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Perceptivum

Is Creative Writing New?

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In 2000 years, or so, will humans stumble upon our current literary works and perceive them as fact or fiction? For instance, let’s say it is 4014 and found buried in some ancient ruin a futuristic archaeologist finds a manuscript. That archaeologist is then able to translate the text and in that translation of the ancient text he/she finds that a person buried a pet in a special cemetery and soon after that dead pet came back to life. And then a person buried a dead human being in that same cemetery and they too came back to life. Shall the archaeologist then surmise the ancients had the unique power to bring the dead alive?! Oh no that’s ridiculous; it must be alien technology.

Is creative writing a recent invention? How do we know that it was or wasn't prevalent in ancient times? Why do some people take all things written down, or drawn, from our distant past literally? Isn't it much more likely that over the centuries factual stories might have been mixed with fictional stories? Those who pass these stories from generation to generation, or write them on clay tablets, do not have footnotes to differentiate the real from fanciful; how are we to tell?

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That is a great point when taking religious material seriously. IMO.

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not quite, the Greeks had a lot of it in form of fables and plays. The Romans had quite a big amount of literature. There were works of fiction in the Great Library. The Sumerians had their legends and epos, the Lugbalbanda tales and the laments of Ur...

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Your initial question presupposes that humans will still be around in 2000 years. However, if they are and are at least as technologically advanced as we are, then they should have access to the ISBN system which classifies all books published into various categories. For example, the book I'm currently reading lists five categories for this one book. The copyright page of a book tells you a lot if you'd spend time reading it instead of passing over it like most do.

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Posted (edited)

You only have to look at people now to answer your question.

http://www.unexplain...30#entry5095325

star-trek.jpg

Edited by davros of skaro
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If humans are that stupid in the future then I hope they do believe those stories. If Lord of the Rings was taught as fact, I'd want to live in that world.

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I'd love to see the future where they found H. P. Lovecraft's best stories all around the world, "oh gosh these are the only books that survived along with the holy home cooking books!"... might be terrible if it went to cults of Cthulhu with sacrifices and all, the Aztecs all over again, but if they'd really think some mountain-big monsters lurked the most unhospitable places on earth, plus all the psychological madness dimensions... people self-suggesting themselves to new states of madness, ah...

And note I'm not saying this to bash christianity or any other religion, most today's religions I know have long trackable histories and didn't just pop up after somebody found an old book.

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Given the earliest human record we have - the cave paintings in Lascaux - I'd say humans have possessed the ability to see something and imagine something else (in that case real animals) since we became human. In fact, I'd call the imagination what differentiates us from animals - seeing as "innovation" isn't a purely human ability anymore (crows here in Oz learning how to eat poisonous cane toads, using tools and teach each other how to do it) the ability to create imaginary states of being could very well be what seperates us from the beasts.

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To me I think that they had such skills, though not being an anthropologist, I cannot speak based on evidence I have discovered only what I have observed or learned. I guess one must define "creative writing", as in the writing of the ancient Egyptians in explaining their god, goddesses, in "epics", mythology, etc., and we're talking around 6,000 to 8,000 BCE. more or less a thousand years, one way or another.

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...as people have pointed out, we /know/ ancient people had creative writing. We can read it.

The distinction between fiction and non-fiction is more or less a social distinction rather than a factual distinction: in America, there are (fairly stupid) people who literally believe the world is 6,000 years old, despite the entire functional apparatus of modern science disproving it. For them, the fiction of young Earth is nested in a series of beliefs about morality, religion, and how god likes them better than other people (which is a fiction), so the determinations of objective science (non-fiction) is wholly irrelevant to how they understand the world. The difference you posit between non-fiction and fiction doesn't exist for them, and trying to apply it to that culture is not very productive.

You also have people who believe in a literal Atlantis, who actively read against history, science and the writings of Plato and for whom the distinction between non-fiction and fiction is at best slippery and at worst not extant.

