'The rotation gets thick. the constraints get thin': Creativity, recontextualization, and difference

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Journal Article
Applied Linguistics, 2007, 28 (4), pp. 579 - 596
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This paper explores the implications of looking at creativity in terms of repeated sameness rather than observable difference. Drawing on insights from hip-hop culture that focus on sampling as creativity, and looking in particular at philosophies of difference that make iterability and performativity central, this paper opens up a discussion of repetition, reenactment, and recontextualization as forms of creativity. A common approach to language and creativity draws on a very particular cultural and intellectual history that posits a core of human, cultural, or linguistic similarity, with creativity as marked divergence from the core. The alternative, or at least complementary, understanding discussed in this paper takes flow and difference as the norm, pointing to the need to account for how the previous expression of others is recontextualized, and suggesting that contemporary acts of digital sampling can be seen in relation to a parallel philosophy of creativity. An understanding of this flip-side of creativity, where difference is taken as a given and sameness needs to account for itself, has major implications for some of the ways we think about writing, learning, and language variation in applied linguistics. © Oxford University Press 2007.
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