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Evolution and Literary Theory Hardcover – February 1, 1994

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Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews


"Carroll provides a systematic, thorough, and brilliant polemic with the 'literary theoreticians,' and gives us a book that evolutionary psychologists would do well to use as a primer on the topic." Gary Cox, Human Ethology Newsletter

"This is an extremely significant book. The term path-breaking, usually applied to works that better merit the term carpet-sweeping, is for once entirely deserved." John Constable, Studies in English Literature

"Evolution and Literary Theory is a brilliantly sustained argument for the complete abandonment of the poststructuralist paradigm in favor of a neo-Darwinian one." Robert Storey, Mimesis and the Human Animal

"lucid, elegant writing. . . . Carroll writes clearly, authoritatively, without jargon, and with frequent, delicious wit. His values, explanations, evidence, and criticisms are concisely and plainly stated." Ellen Dissanayake, Philosophy and Literature

"Carroll's book is the first major work in over a century (since Taine, 1879) to situate the creation and interpretation of literature within the sphere of human biology." Michelle Scalise Sugiyama, Skeptic

"Joseph Carroll's Evolution and Literary Theory is a courageous and much needed attempt to do battle with the dragon of social constructivism. Although, as its title suggests, the book focuses on literary theory, its scope is really much wider."—Washington Times

"Carroll is a man with big ideas and a big subject. If he is interested in literary criticism, and indeed he is, he is also interested in running this back to the moment of creation and looking on ahead to what may come to pass in the centuries ahead. In short, he has an enormous philosophical thesis."—Cleanth Brooks

"Evolution and Literary Theory is indeed a work of considerable erudition, and also a work of substantial engagement, partly because of the quality of the author's openness of mind, reasonableness of argument, and clarity of writing. . . . In recollection of Darwin's description of The Origin of Species, Carroll's book is one long argument against poststructuralism in the light of what is now known about Darwinian naturalism. For, contrary to other criticisms that might be made about poststructuralism, Carroll has an alternative for those literary critics who find poststructuralism inadequate or simply wrong-headed. . . . It is the Darwinian naturalism that is the central contribution of Carroll."—Carl N. Degler

About the Author

Joseph Carroll is the author of The Cultural Theory of Matthew Arnold (1981), Wallace Stevens' Supreme Fiction (1987), Literary Darwinism (2004), and Reading Human Nature (2011). He is a co-author of Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis of Literary Meaning (2012) and a co-editor of Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader (2010). His edition of Darwin's Origin of Species was published by Broadview in 2003. He is Curators' Professor of English at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

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