupts the usual connection between an

individual and a social background. The social milieu no

longer functions as a mere background for individuals'

actions. Instead, the social space of tourism allows Barthes

to, in Deleuze and Guattari's terms, "pick-up ideas."

Invention-tourism creates a situation in which one becomes an

alien in relation to the major language. Although Barthes

explores an image of a foreign city, his own language is what

becomes strange and foreign to him. From those internal

tensions, he offers an opening, or a line of flight, to

alternative languages.

Chapter three addresses the consequences of applying

invention-tourism to our home language and situation. In

exploring the relationship between tourism and staying at

home, I suggest that we can write with the mythical

construction of tourism (e.g., the image of the tourist with

camera in tow). That writing of tourism I call 6critour

playing on Derrida's use of the French term for writing

6criture. Changes in ideology and technology collapse the

opposition between tourism and home. Media bring the far-

away close-at-home. We no longer need to go to a foreign

land to function as tourists. The encyclopedic storage

capacities of multi-media computers and the ease in linking

information allow informatics (how we package knowledge) to

supersede rote memorization as a foundational skill in all

levels of education. Cultivating access and links among bits

of information does not require "correct" answers or a recall

of "significant" details. It requires students to know how

to access information and move through information as a

tourist navigating in unknown territory. Indeed, researchers

often use the term tourism to describe the new attitude

required by the electronic classroom. Tourism has become a

major cultural activity; one survey found that "nearly four

out of five vacation travelers plan to make more trips in the

1990s than they did in the past five years, while fewer than

one in 12 expect to cut back on travel."2 Because tourism is

already so important to modern culture, it comes as no

surprise that educators have turned to that experience to

describe alternative pedagogies. Researchers attempting to

incorporate computer multimedia technologies into the

classroom have suggested that educators use the term tourist

instead of student. They argue that the use of computers has

more to do with the whims of tourism than any techno-formal


Besides becoming tourists at home, the explosion of

tourism allows anyplace to become an attraction. Writing

through touring and tourism (i.e., ecritour) invents an

alternative way of knowing and perceiving, an epistourmology

or knowing through ecritour. The writing, in the general

grammatological sense, has far-reaching implications for

traditional books and textbooks. The rhetorical method of

teaching writing focuses on making good arguments, while the

invention-tourist-text emphasizes an alternative to rational

arguments which scholars describe under the rubrics of

creativity, paleologic, etc. The passage to this alternative

discourse depends on the crossings and switching found in

the poignant encounters with the details of what attracts

one's attention. The punctum functions as an encounter

between framer and framed, picture and context, and then and

now. In that sense, the relationships among the mediation

of differences through a boundary or punctum can influence

invention. Teaching invention-tourism does not merely use

tourism as a metaphoric vehicle for the tenor of invention,

it works through a literal connection between these two


Chapter four applies Acritour to an institutional

practice of invention. In order to allow institutions to

handle an enormous amount of visual, verbal, and semantic

information and to encourage an invention discourse,

snapshots become more than evidence of a trip to a foreign

city. They provoke further thought. A invention-tourism

institution will encourage a way to think with the tourist's

stereotypes and a lost-sense rather than memorization (of

answers to tests), rules of formal similitude, or rational

argument. To think as a tourist or to make one's home

(institution) a tourist attraction requires an institutional

practice which makes the mediation of difference a primary

concern. In designing and managing such a practice, images

and details which mirror and resist the search for

connections between differences can function as discontinuous

switches and links among sources of information. Differences

will not dissolve into sameness nor synthesize into a

dialectical merger. To the modernist rejoinder, "only

connect," invention-tourism responds, "get lost." Only a

lost-sense, the sense of getting lost and losing the

connections, will help one navigate through an institutional

practice for invention.


1 Steven Ungar, Roland Barthes: The Professor of Desire
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983). Hereafter
referred to in text as Ungar.

2 Richard Morin, "Polls show baby boomers will travel,
demand more," cited from a survey by the Daniel Yankelovich
Group, The Gainesville Sun, Sunday, February 4, 1990.



Although every creation is of necessity
combinative, society, by virtue of the romantic
myth of 'inspiration' cannot stand being told so.
Roland Barthes, Sade. Fourier. Loyola

Maps of Invention

How do we map invention? What models do we use to

understand it? In the past, two complementary models

described invention as an individual's journey; one focused

on particular routes, while the other described the peculiar

terrain. One method appeared in the social sciences, the

other in the humanities. Psychologists explored the traits

and processes of individual innovators, while cultural

historians illuminated the contexts surrounding an

individual's creative achievement or breakthrough. This

harmonious conjunction of cultural studies and the social

sciences marked the most important foundation of humanism:

the world was built by the creative genius of individuals; by

studying their traits and achievements we could continue to

progress into, and master, the future. Humanism has come

under sharp attack for its conception of an "ideal man," a

parochial way of life, and an apolitical conception of

cultural history. The contention here has less to do with

these sweeping condemnations of the humanist project than

with the current trends in research on creativity and

invention. The humanistic theories no longer hold complete

sway and no longer orient research. Indeed, both

contemporary psychological approaches and cultural histories

of innovation have identified inadequacies in previous

approaches. Much of the current research debunks previous

myths and misconceptions. By going beyond a mere explication

of these criticisms, this chapter explores a different theory

of creativity and invention. From the synthesis of elements

of social psychological approaches, Paul Feyerabend's

cultural history, and textual theories, this chapter offers a

theory of invention which the other chapters in this

dissertation more fully explore and develop.

The maps of invention examined here suggest a textual

theory of invention. The way we organize our knowledge, the

metaphors and images we use to frame our thinking, and the

questions or settings we pose determine the accessibility and

provocativeness of knowledge. These textual factors, neither

neutral nor universal, function as a system which can

restrict or encourage invention. In the discussion of Paul

Feyerabend's theory, this chapter explores when a community

should or should not encourage invention; however, the

emphasis of this chapter concerns how to encourage invention.

Once we have defined invention and decided to engage in it,

we should know which textual factors will help and which will

hinder our efforts.

Researchers no longer exclusively study particular traits

in an autonomous creative genius, nor do they study personal

histories as autonomous events separate from language and

culture. This stress on cultural and textual factors has

influenced changes in the models used to describe creativity

and invention. Contemporary social-psychological approaches

describe individual creativity as a composite picture.

Cultural historical approaches also use the composite model,

but they describe this picture as a myth or illusion. This

essay does not focus merely on the differences, but on the

synthesis of these approaches. The synthesis proposed in this

essay suggests that invention does not depend on an autonomous

creative genius, but rather on manipulating shared cultural

commonplaces. This model makes invention into a collective

and cultural activity rather than a picture of "man against

the world" or a genius transcendent above the community.

Invention becomes a type of discourse--what Wittgenstein

called a language game. Wittgenstein uses this term to

describe the rules and properties of modes of discourse.

Jean-Francois Lyotard has equated these language games with

"the minimum relation required for society to exist. . ."

Lyotard's statement allows us to see that the invention

language game describes a particular social bond. The rules

of the game do not legitimize themselves but require the

contract or agreement between players. Without the rules, the

game would cease, but each and every modification of the rules

changes the game. This open exchange creates the rules as the

participants play the game. Lyotard goes on to explain that

"certain institutions impose limits on the games, and thus

restrict the inventiveness of the players in making their

moves"(Lyotard 16). These institutions demand a guided

exchange with unquestioned rules. This essay will offer a

model of invention which uses an open exchange. By conceiving

of invention as a type of language game, we open the exchange

of ideas to both more players and more methods.

The research discussed here leads to the conclusion

that invention usually occurs by mixing knowledge from

different disciplines and playing with language. Further,

invention has less to do with autonomous creativity than with

the relative restrictions on the flow of information. Some

institutions and institutional practices create barriers to

flexible networks. The crucial element of invention concerns

the fluidity of ideas across disciplinary and specialized

boundaries. The approach extrapolated here emphasizes

movement through information rather than the explication of

any particular piece of information. Invention requires an

understanding of informatics, how we package and transmit

ideas and information. Because the connection of information

previously thought to be separate plays a key role in the

method extrapolated here, an "open exchange" of ideas will

encourage the potentially productive crossing of apparently

unrelated information. This model of invention appears both

in contemporary psychological approaches and in cultural


Robert Sternberg's anthology on contemporary

psychological perspectives of "the nature of creativity"

functions as a useful indicator of the shift in psychological

conceptions. The volume includes traditional research on

individual creativity and a "new view" which explores the

"systems" surrounding creative achievement. That "new view"

indicates how the current paradigm of psychological research

has moved toward a cultural studies approach. And, by

playing this psychological paradigm off of Paul Feyerabend's

cultural criticism of creativity,2 we can appreciate the

conjunction of shared cultural commonplaces and uncommon

innovations. Innovation, the process of making changes,

appears to have little in common with invention, finding and

connecting commonplaces. But, because invention allows the

speaker to find something to say, it might suggest how an

innovator finds questions to ask. In that sense, it

functions not as a solution to problems, but as an artificial

brainstorming, which does not require an individual genius,

nor a universal true or Rational method.

To find the conjunction between the commonplace and the

innovative requires an interrogation and dismantling of the

boundary between specific individuals' creativity and general

cultural contexts. The study of the interaction between

individuals and socio-cultural influences has now become

common. For example, studies of Thomas Edison no longer

focus on his achievements, but on cultural influences and

myths as well. The stories about Thomas Edison's life help

determine our common assumptions about innovators. The

anecdotes about his work epitomize, and help create, our

assumptions about the moment of invention. As one of his

colleagues recalled, "Mr. Edison had his desk in one corner

and after completing an invention he would jump up and do a

kind of Zulu war dance. He would swear something awful. We

would crowd round him and he would show us the new

invention."3 Many biographers have attempted to find the

psychological traits or childhood events which led Edison to

"greatness," and historians have recounted the commonplaces

Edison coined about invention (e.g., "Invention is one

percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration;"

"To stop is to rust;" "A harvest must be reaped occasionally,

not once in a lifetime.") as well as the stories about his

working methods (e.g., he often worked through the night and

could sleep standing on his feet).

Edison's importance for cultural studies has shifted

from an example of individual genius to an example of

cultural myth.4 Studies now focus on, for example, Edison as

an American cultural hero and on how he created and

manipulated that image. These studies focus on textual

evidence and on changing conceptions of Edison rather than on

any "man behind the myth." Significantly, these accounts

call into question even the notion of Edison as an individual

creative genius. For recent histories argue that Edison's

achievement had as much, if not more, to do with winning

patent fights as it had to do with creativity. And, at least

at his Menlo Park lab, team research, not individual

inspiration, led to breakthroughs. Again, the changes in

approaches to understanding Edison's achievements are

indicative of a shift away from studying creativity as a

psychological trait.

The notion of a creative genius, a person with an

extraordinary capacity for original thought or invention,

comes from the merger of two related ideas: inspiration and

natural talent. In Latin, the word ingenium (innate ability)

joins with the more complicated term genius. Genius comes

from the term for the divinity which guided the stars during

one's birth. The genius was worshipped on birthdays and the

birthday cake is all that remains of the ritual of making an

offering to one's genius. "Genius in this sense of guardian

spirit was attributed not only to individuals but also, by

extension, to groups of people . .and to places . .

genius loci: cities, towns, houses, marketplaces, and street

corners."5 In later chapters, I argue indirectly that

something similar to a genius loci can help to reorient

invention toward a concern with setting instead of individual

genius. For the purposes of this chapter, it is important to

understand how spiritual concerns enter into humanist notions

of creativity. Creativity suggests a relationship to notions

of possession by forces greater than the individual's self or

at least knowledge of the supernatural. Hence, the common

equation of creativity and melancholy since the fifteenth

century has to do with too much knowledge, or even demonic

possession. More importantly for the argument here, these

previous conceptions of creativity suggest an activity

transcendent above, rather than a product of, social bonds

and language games. From the late nineteenth century on,

creativity describes a trait found in individuals without

necessarily referring to divine intervention. The

inspiration of creative artists shifted from divinity to


Freud had studied creativity, but most psychoanalytic

research dealt only tangentially with creativity and

sublimation, and always in relation to pathology. The effort

to study creativity as a psychological trait has

overdetermined origins. But many authors, including

Sternberg, use J. P. Guilford's presidential address to the

American Psychological Association members in 1950 as the

watershed event which sparked wide-spread interest in

creativity. The staggering increase in the number of

citations in Psychological Abstracts during the 1950s

indicates the growth of interest in studying creativity.6

Typical of the research in the 1950s, Guilford's study

catalogued the cognitive characteristics of creative

geniuses. These people had a generalized sensitivity to

problems or an ability to notice inadequacies in situations;

they could also offer solutions (what Guilford called

"fluency of thinking") and they could think in new and

flexible ways about old problems. In solving these problems

they offered original and uncommon responses. In their

processes of problem solving, they often redefined or

reorganized their knowledge, and they usually combined two or

more of these abilities in constructing often complex

solutions. The apparent obviousness of these traits does not

arise from their poignancy but from their generality.

Guilford sought to map the parameters of creativity, but he

offered a tautological definition: if creativity requires an

original response, then original responses are traits of

creative individuals. To merely state the obvious in the

most general terms does not help guide applications for the

encouragement of creativity. In spite of these problems,

psychologists at the time attempted to find individuals with

these traits in the general population.

While Guilford extrapolated traits from accounts of

creative geniuses, E.P. Torrance developed a creativity test.

