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Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature Paperback – March 25, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0415970143 ISBN-10: 0415970148

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Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature + Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice + The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (Rethinking Theory)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (March 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415970148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415970143
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Carroll is at his best (and that is very good indeed) when debunking and constructively criticizing the errors of others. . . . Indeed, his concluding essay is the best, most forceful and, indeed, biologically informed take-down of "spandrels" and the like that I have ever read. David Barash, University of Washington

Carroll's unswerving optimism is refreshing and lends a sense of inclusiveness and shared purpose to his work, all too rare in academic criticism. Tim Horvath, CogWeb

Literary Darwinism is a major work by a critic at the forefront of a developing paradigm . . . [that] requires the critics' thorough grounding in the biological and human sciences to do its important work. John Knapp, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies

If you want to know what's going to be the next big topic in literary theory, read this powerful new collection of essays by the author of Evolution and Literary Theory. In Literary Darwinism Joseph Carroll argues that we should stop basing our view of literature on penseurs who have long been obsolete in their own fields, and listen instead to what modern science has to tell us about that forbidden topic human nature.
. -- Robin Headlam Wells, University of Surrey Roehampton
A brilliant exposition of a new paradigm in literary criticism which, because it is among the first to bridge modern biology and the humanities, has a feel of permanence to it.
. -- Edward O. Wilson
If you want to know what's going to be the next big topic in literary theory, read this powerful new collection of essays by the author of Evolution and Literary Theory. In Literary Darwinism Joseph Carroll argues that we should stop basing our view of literature on penseurs who have long been obsolete in their own fields, and listen instead to what modern science has to tell us about that forbidden topic human nature.
. -- Robin Headlam Wells, University of Surrey Roehampton
A series of clear-sighted and far-sighted views of early and modern literary critical and evolutionary thought, as seen from the high ridge Joseph Carroll has climbed to in the most promising new territory in literary studies. -- Brian Boyd
These authoritative writings of Joseph Carroll focus, update, and solidify the insights of his landmark work, Evolution and Literary Theory. Collected into one volume, they now can serve as a handbook for students, critics, and academics, an invaluable introduction to the general theory and concrete practice of Darwinian literary analysis. -- Harold Fromm, co-editor of The Ecocriticism Reader
Carroll's eye is that of an extremely perceptive literary critic. In fact, I would judge him to be one of the most acute and knowledgeable readers of fiction I've ever encountered.
Joseph Carroll brings to his Darwinian position a sensitive aesthetic and critical sense. He writes beautifully about deep, rich works of art. This gives a wholly earned air of importance to the essays in Literary Darwinism. For the last decade, I've heard it said that evolutionary aesthetics is a field of great potential. Read his extended analysis of Pride and Prejudice and you can see how Carroll goes beyond the promises into the payoff. . . . His Literary Darwinism is a book to reckon with. -- Denis Dutton, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Johns Hopkins University Press
. -- Denis Dutton, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Johns Hopkins University Press
In Search of Positivism
Literary Darwinism is nonetheless a singular accomplishment. Generally literate readers who wish to comprehend the value and purpose of the evolving philosophy of adaptationist literary studies will find much value in Literary Darwinism. -- Pauline Uchmanowicz, entelechyjournal

About the Author

Joseph Carroll is Professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He has published books on Matthew Arnold and Wallace Stevens. In Evolution and Literary Theory (1995) and in his subsequent writing, he has spearheaded the movement to integrate literary study with Darwinian psychology.

More About the Author

I received my doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. I'm currently Curators' Professor of English at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. I published two traditional scholarly and critical books: The Cultural Theory of Matthew Arnold (1982), and Wallace Stevens' Supreme Fiction: A New Romanticism (1987). Then, as an alternative to both traditional humanism and poststructuralism, I began integrating literary theory with the evolutionary human sciences. Works in that vein include Evolution and Literary Theory (1995), Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature (2004), Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice (2011), and Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis of Literary Meaning (co-authored). I also produced an edition of Darwin's Origin of Species (Broadview, 2003). In company with Brian Boyd and Jonathan Gottschall, I edited a collection of essays: Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader (2010). With Alice Andrews, I co-edited the first two volumes of The Evolutionary Review: Art, Science, Culture (2010, 2011). I've guest-edited a special evolutionary issue of the online journal Politics and Culture (2010, issue 1). More information is available at my website: http://www.umsl.edu/~carrolljc/

