ENG 111

Fall 2002


READING GUIDE:  Extraordinary Minds, chapter 8—Varieties of Extraordinariness


Vocabulary . . .


Transcend (p. 127)

Plethora (p. 127)

Preclude (p. 129)

Exude (p. 130)

Requite (p. 130)

Incandescent (p. 130)

Amoral (p. 131)

Approbation (p. 131)

Delusion/-al (p. 132)

Hegemony (p. 131)

Extrapersonal (p. 138)

Benign (p. 139)


B  These words are defined in the text.  Learn them, and notice what grammar and punctuation devices Gardner uses to define them.


Celebrity (p. 128)

Fame (p. 128)

Success (p. 128)

Correlation (p. 133)

Autism (p. 134)




Notes . . .


This chapter, to me, is the most fascinating in the book, because it does several things that I am not accustomed to.  Let me go through and identify them point by point, and provide a bit of my own conversation about each one.


p. 124      The heading of this section is “Taking Stock,” so we can assume that Gardner will at least begin this chapter by reviewing what he has covered so far.  Notice, though, that he does not repeat word-for-word points that he has made earlier, nor does he rephrase them.  Instead, he approaches his material from a new perspective.


We see this clearly on p. 125, when Gardner recounts, in a nutshell, what his book is about and the justification for his four categories of extraordinariness.  What it comes down to, he says, is three distinctions.


The first one is easy.  But what about the second, the distinction between acceptance and overthrow?  This explains the master/maker split we see in working with objects within a domain . . . but how does it extend to introspectors and influencers?  Gardner says that the distinction is “less acute in the realm of persons.”  Less acute, he says, but he goes on to describe Woolf and Gandhi with another “i” word:  innovator.  If this is the equivalent of a maker in the realm of objects, how are we supposed to think of people who are the equivalent of masters?  This is an aspect of Gardner’s theory that we probably need to talk through during class time.


These first two distinctions, Gardner says, are made “more or less” consciously by individuals.  Hmm.  The third one, though, is not about extraordinary people but how Gardner and his colleagues situate them in a culture of creativity.


p. 128      So far, Gardner has had a lot to say about extraordinary people.  Here he takes a new tack:  he defines them by what they are not.  (What?!  Madonna and Howard Stern are NOT extraordinary people?)


p. 131      Note how Gardner acknowledges his framework for studying extraordinary people is amoral—but, at the bottom of p. 132, he goes on to say “the survival of our culture, indeed our world civilization, may depend more on the morality of citizens than their making, their influencing, or their spirituality.”


p. 137      Gardner does a gutsy thing here.  Instead of letting sleeping dogs lie, he actually presents criticisms of his approach and responds to them.  What are those criticisms?  Do you think they’re valid?  And how do you feel about Gardner’s answers?  A tougher question:  does Gardner address all of the valid criticisms?  If not, what’s missing?