As an indication of its current importance, the Sternberg

anthology includes Torrance's discussion of the test. The

test, initially devised in the mid-60s, asks participants to

manipulate objects in unusual ways, draw pictures from

abstract shapes, or solve a riddle. Unusual answers are

encouraged. For example, one question asks the participant

to list possible uses of a brick. The evaluator grades the

test according to four factors which closely resemble

Guilford's traits: fluency, flexibility, elaboration, and

originality. In grading the test, one counts the total

number of solutions to determine fluency, and counts

different types or kinds of solutions to determine

flexibility. For example, if you wrote down two uses for a

brick, then you would have a fairly low score on fluency. If

you suggested different types of uses, then you would have a

high flexibility score; using a brick as a sheltering device

in a brick house is a different type of use than using it as

a water displacement device in the tank of a toilet.

Elaboration depends on how much extra information a

participant supplies for each solution. For example, the

answer "to build things with" is less elaborate than the

answer "to use in the tank of my toilet to save water every

time I flush the toilet." An unusual but appropriate or

possible answer determines the score for originality. An

inappropriate use would be an impossible use. According to

Torrance, any creative individual will have a high cumulative

score on this test.

By defining creativity outside of cultural contexts,

Torrance does not explain how a high score leads to

innovation. And, by focusing on individual traits, he does

not explore which social contexts might encourage these

traits. Criticisms of narrow notions of creativity have

invariably alluded to Torrance's test. Critics complain that

knowing ways to use bricks has little to do with innovation

or creativity in a large-scale social context. The use of

practical building objects (e.g., bricks or nails) in tests

of creativity may suggest a link between conceptions of

language and architecture. For example, Wittgenstein

described language games by alluding to the discussion

between a carpenter and a helper. His conception of the

building trade as some how linked to the very foundations of

language resembles Torrance's implied suggestion that

creativity has something to do with understanding how to use

a brick. It is as if Torrance answered Wittgenstein by

claiming that participants can build alternative language

games from the raw materials of their current language games.

Further, being "hit over the head with a brick" may change

the very rules of the language game. This connection between

language games and building materials may be a "yellow brick

road" or an indicator of being "dumb as a brick." It is

beyond the scope of this chapter to explore this issue

further. In terms of the argument presented here, the traits

Torrance describes have more import than the fascinating

textual resonances.

Significantly, in the Sternberg volume, Torrance adds

two more traits. He argues that "falling in love" with the

endeavor and the perseverance to overcome hostility toward

that love are the major factors for predicting creative

achievement later in life. In making this argument, he

describes a boy who "was in love with nature, especially

birds. He was a social outcast in his youth because of this.

. . This has been a common experience of many of our most

eminent inventors, scientists, artists, musicians, writers,

and so on."7 This statement describes something most of us

take for granted: creative people love their endeavors even

if that love alienates them from their own community.

Myth Of Creativity

Paul Feyerabend questions this supposedly innocent love

and the corresponding alienation. He argues that the myth of

creativity isolates researchers and experts from the

community. Although Torrance sees the community punishing

creative individuals for their love, Feyerabend explains how

this faith in the endeavor creates many dangers for an

uninvolved community. They both agree that whether the

community finally forces the individual into alienation or

not, the individual's love and faithfulness initiate that

alienation. Torrance never examines if, and how, the

community benefits from an individual's love of the endeavor.

More importantly, he fails to examine how creativity

functions in the context of a socio-political structure.

That social structure includes what science considers

objective, reasonable, and creative. The relationships among

these terms help Feyerabend explain the dangers of an

unfettered love for the endeavor. For example, within his

criticism of the ideas of reason and objectivity, he objects

to Albert Einstein's privileging of creativity as an element

within rational scientific discovery; to understand

Feyerabend's objections and arguments, we need to explicate

his general critique of objectivity.

Feyerabend claims that when cultures identified their

way of life with the laws of the (physical and moral)

universe they invented objectivity. When those cultures had

to confront different views, objectivity became an issue.

Cultures have three typical reactions to these

confrontations: persistence, opportunism, and relativism.

Some cultures persist in believing in the infallibility of

their ways and fail to change. Other cultures

opportunistically accept or adopt the institutions, customs,

and beliefs they find attractive. The third group of

cultures, the relativists, has many forms of explanation.

Within their cultures they can accommodate many different

belief systems. The Ancient Greeks introduced a fourth

reaction to differences: Argument. Arguments standardized

and formalized the method of accepting or rejecting different

belief systems. It gave the user a way of finding supposed

"truths" (objective laws of the universe), and it led the way

to the equation of reason and rationality with Objective


Each of these four versions represents different

conceptions of objective truth. And, therefore, as

Feyerabend writes, "cultural variety cannot be tamed by a

formal notion of objective truth because it contains a

variety of such notions"(FR 140). The introduction of reason

and rationality into notions of objectivity, presumes a right

or truthful way of living, and everyone must accept that way

of life. This supposedly universal validity of rationality

justifies intervention into different cultures and gives

rationality the same aura as that which surrounds gods,

kings, and tyrants. Even those cultures which did not change

after confronting different cultural practices refrained from

insisting as a point of Law on changing and intervening in

other people's cultural practices.

This imperialism of rationalism also internally

controls the exchange of ideas. For Feyerabend, there are

two ways to exchange ideas. The guided exchange has

participants adopt a specified tradition and accept only

those responses that correspond to its standards, while the

open exchange has the participants develop the tradition as

the exchange goes along. The open exchange is guided by in

statu nascendi (words born under the impact of the moment).

For the most part, we live within a scientific paradigm which

guides our intellectual exchanges. To counteract the guided

exchange of rationalism, we can adopt "an attitude" that

understands people as inseparable parts of the culture they

live in rather than independent autonomous creators. With

this "attitude" we would no longer have rational laws guide

our exchange of ideas; instead we would open our exchanges to

the impact of the moment or situation. Even fictitious

theories work for communities engaged in this type of on-

going exchange.

Counter to the common assumption, Feyerabend does not

engage in a philosophy of science, nor does he criticize

scientific research. He criticizes science education. That

type of education attempts to force a peculiar methodology on

historical evidence. It ignores the variety in history, and

it accepts only the information which leads to the current

"truth." He does not make an argument against science; he

focuses his attack on the legitimation of disciplines and

methods which hinder scientific progress. The research in

cognitive psychology supports Feyerabend's contention that

limitations on cross-disciplinary work and an over-reliance

on fact-finding disrupts the increase of scientific, or any

type of, knowledge. As one researcher notes, "knowledge is

not facts. Cognitive science suggests that our minds make

huge collections of interconnections and categorizations

among the facts we learn. We cannot be said to know anything

until the mind . cross-relates it to the maximum number

of other things we know."8 The problem with science

education (and its applications in the humanities) concerns

the formation of disciplines around "objective" goals.

Lyotard summarizes the problem.

If education must not only provide for the
reproduction of skills, but also for their
progress, then it follows that the transmission of
knowledge should not be limited to the transmission
of information, but should include training in all
of the procedures that can increase one's ability
to connect the fields jealously guarded from one
another by the traditional organization of
knowledge.(Lyotard 52)

In Feyerabend's interrogation of how this traditional

organization of knowledge limits the ability to make

connections, he examines the relationship between creativity

and objectivity; he uses Albert Einstein's discussions of

creativity to highlight this relationship. Einstein argues

that we create the world from "a labyrinth of sense

impressions;" he suggests that creativity concerns the

ordering of the otherwise meaningless world, and of putting a

pattern or theoretical structure onto the universe. The

connection between theory and appearances needs "a deeply

religious attitude" and "tremendous creative efforts are

required to establish it"(FR 133). Feyerabend counters this

explanation by arguing that a person put into a labyrinth of

sense impressions could never construct physical objects; the

complete disorientation would prevent any thinking including

the simplest thoughts. Rather than a creative solution,

paralysis would take hold. If sense-data do not have a

logical equivalence with the world of real objects, it does

not follow that an act of creativity made the objective

world. He argues that, "the existence of a logical gap taken

by itself does not yet show that it needs an individual

creative act itself to bridge the gap"(FR 133).

The development of concepts need not be a result of the

conscious actions of those using them.9 Nevertheless, we can

explain even the conscious and intentional formulation of

novel general principles without depending on the concept of

creativity. "Speaking of creativity makes sense only if we

view human beings in a certain way: they start causal chains,

they are not just carried along by them . that is not the

only possible assumption and a life that rests on it is not

the only form of life that ever existed"(FR 133). The

Rational model depends on a unified idea of a self, while

other models (e.g., the Homeric model) have a conception of

selves as relays for loosely connected events such as dreams,

thoughts, emotions, divine interventions, and so on. In the

Homeric model, the individual imbedded in its surroundings

does not 'act' or 'create' in the sense proposed, for

example, by psychologists like Robert Sternberg. But, the

individual in the Homeric model does not need the miracles of

creativity to engage in and benefit from change.

In the Sternberg anthology, P. N. Johnson-Laird makes

another analogy between creativity and irrational acts; he

writes, "Creativity is like murder--both depend on motive,

means, and opportunity." And, he continues in the next

sentence to say, "Society has . dramatic effects on the

creation of works of the imagination."10 This analogy

highlights precisely the problem Feyerabend identifies in

explanations and justifications of creativity. It gives free

reign to the individual over and above the needs and desires

of a community. In terms of this analogy, we try to prevent

murders as much as possible, and regardless of motive we

recognize that murder has a dramatic effect on society, not

merely the effect of society on murderers. If we did

understand creativity like murder, we would also have to

confront the responsibility of the community to intervene.

The type of intervention is crucial.

The way we intervene, the questions we ask of inventors

and researchers, should, Feyerabend claims, go beyond tests

for rationality and methodological prudence. The rational

model might not serve our interests at all. Theoretically it

cannot deal with the mind/body split, the problem of

induction, nor the reality of the external world. It has

practical problems as well. It desperately needs to find a

way to rethink the role of individuals; instead of masters

(and potential destroyers) of Nature and Society, it must

reintegrate the notion of human agency back into the context

of language and culture. As long as certain "rational"

actions appear to transcend culture, this Western

intellectual imperialism will not allow for Otherness or

different Natures and/or cultures. As Feyerabend concludes,

"the allegedly most rational view of the world yet in

existence can function only when combined with the most

irrational events there are, viz. miracles. . It needs a

miracle to bridge the abyss between subject and object, Man &

Nature, experience and reality . creativity is supposed

to be that miracle"(FR 140). Creativity bridges the gap only

in the Rational model.

In a poignant example of the problem of an over-

reliance on the Rational model, one group of researchers

recounts the story of the Kpelle farmers. The researchers

presented the farmers with a set of 20 items, five each from

four categories: food, clothing, tools, and cooking

utensils. They asked the farmers to sort the objects into

groups of objects that go together. Instead of putting

objects into the four Rational taxonomic categories, the

farmers would, for example, put the potato with the pot.

"After all," they would explain, "one needs the pot to cook

the potato." A "wise" man, they reasoned, would group these

things in the same way. Startled, the experimenters asked

how a "fool" would group the objects; the farmers explained

that a "fool" would put the objects into four categories:

food, clothing, tools, and cooking utensils. Obviously, the

Kpelle had the ability to do the Rational taxonomic

classification.1 For the Kpelle farmers, the Rational

organization not only seems inadequate, but also foolish. In

order to benefit from something like Kpelle "wisdom," we must

entertain false notions and even fictional logics.

Unfortunately, the dominant system of knowledge does not

merely ignore those responses, it actively discourages them.

In an effort to protect a domain of knowledge from the

lures of "false" thinking and "fictional" forms of

expression, science education represses the rhetorical

strategy or language game which allows for an open exchange

of ideas and the manipulation of shared commonplaces.

Science education supposedly replaces this rhetorical

strategy, invention, with "fact finding" and an objective

method. Inventio returns in the guise of a personal trait,

creativity. This "creativity" functions as the foundation of

science's ontology; it bridges the gap between a patterning

mind and facts. Science and the study of history require

rhetorical processes to function. Rigidified notions about

historical or scientific research repress the very rhetorical

processes required to continue practicing science or studying

history. This repression forces invention to return as a

element of a person rather than as a cultural strategy; an

innate trait replaces a learned skill.

Researchers arguing for norms of objectivity and guards

against "flights-of-fancy" also assume that an individual's

creative mind connects obvious facts with the immutable logic

of a domain. The term "creativity" can mask this cognitive

or psychological bias. A bias which presumes an a priori

split between a logical mind and the factual world; without

creativity one can never connect subject and object or Man

and Nature. Scientific breakthroughs, including scientific

applications in the humanities, neither require this

mind/world split, nor gain anything from presuming its

existence. Advocates of the Rational model might warn that

models which use invention as a research strategy allow "any

old thing" and have no guides for responsibility toward the

community (of researchers); these models supposedly threaten

the community with irresponsible, or even dangerous,

projective readings and absurd speculations. The Rational

model, including the social scientific and other scientific

applications in the humanities, effaces its own

irresponsibility to the community by inventing logics which

it then obeys and remains faithful and responsible to. The

corresponding guided exchange prohibits responsibility to

anything but abstract laws.