How do you tell the difference in a culture outside your own? I think you should adpot a reasonably skeptical position: you learn what is and is not physically possible, to begin with, then you learn about the details of that specific culture, to find out what was possible or likely during that historical era or physical place. You also learn what's important to that culture: how they tell stories, and how they explain things, how they use metaphors, what they value or despise, how they use literature in general. Did some god named Pluto literally steal away a goddess named Proserpine? Probably not, but you can see it as a metaphor to explain why the seasons change cyclically. /That's/ how it's useful, not as a hidden history of real people.

Of course, this process take a long time, is hard to do, and may involve you coming across information you don't like, do not believe, or which otherwise doesn't support your specific presumptions. When this happens, from what I can tell from reading things here, instead of admitting your ignorance or sloth, you go online and tell other people how stupid everyone who is not you is, how massively clever you are for figuring out how things /really/ happened and how you alone have figured out The Way Things Really Work . And if anyone questions that too much, you leave in a huff. But your MMV.

--Jaylemurph

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Posted (edited)

not quite, the Greeks had a lot of it in form of fables and plays. The Romans had quite a big amount of literature. There were works of fiction in the Great Library. The Sumerians had their legends and epos, the Lugbalbanda tales and the laments of Ur...

I think that's a little different for one key reason, these are the creative works memoralized by western society and thus retained in context. Every college student reads Gilgamesh and the Iliad or Aeneid. We know they were stories or tall tales told throughout those cultures that contained some of their values and beliefs.

What about works not preserved in context by the west? What about Native American rituals, tribal stories; maybe tales from South America from the days of Mayans or earlier. We know some functions in a way similar to mythology (See the Popol Vuh), but how do we figure out what was intended to be a campfire tale or written seriously?

Edited by WritingDesk

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I think that's a little different for one key reason, these are the creative works memoralized by western society and thus retained in context. Every college student reads Gilgamesh and the Iliad or Aeneid. We know they were stories or tall tales told throughout those cultures that contained some of their values and beliefs.

What about works not preserved in context by the west? What about Native American rituals, tribal stories; maybe tales from South America from the days of Mayans or earlier. We know some functions in a way similar to mythology (See the Popol Vuh), but how do we figure out what was intended to be a campfire tale or written seriously?

You have to take in in its timeline, if it kept evolving during a time you can be almost certain that it was not intended as a tall tale but had a deeper meaning for those telling it, if it remained static it was most likely just a legend.

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Posted (edited)

Of course, this process take a long time, is hard to do, and may involve you coming across information you don't like, do not believe, or which otherwise doesn't support your specific presumptions. When this happens, from what I can tell from reading things here, instead of admitting your ignorance or sloth, you go online and tell other people how stupid everyone who is not you is, how massively clever you are for figuring out how things /really/ happened and how you alone have figured out The Way Things Really Work ™. And if anyone questions that too much, you leave in a huff. But your MMV.

--Jaylemurph

That's assuming Our Basset Masters allow someone to discover how things really work, Jay. ;)

Edited by Leonardo
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Posted (edited)

You have to take in in its timeline, if it kept evolving during a time you can be almost certain that it was not intended as a tall tale but had a deeper meaning for those telling it, if it remained static it was most likely just a legend.

Not to contest you again, but the events of the Iliad are almost certainly entirely legend, maybe being told about a long ago real conflict over land that happened around Troy. Homer, or the multiple poets who became Homer if you believe that theory, reshaped the structure of the story numerous times. At one point different heroes played larger roles, different gods were present, different conflicts existed.

My main point is just that we are able to regard some things as 'myth' because we have culturally retained that memory of the purpose of those stories. We KNOW they were fables or epic poems because of how well preserved a lot of ancient Greek writing that discusses it is. We have this long lasting two thousand year memory that the Iliad is a tall tale, one of the oldest tall tales besides Gilgamesh or some Hindu scriptures. It's harder to tell for pieces of writing we have no cultural memory for.

Edited by WritingDesk

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Not to contest you again, but the events of the Iliad are almost certainly entirely legend, maybe being told about a long ago real conflict over land that happened around Troy. Homer, or the multiple poets who became Homer if you believe that theory, reshaped the structure of the story numerous times. At one point different heroes played larger roles, different gods were present, different conflicts existed.

