Thursday, March 21, 2013

Notes on the creative domains of Coates, McGruder, Whitehead & Young

Attention to creative domains might assist us in understanding, or better yet, explaining, the bodies of knowledge that writers utilize to to produce their works. R. Keith Sawyer, a prominent researcher on the nature and science of creativity, has explained that creative domains consist "of all the created products that have been accepted by the field in the past, and all of the conventions that are shared by members of the field—the languages, symbols, and notations” (216).

In addition to modes of writing serving as domains, writers draw on many other discourses and subject areas in order to create their works. For Colson Whitehead, horror movies and the literature on such movies constituted a crucial domain. For Aaron McGruder, Star Wars and his undergraduate major in black studies constituted key domains.

The cultural memory of his extended southern black family and music, especially jazz and blues, were central creative domains for Kevin Young. And for Ta-Nehisi Coates, black nationalism was a key domain. "As most of you know," Coates once noted on his blog, "my first intellectual tradition was nationalism."

All of the writers were influenced by hip hop aesthetics. Whitehead (b. 1969) and Young (b. 1970) are  slightly older than McGruder (b. 1974) and Coates (b. 1975), which might explain some of the subtle differences in their relationship to the music. McGruder and Coates, for instance, have been more inclined than Young and Whitehead to celebrate "conscious" rap and some of the later rappers of the Golden Age of Hip Hop, who were more prominent during  McGruder's and Coates's mid-teen years.
Reading and thinking about the works of these four writers over the years have given me opportunities to consider how domains might shape the imaginative and intellectual capabilities of black boys.

•  A Golden Age of Inspiration for Black Men Writers, 1977 - 1997

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