Critical Summary

Collaborations in the Visual and Performing Arts

Discuss whether or not you feel the conceptualization of the author as ‘solitary genius’ offers an accurate understanding of the nature of artistic creation, giving examples to support your case.

            Works of art have commonly been associated with a specific person mostly described as the author, composer or any other label given to artistic persons. In his article, ‘Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship’, M. Thomas Inge identifies this theory as the ‘romantic myth of the author as a solitary genius’ (Inge 623). This means that people view the author as the sole contributor to the success of an artistic work. The society has created a perception that an author works in solitude in order to come up with a complete work. However, people do not consider other collaborators who have contributed to the literary work. In this perspective I do not feel that the conceptualization of the author as ‘solitary genius’ offers an accurate understanding of the nature of artistic creation.

            In this article, Inge perfectly captures the sentiment that there are numerous collaborators in the creation of any artwork who go unrecognized. In order to understand any work of art, we need to analyze all the collaborators that are involved in its creation. Without such an understanding, we cannot analyze a work effectively since we only analyze the recognized author’s contributions to the work. This leaves us with a wrong impression of the book. Emily Dickinson and Franz Kafka are some of the authors who achieved the ‘solitary genius’ concept. However, their works were not acceptable to the people in their generations. In addition, their woks became only recognized years after their demise. This shows that the concept of an author as a ‘solitary genius’ is not effective in creating works that are acceptable to the people.  

            Secondly, the role of the author in the creation of an artwork is primary but there are numerous people between him and the reader. Since early historical periods, authors did not deliver their works directly to the reader; there was an intermediary who supplied the works to the specified readers. Inge notes that the advent of technology continued to create more barriers between the author and the reader. Authors only provide the manuscript to the agent, who then passes it to the publisher, the editor, copyeditor, typesetters and even proofreaders (Inge 625). By the end of this long process, the book is not in the original form that the author intended. If we are to accurately understand the nature of artistic creation, we must understand the contribution of these people in the creation of an artistic work. They make changes that were not part of the original work of the author making a literary work more interesting to the reader. It is important to acknowledge their contributions in order to genuinely appreciate any artwork.

            Art does not involve literary works only, it’s definition in the modern world includes films, music, paintings, media and different forms of popular culture (Inge 628). The different genres show a wide array of collaborators in their success. For example, in order for a film to be successful, there are numerous people involved in it creation. The author’s work was only to give a written script, which is later edited and presented by characters on stage. In music, some musicians write and sing their own works while others hire writers to compose for them. This shows the collaborative process involved in the creation of any artwork.

            In conclusion, the concept of ‘solitary genius’ is not in any way appropriate in the description of art. Thomas Inge has done a good job in analyzing this concept and concluding that it is not an efficient way of studying art. Art is a collaborative means of reaching the people and the influence of different forces should be considered as part of the creative process. It is undisputed that the author is the major contributor in the creation of a work, but the involvement of other people before the work reaches the reader is also important. In summary, the concept of the author as a ‘solitary genius’ is a only a myth that should not be used in the analysis of art.

Works Cited

Inge Thomas, M. “Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 116.3 (2001): 623-630. Print.





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