In the context of Feyerabend's criticism, we must

recognize that psychological perspectives do not ignore the

social contexts of creativity. Indeed, Teresa Amabile, whose

essay begins Sternberg's volume, rejects the notion "implicit

in much of the research [that] the important characteristics

of creative people are largely innate (or at least

immalleable)"12 and instead offers anecdotal surveys on

creative people. She finds among the most repeated traits in

these people the recurrence of a resistance to social

control, the undermining of creativity by the expectation of

external evaluation, and intrinsic motivation. Dean Keith

Simonton analyzes the effects of the educational context on

creativity. He notes that education encourages creativity

until the graduate school level, where the many years of

academic training required hinders creativity through the

overcommitment to traditional views of artistic and

scientific issues.13 Other recent discussions of the social

context merely mention the possibility of pursuing research

of families, schools, organizations, and societal-cultural

setting. The language used in some of these discussions

indicates a deep concern for social contexts. "Originality

depends on context. If you don't know the context, you can't

evaluate its uniqueness.""1

As early as 1947, researchers considered the cultural

context as a variable of creativity. For example, in

discussing Shakespeare the researchers note that creative

genius "is usually only possible at a given stage of cultural

progress and can never be closely paralleled in a different

era."15 By 1959, researchers included the social field as a

crucial factor in understanding creativity. For Lasswell,

the recognition (by the social field) of a variation (to the

domain of knowledge) as "valuable" functions as a necessary

condition for creativity. He also noted that although the

social field may repeatedly withdraw and reinstate

recognition, each time a consensus occurs creativity appears.

The social field determines what is and what is not creative.

This "ecology of innovation" attempts "to predict the routes

which novelties would originate in a social context."16 In

1961, Stein also stressed the importance of the social

field's acceptance of creativity. According to Stein,

creativity functions in the transactions between an

individual and the environment. For Stein, the social field

selects creative variations, and only reputation determines

whom we consider creative.17 Also in 1961, Rhodes suggested

a multi-variable conception of creativity: the four P's of

Creativity: Person, Process, Product, and Press (i.e., the

press or pressure of the social context).18 Sternberg uses

these categories to schematically summarize the information

in his anthology of contemporary perspectives.

In Sternberg's anthology, the social context becomes a

central concern of the "new view" of creativity in the

systems approach. Indeed, these theorists partially answer

Feyerabend's call for scientists to recognize the variety in

history. According to system theorists, we attribute

creativity only after a social field agrees to except a

variation into the domain of knowledge. For Mihaly

Csikszentmihalyi, the appearance of creativity depends on the

social agreement within the artistic or scientific

establishment. As Howard Gardner explains, the social

field's obstacles leave creative individuals vulnerable.

They must learn to endure hostility from both peers and gate-

keepers. The gatekeepers have more power in determining

which variations enter the domain of knowledge.

Unfortunately, the social field chooses these gatekeepers

according to social success in the current system, not

according to an ability to add variations to the domain.19

We can conclude from this that many gatekeepers have a vested

interest in excluding rule changing or methodological

variations in order to maintain their power to referee

changes to the domain. Further, any group which wants to

maintain the status quo may discourage interest in

variations. On the other hand, a fragmented social field

which rarely reaches any agreement condemns variations to

remain parochial for a long time. If a particular social

field does not accept a variation, then it may enter a domain

of knowledge only through its acceptance by a group of people

from related fields, who may then go on to form a new field.

For example, Freud's psychoanalysis, which met with hostility

from the medical community, found its initial acceptance by

people from related fields who helped form the new social

field of psychoanalysis. Once the social field accepts the

variation into the domain and, thus, begins to replicate

and/or imitate it, then future generations can benefit from

that meme (i.e., or unit of imitation). A creative

variation requires a social context. And, "if no qualified

persons are willing to invest their energy in preserving the

variation, it will not become one of the memes that future

generations know about."20

For system theorists, originality depends on relative

and fallible social processes, and posterity can all too

easily reverse this designation of originality. Therefore,

they reject originality or the process of variation as the

sole criteria for creativity. We can only evaluate the

creativeness of a person or product in a socio-historical

context; nothing in objects or people solely determines

creativity. Csikszentmihalyi writes, "It is impossible to

tell whether an object or idea is creative by simply looking

at it"(Csikszentmihalyi 326). It might appear that

psychologists still equate creativity with originality. For

example, Robert Weisberg appears to offer a dissenting

opinion in Sternberg's anthology of contemporary perspectives

on the nature of creativity. He argues first that "creative

thinking may require neither extraordinary individuals nor

extraordinary thought processes," and he stresses the

importance of commitment and expertise in a chosen field. He

goes on to explain that "true originality evolves as the

individual goes beyond what others had done before."

Moreover, "in order to produce something new, one should

first become as knowledgeable as possible about the old."21

Although he uses the term originality, he connects it to the

memes or "what others had done before" in the social field.

In this peculiar use of originality as a criterion for

creativity, Weisberg discounts any radical and complete

originality and imbeds the term in a social context.

Although the social field may "reverse its judgment,"

at some point in time, the field does reach a "collective

agreement." Of course, depending on the social structure of

the field (e.g., the power controlled by the gatekeepers),

that collective agreement may more closely resemble coercion.

On the other hand, only a compromised) variation may find

acceptance in the case of a fragmented field. The system

theorists seem to recognize this difficulty in determining a

creative adaptation. Therefore, they focus their initial

efforts at studying "unambiguous" instances of creativity--

instances where "no one" would disagree with the status of

the accomplishment. Finally, the system theorists study only

the initial context of creation, reception, and acceptance of

a person or product by a social field. Using these histories

they illustrate that only imitated and replicated variations

appear successful or creative. A variation which the social

field ignores appears as a weird aberration rather than an

indicator of a creative breakthrough. On the other hand,

what was once taken as a new variation (and changed the

domain of knowledge) appears later as normal and uncreative.

For example, we do not consider re-inventing the wheel a

creative breakthrough. Because variations depend on

historical contingencies, system theorists claim to evaluate

a domain's content before and soon after the variation rather

than the contents of the current domain of knowledge. For

example, to determine if inventing the wheel was a creative

variation a researcher would not study the current domain of

knowledge. If the researcher did attempt to decide whether

the wheel is a creative variation by reading current physics

texts, then that researcher would obviously argue that the

wheel is not a creative variation. Unfortunately, when the

system theorists look for "unambiguous" cases of creativity,

which "no one" in the current social field would dispute,

they allow contemporary prejudices to sully their historical


As I discussed in relation to (science) education's

role in forming disciplines, an over-reliance on objectivity

and fact-finding restricts potential inter-disciplinary

connections. These restrictions coalesce through the social-

discursive practices of educators. They define a domain of

knowledge, which they separate from the rest of history; the

domain then operates according to a "logic" of its own. The

education process consists of training in that specific

logic; the process stresses uniform actions and ignores

historical vicissitudes. While Feyerabend questions the

arbitrariness of domains, the system theorists take it for

granted. The system theorists use Karl Popper's definition

of "World III" to explain that domains contain theoretical

systems, problem situations, and critical arguments, and all

of the contents of journals, books, libraries, etc., hold

this knowledge, a knowledge "independent of anyone's claim to

know."22 The term "domain" resembles Plato's Form; like

Plato's notion of Form, domains do not merely communicate

states of subjective consciousness because they contain an

objective element; however, while people can never change

the eternal Form, people can and do change domains. We

discuss a domain when we refer to a branch of learning (e.g.,

mathematical knowledge) and we often attribute an autonomous

quality to domains.

Using Popper's model, the system theorists can evaluate

the structuring of information and the accessibility of that

information within a domain without attributing those

structures to a particular writer or subjective

consciousness. Popper's model allows them to deal with

general structures rather than specific contents and

individuals' communications. Unlike Feyerabend, who focuses

on the structure of a domain to highlight how meaning is

controlled for ideological or political reasons, the system

theorists examine how neutral structures control access.

They want to reveal that "some ways of imparting information

result in knowledge representations that are not especially

accessible."23 They hope to discover which symbols are

better for "storing creative ideas" within a domain. To make

domains and social fields more receptive to variations, the

theory suggests organizing them for accessibility, relevance

to a wider socio-historical context, and for the ability to

recognize problems rather than describe (old) solutions.

Studying past and possible ways to organize and store

knowledge becomes a major concern in the study of invention.

Indeed, this relatively new social field, with contributors

from semiotics, psychoanalysis, and poststructuralism, has

begun to investigate how we frame, organize, and present our


Science education (and educational programs based on

that model) organizes knowledge into facts. Only after

educators have established a new domain does the social field

create "stable facts" for the domain. These facts remain

constant despite the vicissitudes of history, and students

experience them as independent of opinion, belief, and

cultural background. Later, these facts justify the

boundaries between domains. Science educators try to prevent

any style of thinking which might lead to a blurring of

boundaries between domains. Again, the argument of this

chapter concerns those restrictions as well as suggestions of

ways to construct less restrictive language games. In the

educational practices influenced by the science education

model, including dominant practices in the humanities,

restrictions still remain. For example, a student's sense of

humor or sense of tragedy must not influence his or her

scholarly activity. If these "external" elements influence

students of science, then they may begin to question the

relevancy of a domain's conceptual boundaries and the

timelessness of unitary facts. As an example, Sternberg

presumes that "showing humor, fantasy, color, and movement,

in both literal and metaphoric senses, probably are more

relevant to the arts . then they are to science"[emphasis

added].25 However, he fails to examine this presumption. By

taking that presumption for granted he unwittingly discounts

much of the research on creativity. In spite of the research

he presents, Sternberg opts for the primacy of normal science

(normal in Thomas Kuhn's sense of the word) over creative


For Feyerabend, progress in science only occurs when

boundaries blur and when we compare contemporary reason and

experience with false or fictional (and often

incommensurable) ideas--unreasonable, nonsensical,

unmethodological theories. But, science education effaces

this dialectical thinking crucial for its own success. The

unitary concept of an observed fact supposedly leads

inductively to clear principles and theories.

Almost everyone takes it for granted that precise
observations, clear principles, and well-confirmed
theories are already decisive; that they can and
must be used here and now to either eliminate the
suggested hypothesis, or to make it acceptable, or
perhaps even prove it!"(AM 168)

This conception of definitive proof "makes sense only if we

assume that the principles of our arguments--are timeless

entities which share the same degree of perfection . and

are related to each other in a way that is independent of the

events which produced them"(AM 52). The distinction between

a context of discovery and a context of justification depends

on this conception of timeless entities. As an example, in

the conclusion and summary of the Sternberg anthology, Tardif

and Sternberg argue that the field of creativity requires

"much empirical research," but they never investigate the

possibly contradictory, and at least problematic,

relationship between creativity and empirical research

(Tardif and Sternberg 433).

Feyerabend not only identifies the influence of

historical change on supposedly stable and unchanging facts,

he also discusses how qualitative factors disrupt the use of

factual evidence as a basis for a methodology. The medium of

observation (e.g., microscopes, telescopes, eyes) and the

procedures of observation (the conceptual parameters on what

is and what is not an object) partially determine the object

or, at least, what we observe and understand about the

object. Only through contrasting the ideational context of

observation (i.e., using various media and various

procedures) will we expose prejudice. Comparison replaces

analysis in Feyerabend's "pluralistic methodology."

"Learning does not go from observation to theory but always

involves both elements. Experience arises together with

theoretical assumptions not before them"(AM 135). Out of

this criticism of science education and creativity,

Feyerabend offers an alternative which makes use of

psychological theories of invention, but he abandons the

notion of a psychological individual as well as objectivity-

as-research-guide. In that sense, he makes use of an

invention, a strategy, with neither genius nor rational

argument. Invention, in classical rhetoric, does not use

hermeneutics of truth nor arguments. It functions not as a

solution to problems, but as an artificial brainstorming.

This plundering of cultural history, common places, or even

funny coincidences does not require a genius nor a fool-proof

method. It requires the manipulation of shared cultural


Before abandoning the individual, an examination of

what role it plays in creativity research can help to

highlight impasses and salvage insights. In order to study

the creative person, the system theory uses models of

motivation, information-processing, and problem finding. The

information-processing model uses research on the components

of problem solving26 and problem-finding.27 Sternberg has a

variety of components for problem-solving processes.

Conditionalized knowledge, selective encoding, selective

combination, and selective comparison contribute the most to

creative problem solving. Conditionalized knowledge, all the

information about the conditions and constraints of the use

of abstract knowledge, helps a subject determine the

relevance of information to a problem situation and the

relevance of that situation to a wider social context.

Sternberg rejects creativity tests like Torrance's because

they focus on the most banal aspects of creative problem

solving. "A person's ability to think of unusual uses of a

brick, or to form a picture based on a geometric outline,

scarcely does justice to the kind of freedom of spirit and

intellect captured in people's implicit theories of

creativity.""28 For Sternberg, the creative problem solver

sifts out relevant information, combines the isolated parts

into a unified whole, and relates the newly acquired

information to information from past problem solving

situations through the use of analogy. The information

processing strategies of selective encoding, combination, and

comparison work on conditionalized knowledge in a real-life

situation to generate creative solutions. In addition to

these strategies, the creative person must be able to discern

that a problem exists. Not only do they have a sensitivity

to problems, they also question accepted notions and received

ideas. These strategies, traits, and motivations do not

operate in a cultural vacuum. Constantly under the pressure

of socio-historical conditions, the creative problem solver

must contend with efforts to inhibit creative solutions

through socialization like science education. Some

educational institutions, in an effort to socialize students

into a preset mold, discourage any unconventional or

imaginative responses. It appears that the system theorists

would agree with Feyerabend that science education (or any

discipline built on that model) usually prohibits unusual

ways of formulating, solving, and evaluating problems. And,

if we no longer equate strategies with personal traits, we

can extrapolate an invention without psychological

explanations. The problem with the term creativity, its

allusion to autonomous genius, leads to problems in attempts

to encourage creative solutions; if we follow the lead of

system theorists and Feyerabend, we might look away from

individual traits and toward textual and cultural practices.

Invention As A Language Game

"Proliferation," the generative principle, which for

Feyerabend, replaces creativity, changes the relation between

the context of discovery and the context of justification.

