“Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity?” by Malcolm Gladwell

New Yorker (20 Oct. 2008) or gladwell dot com; hear Gladwell’s talk

Gladwell (rather simplistically, as usual, I think, but usefully) argues that there are two templates of artistic creativity:

  1. precocious creativity: often youthful, “conceptual,” singular, i.e., teleological/integral—all about finding [I’d say product-orientated or end-stopped], e.g., Picasso
  2. late-blooming creativity: often mature, “experimental,” evolving, i.e., tentative/incremental—all about searching [I’d say process-orientated or not end-stopped—of course, such a career only makes sense in hindsight, so it’s teleological too], e.g. Cézanne

N.b. late bloomers are not just late starters or discovered late, i.e., “genius[es] under conditions of market failure”—they just take a long time to get good, i.e., they resemble failures along the way.

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), “Auvers, Panoramic View,” oil on canvas, 65.2 x 81.3 cm, 1873-75.The Art Institute, Chicago, IL.

Gladwell draws on David W. Galenson’s Old Masters and Young Geniuses (Princeton UP, 2006).


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