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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan A. Gottschall on November 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
The various essays, articles and book reviews comprising Joseph Carroll's Literary Darwinism are rooted in two principles: first, humans share a common nature that can be revealed through the scientific method; second, this universal nature is the product of relentless Darwinian selection over eons. While this is obviously orthodox stuff in the world of behavioral biology, these notions remain quite heretical among the social constructivists who continue to dominate the world of literary studies. From Carroll's simple principles flow corollaries with large implications for literary studies and behavioral biology. The most important corollary for literary scholars is that a large proportion of all that has been said, written, or merely thought in the realm of literary theory and criticism over the last several decades is obviously and often breathtakingly wrong. This is because all of the dominant "poststructuralist" approaches--Lacanian, Foucauldian, Marxist, radical feminist, deconstructionist, and others--are organized around an adamantine core of social constructivist theory that is profoundly at odds both with Darwinian theory and with practical research in what Steven Pinker calls "the new sciences of human nature."

Carroll's argument is really quite simple. All literary criticism and theory is ultimately based on theories of human nature (even the theory that there is no such thing as human nature is a theory of human nature). Literary scholarship constructed on unsound theoretical foundations--on essentially faulty premises about human tendencies and potential--must itself be unsound, no matter how internally self-consistent. The chapters of Literary Darwinism articulate Carroll's vision of a foundation-up reorganization of literary studies along Darwinian lines.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on October 21, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The human imagination is the fount of extraordinary creativity. "Flights of fancy" take us to places and ideas that only the mind can conceive, places where we create our own reality, if only for a time, a place where only "credibility" is a gauge, and often not even that. We've created more deities in our image than any single god can hold. We've traversed Aquinas's labyrinth of angelic worlds were no human has ever gone, and probably never will. Milton took us to Paradise, and explains how we lost it. Dante takes us through hell, purgatory, and back to Paradise. Marx's Utopia is a wonderlust of wishful aspirations and neurotic tensions. Freud's landscape of the psyche is unparalleled in its imagination, however false empirically. Borges takes us into places we can't get out, and we love the dead-ends. Science fiction takes us to worlds we want to explore without the constraints of our present limitations. It's all wonderful, delightful, provocative, and truly human. It's also fiction. We sometimes forget that.

The imaginative arts allow us "freedom" that the sciences, for example, limit. But that "freedom" is our window into ourselves, a projection of every possible nuance one can imagine. It allows us to create and fabricate all sorts of "alternative realities," explore different possibilities, stretch our limits, and go in directions that physics won't allow. Even those "worlds" that bear close resemblance to our own, such as Shakespeare's or Byron's, are still distant lands. We take a journey into realms only our imaginations understand. We must never lose this precious inheritance. But we also must not "confuse" it for the real. Nor try to "codify" it with overarching theories of interpretative hegemony.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on February 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The greatest mind of the 19th Century, perhaps of any century, was that of Charles Darwin. If any mind of the 20th Century might be said to equal Darwin's it would be that of Edward Osborne Wilson. An entomologist, it was Wilson who demonstrated the implications of insect societies for human cultures. His ideas were first promulgated in his 1975 book "Sociobiology" and bore full fruit with "Consilience" in 1998. In "Consilience", Wilson proposed that, as humans were as much a part of Nature as any other creature, our behaviour traits, including the arts and literature, should be viewed in the light of evolution. Wilson demonstrated how the human spirit would be expanded, not diminished, by such a framework. The research ensuing since "Sociobiology" has affirmed Wilson's insight. How would such scenario apply to literature?

Joseph Carroll, a literary critic, incorporates Wilson's insights throughout this collection. Carroll argues that our outlook on the world would be expanded, not confined, by consciously applying Darwin's principles to our literature. Many authors, he notes, have done this through an intuitive sense. Jane Austen, hardly a Darwinian, still presented her characters fully integrated within their natural environment. Austen distinguished between which environments suited a character and which left the individual feeling displaced. For Carroll, this is an encouraging sign. Observant and astute writers can apply what he calls the "Darwinian paradigm", imparting a more natural and plausible foundation to fiction. He wants new writers to understand how to employ those principles from the outset. In this, Carroll is following where Wilson is pointing. The result, Carroll feels, will be an improved basis for literature's production and analysis.
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