While "the context of discovery tells the history of a

particular piece of knowledge, the context of justification

explains its content and the reasons for accepting it. Only

the later context concerns the scientist"(FR 110). "In the

history of Science, standards of justification often forbid

moves that are caused by psychological, socio-economic-

political and other 'external' conditions"(AM 165).

Psychological research on invention explains that when we

invent theories, "we often make moves that are forbidden by

methodological rules." Because these two contexts (discovery

and justification) gather conflicting information, we have

to confront the problem of which context deserves

preferential treatment. Feyerabend suggests that "they must

be given equal weight." These contexts actually function as

"a single uniform domain of procedures"(AM 167).

The generative procedure makes the context of

discovery, the history of science, an integral part of

science itself. No longer do "facts" and "data" justify

theories. Instead, the difference between (often

incommensurable) ideas implicitly modulates the progress of

justification. Comparison replaces analysis and observation

as the test of ideas, while the supremacy of falsifiability,

as the gatekeeper of scientific knowledge, gives way to

eclectic affirmation of both true and false ideas--false only

from the perspective of (scientific) common sense. Science

and common sense depend on the formal logic of

falsifiability; this logic insists that theories must contain

the possibility that new empirical evidence may prove the

theory false (or true). This logic depends, therefore, on

the idea of objective evidence.

Because the alternative sensibility, conditioned by

dialectical thinking, depends on comparison of ideas, not on

the single idea of objectivity, this sensibility dissolves

everyday thinking (including ordinary scientific thinking)

and everyday practice "into nothing." But Feyerabend

explains how this dialectic between true and false already

exists in the history of science. A scientist, like

Galileo, begins with a "strong belief," which runs counter to

the "contemporary reason and experience." This belief

spreads and "finds support in other unreasonable beliefs."

It can, as of yet, find no support in the objective facts of

contemporary experience. Then, technologists build new kinds

of instruments to find evidence to confirm the belief.

Finally, an ideology forms which contains arguments for

specific phenomena in many areas of research. In this

scenario, "theories become clear only after incoherent parts

of them have been used for a long time. Such unreasonable,

nonsensical, unmethodological foreplay thus turns out to be

an unavoidable precondition of clarity and empirical

success"(AM 26-27). Thomas Kuhn offers a slightly different

version of change. As Kuhn explains, "anomalies do not

emerge from the normal course of scientific research until

both instruments and concepts have developed sufficiently to

make the anomaly which results recognizable as a variation of

expectation."29 And he continues by explaining that "the

conditions which make the emergence of anomaly likely and

those which make anomaly recognizable are to a very great

extent the same"(Kuhn 763, note 16). Kuhn does not stress

the emergence of an unreasonable belief before the anomaly

appears. But both theories agree that even science depends

on "false" ideas and "unmethodological foreplay" for its own

progress. Science does not progress according to strict

methods and accurate descriptions. Science education, on the

other hand, inscribes a method into the particular context of

discovery as a justification; this pedagogy simplifies the

processes of invention and discovery not by highlighting the

essential patterns of these processes but by "simplifying its

participants," students of the sciences. Science's

complexities give way to the demands of pedagogical


Psychoanalytic models suggest that the boundary between

language games and individuals blurs when we examine

cognition more closely. Although this chapter focuses on

textual models, a psychoanalytic perspective can suggest ways

to conceive of creativity without the primacy of a conscious

masterful mind, and this perspective can link the cognitive

systems model with my textual approach. Indeed,

psychoanalytic conceptions of creativity suggest that the

machinations of forces outside the control of any individual

ego resemble the linguistic procedures discussed above by

Sternberg: analogy and combination.

In traditional psychoanalytic models, creativity

requires the use of "primary-processes," which function by

grouping apparently different objects according to some

common element and then generalizing across rational

domains. In primary-process thinking, "a class is a

collection of objects that have a predicate or a part in

common . and that become identical or equivalent by

virtue of this common part or predicate."30 The combination

of this process with "secondary-processes" (i.e., rational

thinking) forms the tertiary process and converts the

"primitive thinking" into "innovating powers." The

amorphous process occurs without expression in words,

images, thoughts, or actions of any kind; instead of

appearing a concept it emerges as an endocept. Endocepts

(e.g., surprise, hesitation, and doubtfulness) appear as

"atmospheric" or "global experiences."

A paleologic (paleo, Greek for old) responds to these

endocepts. This logic works by identification according to

similarity of formal structure rather than meaning. For

example, Arieti tells the story of a man obsessed by the

fear that his wife was poisoning his food; later the man

admitted that the wife had "poisoned his life." This type

of identification allows the "stream of thought to proceed

in a large number of directions"(Arieti 75). Arieti

suggests three processes of association at work in

paleologic: contiguity, similarity, and par pro toto (part

for whole). "The few ideas that are associated by

contiguity and similarity stand for a whole constellation of

ideas (par pro toto) and tend to bring about the whole

constellation"(Arieti 97). The associative processes have

three corresponding stages; first, the abstraction of

unities and grouping according to contiguity; then,

metaphoric connections between similar elements; and,

finally, the inference of the not given from the given, the

whole from the piece. By explicating these procedures,

Silvano Arieti helps us understand creativity as structured

like a linguistic procedure and arising from processes

outside our rational control. Later chapters will explore

further the textual basis for invention.

The comparison between the psychological perspective

and Feyerabend's agenda has identified some differences and

similarities. More importantly, it has begun to chart a

different route for research. As Frank Barron urges in the

Sternberg anthology, "we have reached such a point of

development of our knowledge of creativity that it is ready

for application."31 This application requires the

manipulation of images and commonplaces. For example,

Darwin's use of the tree image, according to Howard Gruber in

the Sternberg anthology, helped generate the principle of

natural selection.32 Images generate ways of thinking. In

terms of where we find these images, Feyerabend argues that

art functions "as a necessary means for discovering and

perhaps even changing the features of the world we live

in"(AM 52). He suggests we use examples from art (he

mentions dada explicitly) as generative models and as

research methods not merely as objects of study.

In her book How Great Ideas are Born, Denise Shererjian

suggests that, among other things, creativity is aided by

travel.33 Roland Barthes uses a tourist's visit to the city

as a model of invention in Empire of Signs. Tourism functions

like a trope in defining the qualities of an invention

process. While most tourists bring home memories, Barthes

brings home an image of loss, of being lost. From his mis-

haps, he hints at the consequences of a rhetoric premised on

getting lost among the places or loci in a kind of memory

theater or city. He travels not for inspiration, but in

order to find a language for that which resists taxonomic

classification and scientific fact-finding. From the

impasses and detours he encounters he builds a method of

inventing something from nothing, of making much of little.

Barthes's text functions neither as an ethnography, nor

as a philosophical treatise on otherness, but as a model.

The image of wandering through the City, in this case Tokyo,

functions not as an object of study, but as a model of

invention; it demonstrates how to find our way or make

connections between topics, and by making those connections

to invent something other, different, or innovative. The

maps of invention examined here, from psychology and cultural

studies, pave a route to this city of invention. Only by

elaborating on the metaphors and images we use to frame our

thinking can we investigate the implications of the way we

organize our knowledge. Studies of problem setting, rather

than problem solving, will teach us how to make knowledge

accessible and provocative. Moreover, art and literary

models offer a way to study what we do not know, something

Other, different, or as of yet impossible.


1 Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 15. Hereafter referred
to in text as Lyotard.

2 Feyerabend writes about his cultural criticism of
creativity in Farewell to Reason and Against Method. Paul
Feyerabend, Farewell to Reason (London: Verso, 1987).
Hereafter referred to in text as FR. cf. Paul Feyerabend,
"Creativity--A Dangerous Myth, Critical Inquiry (Summer,
1987), 13, 4. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method (London:
Verso,1975). Hereafter referred to in text as AM.

3 Unidentified reporter, The New York Times (19 October
1931), as quoted in Ronald Clark, Edison: The Man Who Made The
Future (New York: G. P. Putnams's Sons, 1977), 31.

4 Wyn Wachhorst, Thomas Alva Edison: An American Myth
(Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1981). cf. Carolyn Marvin, When
Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric

Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1988). For discussions of the
patent fights over the movie camera and projector see John L.
Fell's editorial introduction to Film Before Griffith
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), and for a
discussion of how Edison's assistant W. K. L. Dickson
actually invented the motion picture camera see Gordon
Hendrick, The Edison Motion Picture Myth (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1961).

5 Penelope Murray, "Poetic Genius and Its Classical
Origins," in Genius: The History of an Idea, Ed. Penelope
Murray (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 3.

6 J. P. Guilford, "Creativity," Presented as the
presidential address to the American Psychological
Association annual meeting at Pennsylvania State College on
September 5, 1950. Published in American Psychologist
(1950), 5, 9: 444-454.

7 E. Paul Torrance, "The Nature of Creativity as Manifest
in Its Testing, in The Nature of Creativity: contemporary
psychological perspectives, Ed. Robert Sternberg (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1988), 68. cf. E. P. Torrance,
Role of Evaluation in Creative Thinking, Report of project
number 725, U.S. office of Education, H.E.W., 1964.

8 Thomas Anderson, "Beyond Einstein," in Interactive
Multimedia: Visions of Multimedia for Developers. Educators.
and Information Providers, Ed. Sueann Abron and Kristina
Hooper (Redmond, Washington: Microsoft Press, 1988), 197.

9 cf. Jacques Lacan, "Desire and the Interpretation of
Desire in Hamlet," Yale French Studies (1977), 55/56. Lacan
explains that the conscious individual cannot bridge "the
gap" in reality. He suggests that the development of
concepts and rituals, which we use to bridge that gap, arise
from unconscious forces completely out of our control.

10 Philip Johnson-Laird, "Freedom and constraint in
creativity," in The Nature of Creativity: Contemporary
Psychological Perspectives, Ed. Robert J. Sternberg (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 208.

11 Michael Cole, et. al., The Cultural Context of Learning
and Thinking: An Exploration in Experimental Anthropology
(New York: Basic Books, 1971).

12 Teresa Amabile, The Social Psychology of Creativity
(New York: Springer-Verlag, 1983), 5. cf. Beth Hennessey
and Teresa Amabile, "The conditions of creativity," in The
Nature of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological
Perspectives, Ed. Robert Sternberg (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1988), 11-38.

13 D.K. Simonton, "Socio-cultural context of individual
creativity: A trans-historical time-series analysis,"
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1975), 32. cf.
D.K. Simonton, "Formal Education, Eminence and Dogmatism:
The Curvilinear Relationship," Journal of Creative Behavior
(1983), 17, 3. cf. Dean Keith Simonton, "Creativity,
leadership, and chance," in The Nature of Creativity:
Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, 386-426.

14 J. Young, "What is Creativity?" Journal of Creative
Behavior (1985), 19, 2: 77-87.

15 L. M. Terman, "The Gifted Child Grows Up," In Genetic
Studies of Genius, Vol. 4, Ed. L.M. Terman (Stanford, Calif.:
Stanford University Press, 1947), 448.

16 H. Lasswell, "The Social Setting of Creativity," in
Creativity and Its Cultivation, Ed. H. Anderson (New York:
Harper & Brothers, 1959), 217.

17 M. I. Stein, Survey of the Psychological Literature in
the Area of Creativity With a View Toward Needed Research,
Cooperative Research Project number E-3, H.E.W (New York: New
York University, 1962). cf. M. I. Stein, "Creativity as
Intra- and Inter-Personal Process," in A Source Book for
Creative Thinking, Ed. S. Parnes and H. Harding (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962), 85-92.

18 Cited in E. P. Torrance, Role of Evaluation in Creative
Thinking, Report of project number 725, U.S. office of
Education, H.E.W., 1964, 1-2.

19 Howard Gardner, "Freud in Three Frames: A Cognitive-
Scientific Approach to Creativity," Dedalus: Journal of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, (Summer, 1986), 105-
134. This is an earlier and unacknowledged, but nearly
identical, version of Gardner's "Creative lives and creative
works: a synthetic scientific approach," in The Nature of
Creativity: Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, 298-

20 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "Society, Culture, and Person:
A Systems View of Creativity," in The Nature of Creativity:
Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, 332. Hereafter
referred to in text as Csikszentmihalyi.

21 Robert Weisberg, "Problem solving and creativity," in
The Nature of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological
Perspectives, 173.

22 Karl Popper, "Knowledge: Subjective versus Objective"
(1967), in Popper Selections, Ed. David Miller (Princeton,
N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985), 60.

23 J. Bransford, R. Sherwood, N. Vye and J. Rieser,
"Teaching Thinking and Problem Solving: Research
Foundations," American Psychologist (1986), 41, 10: 1080.

24 See for example Robert B. Ray, "The ABC of Visual
Theory," and Gregory L. Ulmer, "Handbook For a Theory Hobby,"
Visible Language, Special Issue on "Instant Theory: Making
Thinking Popular," Ed. Craig Saper, (Autumn 1988), 22, 4:
423-448 and 399-422.

25 Twila Z. Tardif and Robert Sternberg, "What do we know
about creativity?" in The Nature of Creativity: Contemporary
Psychological Perspectives, Ed. Robert Sternberg (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1988), 438. Hereafter referred to
in text as Tardif and Sternberg.

26 Robert Sternberg, Beyond IO: A Triarchic Theory Of
Human Intelligence (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985).
cf. Robert Sternberg, "Intelligence, Wisdom, and Creativity:
Three is Better Than One," Educational Psychologist (1986),
21, 3: 175-190. Robert Sternberg and J. Davidson, "Insight
in the Gifted," Educational Psychologist (1985), 18. Robert
Sternberg and D. Caruso, "Practical Modes of Knowing," in
Learning and Teaching: The Ways of Knowing, Eds. Eisner and
Rehage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

27 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and J. Getzels, The Creative
Vision: A Longitudinal Study of Problem Finding in Art (New
York: Wiley, 1976).

