- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (November 15, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674057112
- ISBN-13: 978-0674057111
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction Reprint Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
A number of individuals have attempted to bridge these gaps, individuals such as Lisa Zunshine and Patrick Colm Hogan. Their task has not been easy, given the long romance between the academic humanists and the French Nietzscheans, a romance that has involved the subscribing to notions which are internally inconsistent, contrary to common sense and millennia of experience and, now, definitively, contradicted by science. Chomsky, Steven Pinker and others have played a decisive role here, but Boyd's book, which is cognizant of all of the relevant scientific work, emerges directly from the humanities and utilizes studies of cognition and evolution to trace the origins of stories and storytelling.
Basically, Boyd sees art as an adaptation, one that brings advantages in our struggle for survival and procreative success. He studies the ways in which stories focus attention (as play does) and foster collaboration and unity.Read more ›
I would not normally write a review (or an addendum to the other fine reviews out there) just to say a book is well-written, but in the field of literary criticism this is really a rare treat. The post-modernists have taken the joy out of literature, and Boyd and the other evocritics/Literary Darwinists are attempting to unearth it after 40 years of Derrida, difference, and textuality.
Honestly -- read any article by someone like Judith Butler or Homi Babha and then read a chapter of Boyd. You will feel as if you have traveled from a country whose official language is babbling nonsense back to the world of clearly-articulated English. If you can't explain your ideas to other professionals in the field, let alone educated laypeople, then your ideas likely aren't very well conceived. By contrast, Boyd demonstrates clear and careful thought throughout his book. It is apparent that he worked through every idea quite carefully and did his best to demonstrate each fully.
I'm a young person who lives to read and write fiction, and I just came out of an oppressively dogmatic undergrad program where my two favorite disciplines, aesthetics and biology, were strictly separate. I strongly believed the weight of evidence was on the side of natural origins for artistic passion, but I only had a few YouTube videos of ticklish rats and dolphins playing with bubble rings to back me up. This book is wonderfully vindicating and I will recommend it to all my professors and friends.
I bought the hardcover edition when it came out last year and it had a few typographical errors, but perhaps they're fixed in current copies. The one error that may irk some readers: Boyd mentions "Revenge of the Jedi" in a section about justice; the film is actually called "Return of the Jedi."
Want 500-something pages of thrills? Then this is the book for you. It has invigorated my creative work and enriched my enjoyment of art.
The cornerstone of storytelling is our extreme sociality, explains Boyd. Indeed, the mainstream biological theory of human intelligence is the "social intelligence hypothesis: that the greatest pressures for advanced intelligence arise from the need to track identities, status, powers, and intentions of conspecifics [other humans] and to respond to them to best advantage." Thus, human brains (as well as those of dogs, dolphins, and other primates) evolved to make complex social computations--to both cooperate *and* compete within a group, to keep track of friends and rivals, monitor potential mates, to predict future behavior based on past experience, and so on. Boyd argues that story evolved largely to strengthen our social cognition. Just as physical play serves to sharpen our skills in hunting and battle, so story ("cognitive play") enhances our ability to synthesize social information, i.e. - look at things from multiple perspectives, predict behavior, evaluate outcomes, etc. Fiction thereby helps us make optimal decisions in real social situations. In order for fiction to have this effect, it needs to actually change the structure of human brains, indicating that it enhances them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was prepared to like this book, but it is an immense disappointment. For a book about "stories," it is remarkably devoid of the very phenomenon it proposes to discuss: It... Read morePublished 5 months ago by M. B.
Brian Boyd analysis reveals us a new and rich way to look to stories. The author goes deep inside the evolution of stories as a human biocultural expression. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Dalmo Luís Borba
After reading a bit less than halfway in a print copy and finding my margins littered with brackets for quotes to pull out, I gave in an bought the Kindle version so I could... Read morePublished 19 months ago by D. Bordelon
wonderful book. Read it everyone who wants to know about narrative and creativity and what we use fiction forPublished 20 months ago by black and red
I am a great admirer of Brian Boyd, and I am grateful to him for his brilliant and illuminating analyses of Nabokov. Read morePublished 22 months ago by David Huwiler
A very thought provoking book that drives home a particular argument for why we tell stories and uses the Odyessy (the mother of all literature) to illustrate why we tell stories. Read morePublished on June 25, 2014 by Dogsnwriting
While the juxtaposition of Horton Hears a Who and the Odyssey seems strange the analysis of each is fascinating and leads to a great discussion of why stories are so central to... Read morePublished on June 9, 2014 by William S Jamison