Diana Pavlac Glyer’s thesis is simple: Creativity happens in community. The idea, she claims, that genius rises out of individualism is false. Nothing great comes out of the lone individual locked away in a closet somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
In order to prove this thesis true, Glyer dissects the literary group known as The Inklings, a group of scholars and writers who met between the early 1930s and late 1949. The Inklings were comprised of (to name a few): C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, J.A.W. Bennett, David Cecil, Charles Williams, H.V.D. Dyson, Nevill Coghill, and Adam Fox.
Glyer does a magnificent job of chronicling the history of The Inklings. At times, one feels as if he or she is actually there amongst these literary giants debating narrative theory and philosophy. Glyer’s genius, however, is that while she paints an enticing portrait, she also develops her thesis. Creativity happens in community, Glyer says, because in community writers are influencers, resonators, opponents, editors, collaborators, and referents. She debunks the myth that writing in community is in some way similar to plagiarism and minimizes the artfulness of a particular work. She claims: “working together, very ordinary people make extraordinary advances in their field.”
Glyer’s work is reactionary, yes, but also corrective. According to her, the study of literary groups in general and The Inklings in particular, have sought to show that The Inklings knew nothing of influence and that literary groups, in general, take away from the exceptionality of a particular work. This bias runs deep in scholarship and, according to Glyer, in the use of loaded metaphors to describe one author's influence over another.
We often use words like “echoes” or “overlaps” or “haunted” or “borrow.” Yet, creative people working together to perfect their art is neither unimaginative nor plagiarism nor theft. Rather, influence and collaboration are both necessary and enriching factors in all creative endeavors.