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Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature
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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
"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.."
"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."
-Denis Dutton, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, "Johns Hopkins University Press
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›