28 Robert Sternberg, "Intelligence, Wisdom, and
Creativity: Three is Better Than One," Educational
Psychologist (1986), 21, 3: 187.

29 Thomas Kuhn, "The Historical Structure of Scientific
Discovery, Science (June 1, 1962), 136: 763. Hereafter
referred to in text as Kuhn.

30 Silvano Arieti, Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (New
York: Basic Books, 1976), 71. Hereafter referred to in text
as Arieti.

31 Frank Barron, "Putting creativity to work." in The
Nature of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological
Perspectives, 76. cf. Frank Barron, "The Psychology of
Imagination," in A Source Book for Creative Thinking, Ed. S.
Parnes and H. Harding (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,

32 Howard Gruber and Sara Davis, "Inching our way up Mount
Olympus: the evolving-systems approach to creative thinking,"
in The Nature of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological
Perspectives. cf. Howard Gruber, "Darwin's "Tree of Nature
and Other Images of Wide Scope," in On Aesthetics in Science,
Ed. Judith Wechsler (Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press,
1978), 131.

33 Denise Shererjian, How Great Ideas are Born (New York:
Viking, 1989).


a space not of seeing but of doing.
Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs

On arriving in a foreign city, the point is to learn,
not how to find your way, but how to lose it.
Walter Benjamin


Lost in a tangle of streets without names, unfamiliar

with language, customs, and rituals, and guided only by a map

which resembles an illegible palimpsest, a middle-aged man

wanders around a crowded Asian city. If we add a robbery to

this scene, then we might expect Karl Maiden to appear from

an alley telling us not to forget our American Express

Travler's Checks. That infamous commercial plays on our

greatest fears about otherness. Indeed, as the commercial

teaches us, unless we can hope to reduce chaotic foreignness

to a series of commodities, unless we can, that is,

incorporate the threat of difference, we probably should not

leave home at all. Faced with this dilemma, the writer "at

one and the same time knows and hesitates."1

Who would celebrate precisely those elements of travel

we find most threatening? It is Roland Barthes, not Malden,

who can hardly contain his enthusiasm for an otherness which

eludes him. And, his Empire of Signs, which resembles a

travel guide, includes only the absolutely other within

tourist attractions. The "neglected study of tourism"2

offers a way to understand both the social aspect of spatial

structures (in this case the city of Tokyo) and, by

extension, an invention-tourism. As many urban and cultural

theorists recognize, "the organization, and meaning of space

is a product of social translation, transformation, and

experience."3 The experience of the tourist in a foreign

city defines the urban experience as much as, if not more

than, architectural practice. This essay explores a way to

use socio-spatial settings to think with, learn from, and

invent out of. It uses a tourist's visit to the city as a

model of invention; tourism becomes a major trope in defining

the qualities of that invention process. Barthes's use of

tourism brings with it all of the, often derogatory,

connotations from social histories and literature. As he

does in A Lover's Discourse, he appears to take a

particularly un-fashionable pose: a tourist in the age of

sophisticated travellers and ethnographers.

Tourism predates modernity, as Dean MacCannell

explains, "in the same way that capitalism predates

Protestantism. But this is not the point. Premodern

tourists were not socially organized as they are today.

Sightseeing, before about seventy-five years ago, was mainly

speculative and individualistic"(MacCannell 194). That

social construction and organization of the modern tourist

has as much to do with critical and literary discourses as it

has to do with merely travelling to exotic places. Indeed,

travellers often define themselves in opposition to a

mythical "Tourist." "The Tourist," mocked by writers from

Ruskin to E.M. Forester, never seeks the authentic, while

actual "tourists demand authenticity"(MacCannell 104). That

pilgrimage defines their very essence. All the pictures and

stories on the attraction draw them to experience the "Real

Thing." By challenging the notion of the authentic, while

taking on a touristic rhetoric of adventure, Barthes

resembles "The Tourist." That pose puts him, paradoxically,

at odds with tourism because of the "long-standing touristic

attitude; a pronounced dislike, bordering on hatred, for

other tourists" as if to say 'they are the tourists. I am

not'(MacCannell 107). Indeed, it is a commonplace among

tourists and travel writers to denigrate "The Tourists" as

passive spectators, who expect interesting things to happen

to them, and expect everything to be done to them and for

them. Andy Warhol struck a pose similar to Barthes when he

remarked that he liked the postcard version of the "Mona

Lisa" more than the real thing.

Neither MacCannell nor Barthes scoff at this touristic

activity. As noted above, by not scoffing they,

paradoxically, oppose the tourists' elitist discourse.

MacCannell defends tourists against the intellectual nay-says

who claim to have privileged access to the authentic,4 while

Barthes becomes a tourist looking for The Japanese City. He

initially wants to domesticate all cultural differences until

he can incorporate them into the familiarity of his own

language. He goes to Japan with the ultimate travel fantasy

to visit a far-away place from the comfort of his own home

(language). He finds only a loss of his semiotic mastery and

inadequacies in his familiar language. He confronts a block

to any positivistic knowledge; over and over again he meets

an impasse, what he would later call the punctum, which

resists any metalanguage to describe the signs of Tokyo. If

we equate tourism with Auguste Comte's sociology-religion, as

MacCannell does, then Barthes's invention-tourist lacks the

positivistic fervor necessary for a successful pilgrimage to

The Center of the Foreign City. Barthes is the worst sort of

tourist: he lets things happen to him, he allows himself to

be thrilled by cliches like the Zen experience or the cute

Japanese style of packaging, and, worst of all, he does not

attend to the "real beauty" of Tokyo; he looks only at

peripheral details. He uses tourism as a way to interrogate

his relation to objective truth-seeking.

Tourists' claims to the contrary, tourism functions as

a metonymic indicator of the current redefinition of the

categories of "truth" and "reality" precisely because tourism

disrupts the notion of authenticity. Dean MacCannell

describes how tourist traps highlight what exists throughout

all tourist sites and everyday life: inauthenticity.

[T]ourist settings, like other areas of
institutional life, are often insufficiently
policed by liberal concerns for truth and beauty.
They are tacky. We might also suggest that some
touristic places overexpress their underlying

structure and thereby upset certain of their
sensitive visitors: restaurants are decorated like
ranch kitchens; bellboys assume and use false,
foreign first names; hotel rooms are made to appear
like peasant cottages; primitive religious
ceremonies are staged as public pageants.
(MacCannell 103)

The earlier reference to American Express concerns the common

assumption that tourism "seeks to make the world a series of

accessible sites, equivalent as markers for goods."(Culler

167). Again, paradoxically, it can only do this by reducing

the threat of alienating difference or otherness while still

maintaining its authenticity. Barthes poses as a tourist who

finds the authentic inaccessible and discovers an otherness

invading the familiar. These missed encounters and

threatening situations could be part of a tourist's worst

nightmare. Those moments of impasse and detour function as

intense intersections which resist an almost religious faith

in positivism common to semiotics, ethnography, and tourism.

This faith in positivism accounts for the prejudice

against those tourists who would seek anything less than the

absolutely authentic. The social construction of this truth-

seeking tourist began, as noted above, during the nineteenth

century. The use of the guide-book quickly stigmatized "its

bearer in contrast to all that was indigenous, authentic, and

spontaneous."5 In literature and criticism the tourist

became the dupe of deception and crass manipulation. In a

contemporary version of this mythic deception, one researcher

describes how "a Turkish respondent of mine, whose job it is

to divert tourists off the main thoroughfares of Istanbul to

a backstreet leather coat factory, described the language he

uses in his work as 'Tarzan English, you know, the kind one

reads in comic books'(MacCannell 200). In Puerto Rico, a

popular joke tells of a man who in his dreams dies and goes

to hell; he finds hell contains dancing girls, gambling, and

booze, and he has a wonderful time. Upon awakening, he makes

a covenant to live his life in sin and try for hell instead

of heaven. When he dies, he goes to hell; Satan gives him a

pitch-fork and tells him to start shoveling the hot coals.

In protesting, he recounts his dream, and asks where are the

dancing girls, the booze, the gambling, and all the rest.

"Oh that's for the tourists," Satan replies.

As the authentic recedes, efforts to follow it lead

inevitably behind-the-scenes. For example, a travel guide to

Disney's EPCOT suggests we put one such attraction on our

"must-see list." It explains that "the Hidden Treasures of

The World Showcase tour will give you a better understanding

of the art, architecture, and culture of the world showcase

countries. You'll also get some surprising behind-the-scenes

looks at several pavilions."6 To discover the authentic

holds sway over many tourists, especially ethnographers and

semioticians. Once the tourist goes behind-the-scenes, the

attractions out front might no longer appear authentic at

all. The tourist seeks the staging ground to learn more and

to protect against the un-fashionable pose of the unknowing,

or worse, the deceived tourist, and this double liberal

desire to see the real life of other people and to avoid

deception sometimes takes on a morbid (but perhaps

politically necessary) cast. For example, tourists to Dachau

are told that

the Dachau Memorial Museum is open year round
except for Christmas and national holidays. As
with most of Europe, crowds are at their peak
during the spring and summer. The morning hours,
however, will afford the viewer the most intimacy.
Visitors during the fall and winter will find the
camp most depressing as the Bavarian weather will
shroud the sight in a gray blanket.7

Do we really need to know so much, in such detail, not about

Dachau, but about getting an authentic intimate view of a

concentration camp. In Hiroshima Mon Amour, about a French

woman's visit to Hiroshima and the memorial museum there, the

Japanese man tells the visitor, who says she saw the horror

at the museum, "You weren't there, you don't know." The

distinction to extrapolate from these anecdotes is not merely

between knowing and ignorance; sometimes chronological

history, the desire to know, and the effort to avoid

deception prevent otherness from having any impact on our

language and lives. We see, we know, we understand; what

does the attraction think of us?

This essay explores what Kristin Ross describes as "an

'ethics of combat,' one that poses space as a terrain of

political practice."8 Barthes uses the spatial ambience of

the urban terrain for an "ethics of combat" rather than an

aesthetic appreciation of Tokyo. His adventure resembles the

Situationists' drivess9 Both projects attack the control of

the imagination through the complementary categories of

creativity and rationality. Barthes attempts to "grasp the

everyday without relegating it either to institutional codes

and systems or to the private perceptions of a monadic

subject."10 He rejects both science education's method and

subjective genius as the cause of knowledge. The city

becomes, in this scenario, "not merely a network of streets,

but a conjunction of habit, desire, and accident"(Ross &

Kaplan 3). The practice Barthes describes is "situated

somewhere in the rift between the subjective,

phenomenological, sensory apparatus of the individual and

reified institutions"(Ross & Kaplan 3).

Invention-tourism loosens the hold of any one context

or any supposedly limitable context and, by doing so, allows

information to function generatively. It uses information to

suggest different contexts or the illimitable boundaries of

contexts. It no longer finds information circumscribed by

given contexts and applicable only to particular problems.

This generative scholarship uses tourist attractions, not as

objects of study, but as guides for research. The

attraction, paradoxically both the epitome of the real thing

and its negation, calls into question both hermeneutics of

truth and meaning and outright rejections of the desire to

know (more, other, differently, etc.). All too often critics

equate the rejection of critical hermeneutics with the

rejection of the desire to know. The tourism model shows how

this equation need not hold: the tourist, especially the

denigrated mythic one, wants to know more about an obviously

staged or inaccessible authenticity. Tourists seek these

paradoxical moments (cliched objects and unique combinations)

in which learning becomes a matter of jumping tours rather

than using contextualized information for given problems.

This model is not a cure-all, nor a "How To" manual on

creativity; it offers instead a way to understand the

importance of how we frame our questions and present our

knowledge. If we present information with an invisible

frame, then little invention takes place. If, on the other

hand, we delay conclusion and foreground the process of

construction, then invention becomes like Brecht's Epic

theater; it becomes distanced. This distance and

forestalling conclusion occurs by interweaving codes and

references. Textual machinations replace the expression of a

transcendent author.

By using a visit to the city as a model of invention,

tourism becomes a major trope in defining the qualities of

that invention process. And, as the cultural histories of

tourism explain, tourists always want to find the "Real

Thing." Yet, contrary to the claims of these truth-seeking

travellers, tourism, by creating sights "for the toursits,"

disrupts the notion of authenticity. The invention-tourist

does not ask what to think about all the attractions; the

invention-tourist wonders/wanders what the attractions think

of us.

In this urban territory where streets have no names,

where the neighborhoods and city alike have only empty

centers, where a cook "cooks nothing at all"(ES 24), and

where "emptiness is produced in order to provide

nourishment"(ES 24), the impasses support this landscape with

a "central emptiness, forcing the traffic to make a perpetual

detour"(ES 32). The moments of loss or getting lost become

the intense potential detours of invention. What I argue is

that Barthes's efforts to find his way through Tokyo leads to

a kind of rhetorical way-losing, a lost-sense necessary for


The extrapolated method of inventing from a breakdown

of semiotic mastery uses the procedures of selecting,

turning, sifting through objects and attractions (in every

sense of that word). That is, Barthes diverges from the

tourist's discourse of truth-seeking by allowing the trope of

tourism to affect, provoke, and comment upon his writing

practice. Through that use, he hints at an invention-tourism

premised on an image of loss, of Being lost; he hints at the

consequences of a rhetoric premised on getting lost among the

places or loci in a kind of memory theater or city. In

classical rhetoric, invention is the act of recalling stored

information; finding something to say by moving from locus

to locus is aided by the memory theater's ability to store

information. The ancient art of memory shifts a process from

cognition to a discursive practice. Invention, similarly, is

a discursive practice rather than a cognitive trait.

