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The test of time is a good method, it can be subjective but not perhaps as much as the current "Best Seller" list from almost any review panel/publication.
Yes formal research-able theories.
Theories of creativity and quality have been around for thousands of years. Some theories address how writing is created and some address how it should be created. Other theories address how writing should function and how quality in writing should be judged.
Select one or more theories of creativity or creative writing and one or more theories of how quality in writing should be judged.
Write a 2,100- to 2,800-word paper in which you complete the following:
• Explain the theory or theories.
• Apply the theory or theories to writing in the genres you have written in this class.
• Analyze the theory or theories.
• Evaluate the theory or theories.
• Your chosen theories must address all the genres. If the theory you choose does not address these genres, you must extrapolate the existing theory so it applies.
• Examine one thinker’s theory of the creative process and another thinker's theory of how to judge quality.
• Consider how and why theories that evaluate quality in literature are different from those that explain how it is created.
Cite at least eight sources.
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My mind is pushing me towards Sociological or Philosophical theories that may lead to where you're wanting to go. I will have to look further, perhaps later today, to see if I can find the references that remain just on/off the tip of my synapses.