My main point is just that we are able to regard some things as 'myth' because we have culturally retained that memory of the purpose of those stories. We KNOW they were fables or epic poems because of how well preserved a lot of ancient Greek writing that discusses it is. We have this long lasting two thousand year memory that the Iliad is a tall tale, one of the oldest tall tales besides Gilgamesh or some Hindu scriptures. It's harder to tell for pieces of writing we have no cultural memory for.

Quite so, but the Iliad has remained unchanged for the last three millennia, something we cannot say about the Popol Vuh, or the Bible or....

That is what I mean with static VS evolving.

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Not to contest you again, but the events of the Iliad are almost certainly entirely legend, maybe being told about a long ago real conflict over land that happened around Troy. Homer, or the multiple poets who became Homer if you believe that theory, reshaped the structure of the story numerous times. At one point different heroes played larger roles, different gods were present, different conflicts existed.

My main point is just that we are able to regard some things as 'myth' because we have culturally retained that memory of the purpose of those stories. We KNOW they were fables or epic poems because of how well preserved a lot of ancient Greek writing that discusses it is. We have this long lasting two thousand year memory that the Iliad is a tall tale, one of the oldest tall tales besides Gilgamesh or some Hindu scriptures. It's harder to tell for pieces of writing we have no cultural memory for.

We do not, in fact, know they were or were always fables. For quite some time -- arguably, the majority of their existence -- they were viewed as literal history because the distinction you keep making between non-fiction and fiction simply didn't, and in many places and cultures around the world, still does not exist. You're applying a model to past culture and literature based upon your own contemporary model, and that doesn't work.

As someone who's fairly strucutralist, I actually agree with your main point: interpretation of piece of literature is virtually impossible out of its cultural context. That said, "our" culture -- insofar as "we" have a unitary cutlure we can all agree upon and discuss -- is not the only culture, nor do I think it's impossible for us to learn about other cultures to make reasonable interpretations about other cultures' contexts. I'm just not aware of any written culture that we so completely lack cultural awareness of that we can't understand their writings at all.

--Jaylemurph

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Ancient Man = Fiction = True

Pre-Historic Man = Imagination = True

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Posted (edited)

i would guess since creative story telling is older than writing... that creative writing is not new.

" Did ancient people have imagination? " I'd say Yes , it took 'imagination' for early man to survive.

It takes imagination for people to invent or create anything.. not just write a story?

Edited by lightly

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This reminds me of a time in college when one of my friends mused outlook, "What if the bible was really just one epic science fiction novel that everyone now takes seriously?"

It does bring up a lot of questions of the past and future alike!

Let's just hope the only books left aren't the twilight series when we're all dead and gone.

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This reminds me of a time in college when one of my friends mused outlook, "What if the bible was really just one epic science fiction novel that everyone now takes seriously?"

Just take the word "science" out of that statement. :yes:

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readin writin and rithmetic .. were developed and used predominately by the upper crust in many societies? ... to keep track of commerce and 'stuff' ? .. but i bet there were artistic types who 'wrote' creatively?

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readin writin and rithmetic .. were developed and used predominately by the upper crust in many societies? ... to keep track of commerce and 'stuff' ? .. but i bet there were artistic types who 'wrote' creatively?

Well, that's a bit simplistic. The skills you mentioned were practiced by more than just the rich and merchants (not, by any means, the same group of people for most of history). Priests constituted the majority of the literate for most history. The real issue here is who had the combination of ability, time and motivation to write for non-economic -- "creative" -- reasons. The answer is "not many people" until the modern era.

--Jaylemurph

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readin writin and rithmetic .. were developed and used predominately by the upper crust in many societies? ... to keep track of commerce and 'stuff' ? .. but i bet there were artistic types who 'wrote' creatively?

An artistic "type" first has to find the means to eat and bed, in a society where few scrape by a living that is quite difficult.

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Posted (edited)

well sure, that's why we've always called them "starving artists" ? (pullin yer leg)

Edited by lightly

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... maybe i wasn't too far off in my oversimplification ? .. the priestly types were usually part of the "upper crust" too? But i admit i wasn't fully considering them in my blurt. But anyway... creative writing has to be just as old as writing's ability to display creativity?

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