Invention depends on how we store and recall knowledge rather

than on what we know or who we are. Different than the art

of memory, which teaches a way to recall information,

invention works by loosing the way among that stored data.

The two systems are closely related and cannot be thought of

separately, but in invention, movement rather than place

becomes crucial to knowledge production. We can know the

world by following and generating links as tourists lost in a

foreign city rather than as mneumenitists in a familiar


In a discussion of memory and writing, Plato rejects

the performances of epic poetry. Knowledge in that oral

culture depended on an artificial memory system, which made

use of visual images, temporal "becoming" rather than

transcendent "being," a mixture of fact and fiction, and

audience participation. As Jacques Derrida explains, even

though Plato agrees that writing is "good for memory,"

writing is for Plato "external to memory, productive not of

science but of belief, not of truth but of appearances."11

Plato objected to the passive recitations of poetry because

it created a monument of memory (hypomnemata) rather than

living memory (mneme). In their efforts to visit or recite

these monuments rather than think for themselves, the

audience lost any hope of thinking as individual subjects.

Plato coined an appropriate phrase for the epic audience, who

he claimed had a lost-sense and could not reason for

themselves; he called them "sight-seers." Invention-tourism

depends on the play between sightseers and seers; it depends

on using sightseeing (in every sense) in an invention program

which resembles the seer's activities.

As I have argued, contrary to the notion that tourists

want only the cheap imitation, they want to "get off the

beaten path" and "in with the natives." Tourists desire to

share in the real life of the places they visit. The

modernist and romantic versions prize "the unpromising,

remote, or marginal places off tourism's beaten track as the

havens of a valid genius loci"(Buzard 165). Barthes, on the

other hand, does not find revelations in marginal areas far

away from tourist attractions; he finds the impasses and

detours, what he later calls punctums, right there where

"everyone" goes. As an unsure tourist, unsure of his own

frame for understanding what he tours, he does not mock

tourism like elitist tourists; his pose as a "mickey mocker"

abandons the romantic search for authenticity and the

modernist myth of originality. He occupies the smudged, the

effaced, the cliched in order to find a language for that

which resists taxonomic classification and scientific fact-

finding. Barthes's discourse is very different than, for

example, Ruskin's, who in order to subvert the authority of

the Murray guidebooks ironically incorporated that discourse

into his own work. Ruskin writes,

Without looking about you at all, you may find, in
your Murray, the useful information that it is a
church which 'consists of very wide nave and
lateral aisles, separated by seven fine pointed
arches.' And as you will be--under ordinary
conditions of tourist hurry--glad to learn so much,
without looking, it is little likely to occur to

you that this nave and two rich aisles required
also, for your complete present comfort, walls at
both ends, and a roof on the top."12

Barthes does not rely on any guide book. The city

nevertheless deceives, blocks knowledge, and offers

everything-up as tourist attractions (e.g., a Pachinko

gallery, the Bunraku theater, restaurants, etc.). His

opening comment to Empire of Signs, "Orient and Occident

cannot be taken as 'realities'"(ES 3), take on reverberations

of the degraded activities of the tourist: finding only the

unauthentic, the reproduction, the "Japanesy" instead of the

"Japanese." Like a typical tourist tale, one of Barthes's

anecdotes describes how he follows a map in vain, telling the

taxi cab driver when to turn. Finally, he asks the driver to

stop at a phone booth so that he can call for new directions.

We never learn if he reached his destination or not. There

is nothing peculiar about this story; everyone has

experienced the frustrations of following "bad" directions.

So it comes as a surprise when Barthes not only affirms the

experience but builds a method of invention from this and

other impasses.

Seduced by the absurdity of this travel guide, one can

imagine Mr. Hulot playing Barthes in an eventful trip to

Japan. Hulot, the central character in Playtime and other

films by the French director Jacques Tati, would, like

Barthes, move through this disastrous adventure unaware of

the seriousness of the situation. Yet, by doing so, he would

teach us, like Joyce's Bloom (a "Charlie Chaplin as

advertising agent" who takes "pratfalls within mass commodity

culture"13), about the wonders of this Otherness which we

usually try to contain and repress. We would tag along as

Barthes-as-Mr. Hulot on holiday struggled with the

"apparently illogical, uselessly complicated, curiously

disparate address system"(ES 33). The journey would take us

from a close encounter with a violent student protest to the

Pachinko galleries, where everyone appears as if working in a

factory instead of enjoying an amusement. Of course, Tati

would stage amazing sight gags in the rooms which Barthes

tells us look the same upside down as right side-up. Our

hero would visit stationery stores and puppet theaters. Most

of the time he would, like the most degraded of all tourists,

wander around lost. And, as always, end up in yet another

restaurant, where he could marvel over everything from

chopsticks to things floating in his murky watery soup. His

"Japanned" picture would appear in the newspaper to his

surprise. Ebisu, the Japanese god of tourism, would appear

not in its traditional form of a hunchback but as an "ugly


More than an amusing film treatment, Barthes's

"controlled accidents" go beyond our hero's mishaps to a

method of "yielding to the path of the initial dispatch"(ES

28): a method of making much of little. He delicately

selects, turns, and sifts through objects and attractions (in

every sense of that word) to meet with differing aspects of

nothing, or the loss of a centered meaning and memory. He

finds over and over again "a shock of meaning lacerated,

extenuated to the point of its irreplaceable void"(ES 4).

Even the essence of the "Japanese thing" is determined not by

a positive value or meaning, but by a frame, a frame of

"nothing, empty space which renders it matte (and therefore

to our eyes reduced, diminished, small)"(ES 43). That

diminutive character which "tends toward the infinitesimal"

creates a sense of a collection of fragments organized around

an impasse, an empty center of meaning. His own language

shows its internal tensions, its impasses to sense, and its

limits. These moments of loss or getting lost become the

intense switches or detours of invention. Efforts to navigate

through Tokyo, what architects call "wayfinding," leads to a

kind of rhetorical waylosing. The image of wandering through

the city functions as a model of invention.14

In a discussion of travel guides, Barthes complains

that these guides give travellers only an abstract reading of

a place and exclude the possibility of appreciating the non-

monumental and the temporal.

Generally speaking, the Blue Guide testifies
to the futility of all analytical
descriptions, those which reject both
explanations and phenomenology: it answers
in fact none of the questions which a modern
traveller can ask himself while crossing a
countryside which is real and which exists in
time.(M 75-6)

The rejection of analytic descriptions and the inclusion of

the temporal and a concern for extreme particularities mark

much of Barthes's work. He seeks that which resists the

eternal values of Art and Knowledge. These values always

presume to exist outside the vicissitudes of time, the lives

of people, and the contingencies of place. Barthes rejects

those methods, from analytic history to formalism and

structuralism, which attempt to protect these values. But

rather than leave a vacuum in their place for some romantic

notions to fill, he proposes methods and procedures to

approach that which the study of Art, Literature, and

Knowledge have left unnoticed on the wayside. As Barthes

shifts away from the enlightenment project of Mythologies,

especially in the last ten years of his life, the tourist

guide no longer functions merely as an illusory veil or

displacement of reality. In those years he makes a decisive

break with efforts to appreciate form, structure, or

Knowledge. While his early works contain flashes of the

importance of the particular, he does not yet incorporate

those moments of insight into a larger project. In the later

works, he no longer attempts analytic elucidation of a

terrain; instead, he provokes us to approach the absolutely

particular in our readings, viewings, travels, etc. And out

of this particularity he builds a general method: a method

of writing as well as reading. This essay could, in fact,

introduce a Barthes Guide, vexing and difficult, but still

useful to the tourists.

In America, the challenge comes less from the Eternal

values usually found in museums, histories of Art, and canons

of Literature, than from the pseudo-science of supposedly

neutral and objective description. As Barthes notes, the

myth of travel embodied in the Blue Guide had already begun

to give way to statistics and rankings of the banal. "Notice

how already, in the Michelin Guide, the number of bathrooms

and forks indicating good restaurants is vying with that of

'artistic curiosities'"(M 76). Who can doubt the veracity of

a guide which gives addresses, telephone numbers, and prices

of motels along the road, and who would think to question the

validity of such truths? In his early work, like

Mythologies, Barthes demonstrated how these everyday facts

hid many underlying assumptions; in his later work, he

noticed how our attention to facts discounted and ignored the

particularities these facts presumed to offer. By focusing

attention on the monumental or the statistical social

geography, we often fail to notice the city-spiel (play of

the city's structure), the setting. He went further: he

offered an alternative method to both fact mongerers and

calculators of eternal values. He offered an alternative to

descriptive readings which depend on the abstract notions of

aesthetics, knowledge, or even empirical objectivity. The

essence of (rhetorical) traveling is not "certain boring and

useless things: customs, mail, the hotel, the barber, the

doctor, prices"(ES 13). What is traveling? Meetings, Barthes

answers. The rendezvous becomes that momentary intense

intersection, like a train station, an empty value, which

sets in motion a perpetual combination of lines.

Empire of Signs primarily teaches us about a discursive

method rather than about architecture, building, or urban

planning. Beatriz Colomina, in her editorial introduction to

Architectureproduction, explains how architecture refers to

interpretation and criticism, not merely to buildings. She

goes onto explain that "a building is interpreted when its

rhetorical mechanism and principles are revealed."15 With

the mechanical reproduction of the image of the City the size

of the audience increases. As that image influences the

audience, the cognitive maps of cities changes. The audience

(the tourist in front of a building, the reader of a journal,

the viewer of an exhibition or a newspaper advertisement)

"increasingly become the user, the one who gives meaning to

the work"(Colomina 9-10). The meaning Barthes makes out of

the City has more to do with "a tourist in front of a

building" than the function of buildings and streets. He

does not live in a city; he uses images of the city to talk

about discursive practices and rhetoric. That is, his

efforts at "wayfinding" lead toward an invention.

Designers interested in the situation of disorientation

in cities have noted the importance of a conceptual image or

cognitive map. Wayfinding depends more on cognitive maps and

on what one knows about a situation than on what one sees.

The recognition of a cognitive-textual aspect to space

conceives of space as a textual translation. Feminist work

on cities also points to the importance of contextual factors

in mapping a city. In a discussion of detective fiction, one

critic asserts the difference between how female detectives

conceived of a city versus how men picture cities.

The tradition of the detective novel clearly
deals with the questions and darkness of the
city, but from Williams' description, it seems
to do so in a particularly masculine way: the
rational abstract intelligence, elevated and
separated from others, which isolates and
differentiates until it identifies a single
cause 16

Women writers of detective novels, on the other hand, "see

light and change in the city as well as darkness"(Sizemore

155). This rather pat contrast does highlight an alternative

to the film noir city. This essay focuses not on the solution

of the dark city crimes, but on those elastic intersections

and confusing boundaries which provoke both male and female

detectives with unsolved enigmas. What the comparison of

male and female writers does, perhaps unintentionally, is

suggest that the city is a textual system, not merely a

neutral setting.

The most influential of studies of urban design and one

of the first to consider a city as a text, Kevin Lynch's The

Image of the City, argues that "the mishap of disorientation"


a sense of anxiety and even terror that . .
reveals how closely it is linked to our sense
of balance and well-being. The very word
"lost" in our language means much more than a
simple geographical uncertainty; it carries
overtones of utter disaster.17

This essay focuses on the linguistic and rhetorical overtones

of the word lost. In helping us to work through those

overtones, Lynch lists the elements of disorientation in the

image of the city: direction ambiguity, characterless path,

lack of differentiation, elastic intersection, weak or absent

boundary, point of confusion, and many others. The knowledge

of these disorientations has influenced urban planning. For

example, Paul Rabinow explains how, in the mid-60s, an

enormous effort at urban planning began in France. He

writes, "In addition to including the latest technological

and functional advances, the urbanism teams were directed to

create a symbolism of urbanity and micro-spaces of

sociability embodying the values of comfort, ease, and

centrality."18 He goes on to quote the authors of the

"authoritative Histoire de la France urbaine" who conclude

their discussion of this urban planning project by saying,

"The material to be worked on is as much human behavior as

the physical environment."19 Rabinow's thorough exploration

of the norms of modern life addresses how the image of the

city became "an object to be harmoniously ordered" and

organized according to "an urban parallel to Bentham's

Panopticon"(Rabinow 211-212). Urban architecture can be read

as an effort to enact "universal norms for humanity" and that

"three universal needs--shelter, boundaries, and signaling--

provided the grid of intelligibility"(Rabinow 244). Foucault

uses such plans and schemes as "strategic exemplars" "as a

means of illuminating not an entire age but particular nuclei

of knowledge and power"(Rabinow 212). Like the project

undertaken here, Foucault's Discipline and Punish finds a way

of thinking with an image (e.g., the Panopticon).

The image which this essay focuses on has little to do

with being controlled, or seen, from a panopticon. Instead,

this essay addresses the image of getting lost, of being out

of sight or unsighted. The Yiddish term, farblonzhet,

expresses the affect we can only translate as lost or

confused. It describes the pause one takes at a crossroad;

not the certainty of knowing you are lost, but the self-doubt

implied in asking am I lost? It suggests more of what

Barthes tries to describe than the English lost because it

makes that spatial description more personal and meditative.

It describes a situation between lost and the decision to try

a different route. Farblonzhet used as an initiator of an

invention-tourism functions as an instant selecting, turning,

and sifting of possibilities intersecting in a momentary

break with certain knowledge.

