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268Re: [biopoet] Re:Dennett

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  • Joseph Carroll
    Mar 2, 2006
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      "It seems that many literary texts are about love and the origins of man; rich pickings, no? It seems strange that these two themes are the least examnined, but poetienally yeid the greatest fruits. Why are they so seldomi examined, is becuase its old news and i am behind the times?"




                  Actually "love" and family relations are among the most frequent themes in Darwinian literary criticism.  Here below are a couple of paragraphs surveying some of this literature (Adaptationist Literary Study: An Introductory Guide,” Ometeca 10 (2006): 18-31)..  If anyone wishes for more particulars on any of the citations, let me know and I'll send them along.



                  One of the most prominent topics in evolutionary psychology is mate-selection strategy.  As it happens, that is also one of the most prominent subjects or themes in literature.  Love stories, in one form or another, probably form a preponderance of all narratives.  (There is an opportunity here for a set of quantitative studies on the actual proportions of such topics in folk tales and in world literature, with an eye to differences in proportion in different cultural ecologies.)  Adaptationist literary studies that focus on mate selection range over a wide spectrum of literature.  Gottschall and his colleagues have conducted several empirical studies analyzing mate selection strategies and characteristics of male and female characters in folk tales, fairy tales, and literary texts (Carroll & Gottschall; Gottschall, 2003b, 2005; Gottschall et al., 2004; Gottschall et al., 2005; Gottschall et al., “Can Literary Study Be Scientific,” in press; Gottschall et al., “A Census of the Western Canon,” in press).  Fox has examined mating conflicts between older and younger males in various epics (1995, 2005).  Barash and Barash comment on sexual relations in Virgil’s Aeneid (2002) and on a wide array of texts across different periods and different national literatures (2005).  Thiessen and Umezawa (1998) analyze a medieval Japanese novel in sociobiological terms.  Nordlund (2005) discusses  jealousy in Othello (2002b) and romantic love in All’s Well That Ends Well and in Troilus and Cressida.  Nettle (2005) gives an adaptationist structural analysis of sexual relations in Twelfth Night.  Cooke examines sexual relations in Swan Lake and in Pushkin’s “The Snow Storm” (1995, 1999c).  Jobling (2002) identifies a chief component of the Byronic ethos as the “cad” mating strategy, and Kruger, Fisher, and Jobling use passages from Byron and Scott to test short and long-term mating strategies in a contemporary population.  Carroll has analyzed mate selection in several Victorian novels (2004, part 2 chaps. 3 & 6) and the significance of homosexuality in The Picture of Dorian Gray (2005).  Nesse (1995) examines three Victorian versions of the Guinevere myth.  Saunders (in press) discusses male reproductive strategies in a Sherwood Anderson story. Ellis, Symons, Salmon, and Whissel have analyzed the way male and female mate-selection strategies shape pornography and romance fiction (Ellis & Symons; Salmon & Symons; Whissel).  

      Mating is only one phase of reproduction, and reproduction itself is a subset of “inclusive fitness,” which includes the propagation of genes in kin—siblings and cousins, for instance—as well as in offspring.  Several adaptationist studies have examined family relations in literary texts.  Dissanayake (2001b) identifies mother-infant interaction as a source for imaginative development, and Miall and Dissanayake give a metrical, phonetic, and foregrounding analysis of “motherese.”  Storey (1996), Easterlin (2000), and Scalise Sugiyama (2001c) all critique the Freudian Oedipal conception of parent-child relations and offer alternatives from adaptationist findings.  Gottschall (2003a) uses adaptationist theories of sex-biased infanticide to illuminate the sexual demographics in Homer’s narratives.  Boyd (1999, 2005a), Nettle (2005b), and Scalise Sugiyama (2003) have all discussed the disrupted family relations in Hamlet.  Boyd examines the interactions between power and kinship in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (“Kind and Unkindness,” in press).  Headlam Wells comments on family relations in several Shakespeare plays, including King Lear.  Carroll discusses disrupted childhood development in the novels of Dickens (2004, part 1 chap. 6), and Saunders (2005) in Wharton’s novel The Children. 

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