The image Barthes uses to explore rhetoric resembles

neither the intelligible image of the rational city, nor the

legible image of the functionalist city. In that sense,

Barthes's Tokyo is not a Modern image of a city, and the

rhetoric he describes is, likewise, found at weak boundaries

and elastic intersections of classical rhetoric. The two

moments of invention-tourism, an encounter with elastic

intersections and wandering around weak boundaries, make the

impasses productive. The elastic intersections function as



For Barthes, the punctum appears as something not-

quite-in-harmony, a problem or an impasse.20 The vacillation

in knowledge which falls between subjective expression and

objective grammar corresponds to moments of farblonzhet.

Like Proust's madelaines, punctums provoke involuntary

memories. The train station epitomizes this shuttling of

desire. The station always alludes to other places as it

"permits departure"(ES 34). This place of other places

functions as a relay of desire: always pointing to something

outside itself. Like a passenger jumping at the arrival of

"his" train, Barthes gets hooked not because of an

interesting detail in a photograph, but because of where that

detail promises to take him. Proust's involuntary memories

begin with a childhood scene of waiting in his bedroom for

his mother to kiss him good night; analogous to this

connection of the mother's figure with involuntary memory,

the most potent punctum, for Barthes, is a photograph of his

mother. In this photograph, "the mask vanished"(CL 109) and

the air was "consubstantial with her face," but instead of

the past made present ("it is happening"), the past arrests

the present. This puncture or arrest in reading does

function as an index of a past reality, an identification of

"that has been." It cynically proves that reality is missing

and dead. In terms of this death, Barthes's choice of the

word "consubstantial" alludes, again, to Bazin's theory of

cinema. Bazin makes an analogy between the photographic

image and the shroud of Turin, but Barthes has perverted this

religious metaphor by casting his mother in the role of

Christ; he personalizes the truth. The religious idea that

Christ's flesh and blood coexists with the wine and bread

given during the Eucharist closely resembles Bazin's notion

that the dead past coexists in the present. Barthes perverts

the analogy by suggesting we feel pity, instead of guilt or

exaltation, for the past, and he raises this pity to such a

mad intensity that it suggests a death without heaven,

without return. Rather than the past living-on in our

presence, Barthes ask us to consider certain photographs as

textual time machines. For example, a photograph of a man

condemned to die puts us into a past time or an anachronism

of culture; as Barthes writes, "He is dead and he is going to

die ...."(CL 95). The analogy between the death mask and the

photographic image still holds, but his ecstatic logic allows

photography to "reverse the course of the thing"(CL 119).

This "temporal hallucination" indicates an emergent symbolic

system. As Barthes writes,

I want to change systems: no longer unmask,
no longer to interpret . . Let us imagine
that the science of our la~si were to
discover, one day, its own lapsus, and that
this lapsus should turn out to be: a new,
unheard-of form of consciousness?(LD 60)

The punctum, as a lapsus in our current understanding of a

chronological model of reading, forces knowledge of

discontinuity and fragmentation; it makes us vacillate. The

reader or spectator stumbles. Interpretation becomes "an

action of thought without thought, an aim without a

target"(CL 111). Barthes uses this vacillation as the

"initial dispatch," which sets the course of inquiry. One

might easily misunderstand this lapsus, which Barthes

explains as implicating the viewer, as something which will

eventually reappear like a missing address. But, this "no

address" (or noh address) only appears in art or in reality

as a something missing, a structural inconsistency, an empty

gesture. The inability to find a fit, or to place the look

in a body (spectator's, author's, politic's, etc.)

disconcerts Barthes. He responds to that "noh place" with a

writing which originates neither in a first person narration,

nor a third person narration. He speaks what Mary Wiseman

calls "no person," neither private nor communal. He does not

argue for a universal truth, nor does he make an argument for

adopting particular practices.

This no address of the no person functions as a method

to study the punctum as a "spider's web" where the subject

"dissolves" into a "speck, cut, little hole--and also a cast

of the dice." This loss and emptiness in the photograph

"takes you outside yourself"(Grain 352), or carries you back

to something that was and is no more. That effect marks the

"photograph's transgression of the logocentric association of

the real and the present."21 It offers an alternative to

conventional logocentric notions of reading: a breakdown of

spatial and visual conceptions or symbolic codes. As Jacques

Derrida explains, logocentric or spatio-visual metaphors

(e.g., absence versus presence) center or orient Occidental

or Western conceptions of writing. He interrogates the

"analogy between our looking and sensible looking."22 All

philosophical descriptive language depends on the metaphor of

vision. Spatial metaphors (e.g., inside versus outside) "are

embedded . at the very heart of conceptuality itself."23

Logocentric logic, which describes in one spatially oriented

stroke how something looks, its boundaries, and how one can

see or understand its meaning, falters when confronted with

the figural excess of variations and multivalence. The map

of Tokyo has a center, an empty center, which mirrors the

subject's empty center.

Obviously, Barthes's guide to this city of invention

does not resemble AAA's "trip tic," but it does provoke us to

travel, to wander, and to think through the urban landscape.

The new logic teaches us that what attracts his attention

becomes Tokyo--hence its conceptual boundaries always change.

Usually we describe the elements of a city, but with a

retroactive logic, the qualities retroactively connect to the

city. With the clash of cultures and languages, racism

appears in cities especially with outsiders like tourists

looking for the authentic. The man who spoke like "Tarzan"

to fool the tourists, in the example cited above, played with

those prejudices. Indeed, thinking with stereotypes and

schemas is more common than common sense. That organization

of information is always riven with punctums, always open to

a lost-sense; nevertheless, the attraction depends, in part,

on this everyday or popular thinking. Indeed, as we will see

in chapter three, researchers in artificial intelligence now

try to program computers to have prejudices instead of formal

scientific or rational logics.

Racism works not by accusing an individual of some

supposedly derrogatory quality (e.g., lazy, greedy, boring,

etc.), but by claiming that members of a race or group always

have those qualities. Prejudice works by retroactively

attributing a quality to someone only after they are

identified as a member of a group. It is not racist to say

you are dirty and you are a Jew. It is racist to say, All

Jews are dirty; therefore, retroactively you, as a Jew, are

dirty. This retroactive logic can justify prejudice against

large groups of people--we need not know anything besides

your difference from the dominant group. This racist logic

leads to a whole group being subjected to a metaphoric

cleansing. Indeed, Christian propaganda used this

retroactive logic to banish, punish, and, in the Nazi's

extension, exterminate the dirtiness (the Jews). By claiming

incorrectly that Jews belonged to a race distinct from other

races, retroactive logic allowed them to be permanently

differentiated as unclean, and, hence, prohibited from

conversion by baptism or cleansing. That is, the racist

syllogism would read: All Jews belong to a single race. You

or your parents are Jewish; therefore you must belong to that

race. If the premise is accepted as true and the case is

true, then by accepting the conclusion one accepts the

premise. To forestall prejudice against otherness, one must

infect this logic with something that can call into question

the premise.

Barthes explores this retroactive reasoning in his

examination of otherness. Instead of protecting himself from

otherness, difference, and circular misunderstanding, he

allows differences to rattle the foundations of sameness.

Retroactive temporality creates what Barthes calls

"anachronisms of culture and illogicalities of itinerary"(ES

79). His language can say nothing, or only nothing, about

this foreign city; therefore, his language has,

retroactively, blank spots in it. He does not first

recognize his language's inabilities; instead, he notices the

inaccessibility of the "Empire of Signs." These signs (of

nothing, or with no central meaning) designate, only after

the encounter, the weak points in his semiotic mastery. He

does not blame the signs for their tenacity; he finds fault

with his premise of semiotic mastery. From this discovery,

Barthes goes onto discuss language, writing in general, not

only in relation to his encounters with "Japan." The

singular disruption becomes the wholee movement of his

writing practice around impasses. The logic of Empire of

Signs works according to the following syllogism. My

semiotic mastery can understand how meaning is constructed.

There is a lack of meaning in this territory. Therefore,

semiotic mastery fails. Again, we can compare this to a

racist logic if we make the syllogism a bit more abstract.

All of this group have meaning. Within that group one does

not have meaning. Therefore, the method of designating

meaning is flawed. The understanding of all sign systems

changes, and the general rule or premise is proven false.

There is a subtle distinction between this logic and one that

merely states that the particular case proves the premise

false. Barthes does not claim that this territory is merely

an exception to the rule, he claims it retroactively proves

the rule false and untenable. Prejudice allows for

exceptions, not doubt.

This politics uses the "initial dispatch" of the

punctum in a combinatory similar to what the situationists

called d6tournment. This detour of the signifiers functions

to derail tourism, "the leisure of going to see what has

become banal."24 In this derailing of the tourist attraction

and the discounting of the monument in favor of the street,

d6tournment loosens the meaning of each element--"which may

go so far as to lose its original sense completely . ."25

Not an empirical object, but an object of desire, the realm

of our likes, dislikes, and fantasies (what Lacan calls the

"Imaginary order") regulates the course of Barthes's

movements. He explains that "the system of the imaginary is

spread circularly, by detours and returns the length of an

empty subject"(ES 32). These detours function according to a

retroactive temporality. In classical rhetoric and

structuralism, language functions according to a

chronological temporality. The sign's meaning can not

reverse, the signifier cannot change the signified, but

repetition, "the circularity which makes the one pass into

the other indefinitely," allows, according to Derrida, "the

production of some elliptical change of site."26 As Derrida

writes, "Repeated, the same line is no longer exactly the

same, the ring no longer has the same center, the origin has

laved."27 A retroactive time distorts deduction and

induction.28 For example, Barthes explains that the elements

he finds do not add up to a totality called Tokyo, a

irreversible signified, and he also explains that he does not

begin by looking for the qualities, or signifiers, of Tokyo.

The metonymic collection of fragments creates a kind of

synergistic effect without a center.

Roger Cardinal explains how to recognize details which

function as punctums. He places Barthes's work on "third

meaning" and the punctum in relation to other similar work

like the Surrealist's "paranoid criticism." That criticism

emphasizes "irrational knowledge fed by a tangential features

of the film shaped in the light of oneiric associations--a

kind of errant dream-criticism"(Cardinal 114). He also

describes other types of details, obviously intended or

intended but understated, which do not function as punctums

or according to third meaning. His essay explores how we can

use peripheral details as part of a decentered reading

strategy. This strategy does not focus on the intended

meaning of a film, but on details which are poignant to the

viewer. Rather than use details as examples to prove a point

about a film's form or meaning, Cardinal suggests that the

use of peripheral details, details probably unimportant to

other viewers, offers an alternative way to understand films.

The use of peripheral details calls into question what it

means to read. Indeed, Cardinal argues that the decentered

reading strategy offers an alternative to "literate" reading.

This strategy demands a willingness to experiment and

to attend carefully to films. In that sense, it fulfills one

of the major concerns of film studies: to encourage students

to attend more carefully to the cinematic apparatus. Rather

than follow the story or appreciate the film making, the

decentered attention floats in "mischievous curiosity which

inspires a non-acquiescent look and leads to a conscious

prioritization of that which is other than the focal

image"(Cardinal 114). As Cardinal explains, "there can be

creative energies released by virtue of a studied dislocation

of the gaze from the center of the frame to its quirky

circumference"(Cardinal 114). Passive spectators will find

this strategy practically impossible, but active spectators

will succeed if they add something to the film which, as

Roland Barthes writes, is "nonetheless already there." In

arguing that we must add something to the film which is

already there, Barthes suggests that saying any old thing

will result in the same unproductiveness as saying the same

old thing. More importantly, his description of the punctum

as both added and already there suggests that what

simultaneously escapes language and has a meaning (i.e., a

third meaning); he creates new meaning for something which we

can say nothing about. The punctum requires you to find

something as of yet unsaid, something different,

supplemental, or left over.

There are obviously intended details. For example, in

Hitchcock's Notorious, the heroine, a government agent who

marries a suspected Nazis to uncover his scheme, picks-up the

key to the wine cellar where her husband has secretly stored

uranium. When he goes to kiss her hands, she hugs him, drops

the key behind him, and kicks it under a table. In the next

scene, we look down in an establishing shot over a large

formal party; in a single shot, the camera cranes down until

the screen fills with the heroine's hand; we see the key back

in her possession. This is an example of a central and

centered detail. In the last scene of Welles's Citizen Kane,

the camera cranes over a warehouse of Kane's belongings. In

the penultimate shot of the film, we see workmen through a

sled into the furnace; the words on the sled, "Rosebud," were

Kane's last words, and an unsolved mystery for the

investigator of his life. In both of these examples, we

cannot help but notice these details. Indeed, they are

arguably the two of the most famous scenes in the history of

cinema. In producing films, directors use details to build

or conclude a narrative.

The understated detail appears as a reinforcement of

themes or narratives, or as part of less conventional

narratives. The final scene in Antonioni's The Passenger and

the opening scene of Coppola's The Conversation, a film

strongly influenced by Antonioni's Blow-up, use understated

details to build or conclude the narrative. The last scene

of The Passenger begins when the hero lies down to take a

nap; the camera records only what can be seen of the dusty

dirt plaza outside the window. Assassins who have pursued

the hero throughout the film arrive. We see the assassin in

the room only briefly in a reflection in one of the windows.

Later, the hero's wife arrives and when asked if she knows

the victim, she says, "no, I never knew him." The hero's

new-found girl-friend says, "yes, I knew him." This scene

concludes both the narrative and thematic lines of this film

about switching identities. The Conversation begins with a

crane shot of a city park in San Franscisco. The camera

follows a mime and then follows various other characters

around the park. As we piece together the relationships

between the various characters, we learn that a surveillance

team has an elaborate system to record a couple strolling

around the park. The enigma, why are they following such an

unlikely pair, involves the spectator and the investigator in

a nightmarish look at the implications of voyeurism. Many of

the initial scene's details become quickly recuperated into

the narrative and thematic structure. We are led through the

sometimes understated details like tourists consulting a

guide to know what to look at next.

The multi-media tourist-text makes use of found

materials. Its use or programming of that material functions

as a way to organize and access information for invention.

In that sense, in responds to the challenge of the cultural

and cognitive scientists who have stressed the importance of

textual models in allowing for invention. The invention-

tourist-text is a model of an invention informatics. It re-

iterates texts by using peripheral details. Barthes explains

that even in the most tightly controlled films available,

peripheral details can appear. To stress his point, he

chooses Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Part I, a film and

director famous for the careful control over every element of

the film's form and mise-en-sc6ne. We need not look for

peripheral details in unseen or peripheral films; we need not

search through rare archives to find the marginalized. One

can find the peripheral detail in the most control sites;

like a tourist, who stands in front of the monument and can

not help but notice some "unimportant detail," the peripheral

is not the modernist dream of the authentic away from the

crowd. We need not leave the tourist attraction, the movie

theater to find it. We need not mock the tourists and praise

the discoverer. For those dreams of conquering new

territory, of finding the authentic where no one has looked

before, carry with them the baggage of colonialism,

imperialism, and even sexism. The peripheral detail, the

tourist's attractions, is neither heroic nor uniquely


Barthes's decision to focus on an apparently carefully

controlled film, Ivan the Terrible, and the recognition that

peripheral details appear even in the most trite, crass, and

insipid films suggests how one can use Barthes's method in

analyzing other films. The goal in this dissertation is not

to use the punctum to read films with, but an example can

further define a reading strategy based on the punctum.

According to Hollywood lore, the most takes in any film

occurred during the shooting of Chaplin's City Lights: one

scene took over three thousand takes to produce. This

startling number of re-takes indicates an obsessive desire to

control the final product. These takes also indicate the

importance in this film of the pro-filmic event rather than

camera set-ups or editing. Indeed, when looking at this

film, one is struck both by the unimaginative mis6-en-scene,

camera work, and editing, and, conversely, by the minute care

and brilliance in choreographing the actors' movements. The

sets, nearly empty of any detail, and Charlie's central and

centered sight-gags make this film an appropriate limit case

for Barthes's theory. Only by carefully scanning the film

can one find any details, never mind peripheral and

unintended details. The plot of the film concerns a blind

"flower girl" and a homeless "tramp." He falls in love with

her and, in spite of many misadventures, he raises enough

money for her to have an sight restoring operation. She

gains her vision and is very disappointed to see her hero,

who she assumed was wealthy, is actually a tramp. To

identify intended, understated, and peripheralized details in

City Lights, allows one to discover the differences between

these details. Only by actually touring films can one pick-

up punctums.

In a discussion of an often cited film, which was

supposed to teach a group of indigenous people the

importance of boiling water, Barthes suggests how punctums

might occur in representation.

According to an old experiment, when a film was
shown for the first time to natives of the African
bush, they paid no attention to the scene
represented (the central square of their village)
but only to the hen crossing this square in one
corner of the screen. One might say: it was the
hen that gazed at them.29

Pecked by the punctum, Barthes investigates a "kind of

subtle beyond--as if the image launched desire beyond what

it permits us to see..."(CL 59). As Barthes explains, the

punctum's gaze "is located beyond appearance: it implies at

least that this 'beyond' exists, that what is 'perceived'

(gazed at) is truer than what is simply shown"(Barthes,

1983, 240). As Lacan explains,

In our relation to things as constituted by the
path of vision and ordered in the figures of
representation, something shifts, passes, is
transmitted from stage to stage, in order to be--
invariably, to some degree--elided: this is what
is called the gaze.30

Resistant to your consciousness, the gaze alludes to a

staining or a resist as in the dying of fabric: a stain in

an image. This not seeing something, of something missing or

lost functions as neither part of a personality nor an

element in a discursive structure, except as a loss or

blockage in that structure. Jane Gallop explains this "blind

field" as something outside the frame; in her discussion of

such photographs where "things continue to happen outside the

frame"(Gallop 153), she discusses how in those cases even

certainty escapes the frame. Barthes's word choice in his

discussion about the lack of intention involved in punctums

betrays his doubt: "the detail that interests me is not, or

at least not rigorously, intentional, and probably it must

not be . it does not necessarily attest to the

photographer's art"(CL 79-80)[emphasis added by Gallop].

Barthes "cannot be certain the detail that pricks him is not

intended"(Gallop 158). But, faced with this and other

uncertainties about the unsayablee," he admits he has "no

other resource than this irony: to speak of the 'nothing to

say'"(CL 93). This nothing becomes the locus around which

Barthes travels in Empire of Signs. Each frame of reference,

which can appear as a photograph, a narrative, a video, a

metaphor, or an essay's argument, can contain a links to

something outside the frame. The links in multi-media

computer programming for invention connect to other frames of

reference. The punctum links frames even at the expense of

rational certainty. This literal discontinuity or lack of

certainty appears as a structural inconsistency. It thus

contradicts readings which rely on authorial intention,

aesthetic formalism, or cultural contextualizations. It

cannot support readings which found themselves on the

consistency of text or context. It always depends on a

blurring between view and viewer, framed and framer, etc. It

cannot exist as an unchanging image in a picture nor as a

definitive frame of reference. It passes between frame and

picture. The punctum becomes a pass-word or a passage among

figurative snapshots.


Walter Benjamin's description of his "Arcades" project

describes a selection procedure similar to Barthes's:

"Method of work: literary montage. I need say nothing.

Only show. I won't steal anything valuable or appropriate,

any witty turns of phrase. But the trivia, the trash: this,

I don't want to take stock of, but let it come into its own

in the only way possible: use it."31 Just as Joyce, in

Ulysses, borrows "advertisement's capital to turn it to his

own uses," Barthes builds his method from the trivial as a

significant component of the alternative symbolic system

(Advertisements 123). For example, the haiku focuses on the

trivial but raises the image to neither the metaphoric, the

symbolic, nor the paradigmatic. Barthes's space of doing

closely resembles Benjamin's letting the trivia come into its

own by using it.

In combining the elements, the goal is to create a

light, fragile, and "fresh" product. These qualities arise

from the looseness of construction. No one element dominates

the others; "everything is the ornament of another

ornament"(ES 22). This "purely interstitial object"(ES 24)

has no deep substance. As the signs empty of meaning, a

visually raw effect appears: not a deep meaning, nor a

secret code, but a construction which shows its joints. Like

the logic of advertisements, without discernable authors but

with personal messages, the logic of Empire of Signs connects

fragments according to the magnetism of gossip or graffiti.

Barthes writes through street talk or the popular. The walk

follows special places which produce anemnesis. "Things

extra and other (details and excesses coming from elsewhere)

insert themselves into the accepted framework, the imposed

order. The surface of this order is everywhere punched and

torn open by ellipses, drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a

sieve-order"(Everyday 107). This is the order of Tokyo. The

map cannot help us here.

Barthes uses the improper, disordered, and irrational

as a method of research. Michel de Certeau argues that this

impropriety lies at the origin of many investigations.

"(B)outs of surprise (in the same way there are bouts of

fever), the sudden jubilatory, semi-ecstatic forms of

"astonishment" or "wonder" . have been, from Aristotle to

Wittgenstein, the inaugurators of philosophical activity.

Something that exceeds the thinkable and opens the

possibility of 'thinking otherwise' bursts in through

comical, incongruous, or paradoxical half-openings of

discourse." He goes on to explain that these philosophers

find "events of a thought yet to come"(Heterologies 194). As

Gregory Ulmer explains, "this 'impropriety' is necessary in

any case because Barthes addresses a level of reality that

exists at the limit of knowledge excluded from the extant

codes of both opinion and science."32 Even scientific

breakthroughs, as Paul Feyerabend argues, depend on making

moves forbidden by methodological rules. "Theories become

clear only after incoherent parts of them have been used for

a long time. Such unreasonable, nonsensical,

unmethodological foreplay thus turns out to be an unavoidable

precondition of clarity and empirical success."33

The procedure makes use of variations, substitutions,

and multivalence without deciding on how these choices

support a particular truth or argument. In that sense, this

logic allows for brainstorming without unnecessary criticism.

It builds on the fascinations or manias usually discarded by

conventional reading practices; it allows for the intensity,

patience, and personalized analogies necessary for generating

associations; it makes reading into an invention situation;

and it understands variations of expectation as indicators of

emergent ideas, metaphors, or even a new paradigm. Empire of

Signs explores details which resist taking a meaning within

current symbolic systems; these extreme particularities

suggest an unheard-of symbolic system. The new rhetoric does

not merely offer a negative criticism of a dominant ideology

of reading, writing, or thinking; out of the failures of

empirical reading strategies it builds a method: select,

combine or turn, and frame or sift.

Details or extreme particularities appear as temporal

problems or anomalies in reading. At those moments something

happens. "This something--which is etymologically an

adventure--is of an infinitesimal order: it is . an

anachronism of culture . an illogicality of

itinerary."(ES 79). These "changes in reading" indicate a

disruption of the symbolic system, that binary opposition

which holds our conceptions in place. After selecting these

details, we combine them in a bricolage which highlights

suspicions, affirmations, transgressions, and our desires.

Then, we frame this combination to encourage an active

reading, to have the text become a model.

Invention-Tourism As A Minor Language

Such recombination does not pierce the materials, but

gradually unravels them; it does not cut them from another

context, but finds the "natural fissures"(ES 18). Each gap

appears as a "fissure of the symbolic," the rift between

individuals and institutions. Barthes looks for what exceeds

the institutional explanations and from that builds the

combinatory of otherness. The invention of otherness out of,

as well as in, commonplaces involves what Gilles Deleuze and

Felix Guattari call a minor literature. This

"deterritorialized language, appropriate for strange and

minor uses," disrupts the usual connection between an

individual and a social background.34 For Barthes, the

social milieu does not serve as a mere background, but rather

it allows him to, in Deleuze's and Guattari's terminology,

"pickup ideas." This invention through a minor method allows

Barthes "to become a nomad and an immigrant and a Gypsy in

relation" to his own language (Kafka 19). Although he uses

an image of a foreign city, his commentary suggests that what

becomes strange and foreign is his own language. From within

the major language, he finds the possibility of minor

languages and internal tensions. He becomes a "sort of

stranger within his own language"(Kafka 26). He finds not a

foreign city but, in a prophetic image of the contemporary

Japanese cultural and financial expansion, a linguistic or

rhetorical Oriental zone in the Occident. As one

Congressional representative said, "the United States is

rapidly becoming a colony of Japan."35 Indeed, one educator

even claims that "we used to export philosophy. Now we

import it [from Japan]."36 This minor method entails

escaping "the force of gravity to enter a field of

celerity"(Kafka 36). As Jean Baudrillard explains, Japan

manages, "in what seems to us an unintelligible paradox, to

transform the power of territoriality and feudalism into that

of deterritoriality and weightlessness."37 This minor method

not only digs a space for Otherness but also calls into

question the ground of both subjectivity and any stable or

major method: it floats, like a tourist on a cruise, from

place to place, topos to topos.

In his discussion of Tokyo, Barthes explains that

that city's address system "is apparently illogical,

uselessly complicated, curiously disparate," but this

alternative system requires that the knowledge of a city

"usually managed by map, guide, telephone book," gives in to

a system not based on the abstractions of printed culture but

on the "gestural practice."

This city can be known only by an activity of
an ethnographic kind: you must orient
yourself in it not by book, by address, but
by walking, by sight, by habit, by
experience; here every discovery is intense
and fragile, it can be repeated or recovered
only by memory of the trace it has left in
you: to visit a place for the first time is
thereby to begin to write it: the address
not being written, it must establish its own
writing.(ES 36)

Barthes focuses on the "delicate communication" of someone

drawing directions and explaining how to follow the visual

cues to a particular address. In reading these diagrammatic

directions, Barthes recovers the writing practice by

retaining "the gesture of my interlocutor reversing his

pencil to rub out, with the eraser at its other end, the

excessive curve of an avenue, the intersection of a

viaduct"(ES 34). The fabrication of the address fascinates

him more than the address itself. By following the gestural

marks in each reading and by re-reading that address, he

creates an occasion to recover the process of constructing a

narrative. "When an artist struggles with material .

sounds, words . it is . that struggle and that

struggle alone that is in the last instance being told."38

Instead of a single abstract metalanguage, like a printed

map, Barthes's method requires us to engage with, experience,

and write the text the way a lost visitor might wander

through a foreign city: slowly with surprises and


The cognitive map does not appear continuous, unified,

logical, or complete. The wanderings no longer uncover

denotative meanings nor certain destinations. The text

becomes a situation rather than a substance. It has less to

do with definitive meanings than with potential combinations

and with changing the setting or frames for understanding.

A practice of invention which takes into account cultural

criticisms of creativity, Barthes's model depends neither on

genius, nor on rational method. The twenty-six sections of

Empire of Signs, which suggest an alphabetic guide or set of

instructions rather than a subjective journal, explain, as

they demonstrate, invention without inward reflection or

objective goals. This burrowing through the city, neither

centered on speech nor limited by reason, writes its own

rules as it explores an unheard-of symbolic system.

We no longer know the topos or place in advance, nor

have abstract rules to guide our thinking. Barthes lets the

materiality of language and culture decide his path and

orient invention. He explores and elaborates on the vehicle

of the metaphor topoi to disengage invention from the

metaphysics of any transcendent strategy or genius outside of

the shared cultural commonplaces about the City. He returns

invention to a writing practice and leads us to find

Otherness inscribed in common categories of the urban

landscape. As he wanders from place to place, topic to