Re: [biopoet] One Reason Why The Sciences Cannot Do Without The Arts
I agree with you in part--a reading of the repertoire of works portraying courtship would be beneficial to any ethologist. And your description of the variety of manifestations afterward is on-target.
But I disagree with your dismissal of ethology. In fact, given Harold Fromm's exchange with Robert Scholes recently posted on this list, it would be beneficial for English professors to get out of the library and observe, as Jay Feierman has done, various cultures and/or species. If we turn this into a dichotomy--observing behavior in texts and observing it in its milieu--neither one gives us exclusive access to the reality.
This leads me to another thought, as to whether there is a personality trait (or set of them) correlating with the urge or proclivity toward seeing variation and multiplicity, and that toward seeing unity and singularity. I recognize that all people "see" and make use of both modalities in everyday thinking by necessity, and thus I'm not referring to physiological vision but to conceptualization. Rational people looking at the same evidence might have opposite intuitions about whether they are seeing variation or unity, or about which of these is more salient. Joseph Carroll, early in his Evolution and Literary Theory, cites Gillian Beers's characterization of the Origin of Species as "convey[ing] vividly 'the multitudinousness and variety of the natural world,'" but Carroll adds that "this impression is consistently subordinated to the idea of orderly and comprehensible relations in the natural order" (70). The key word here, to my mind, is "subordinated." I'm not sure if Feierman has had time to read widely in the canon, since he's spent an impressive amount of time viewing other cultures and living in remote places. But I wouldn't be surprised if even surveying the evidence you've alluded to, he wouldn't find a set of "laws of uniformity" where you find a set of characters who refuse to wear uniforms. Many literary critics, most famously Northrop Frye, have sought to subordinate the diversity of literature to a set of underlying archetypes and formal traits. Others have sought to subordinate these commonalities to variety. One might say that certain New Historicists do so to an extreme, arguing that the singularity of a particular fragment of text in a certain fragment of time ought to be emphasized above all else.
So why are we inclined in one direction or another? Discussions and paradoxes of the One and the Many go back to Platonic metaphysics and probably beyond; perhaps reconciling these in a satisfactory way is a core dilemma of being human?
In a message dated 1/29/06 9:38:05 AM Eastern Standard Time, andarot@... writes:
scientist (well, ethologist/psychiatrist) on
evo-psych really irritated me, tossing off views about
female courtship behaviour. I include my reply below.
In fact, I would argue that there is NO area of human
behaviour - from love and marriage to mental disorders
and sports psychology - that can be dealt with
scientifically, WITHOUT including the relevant arts on
Jay R. Feierman: I'm not a psychologist or
geneticist. From the perspective of a human ethologist
who has observed courtship
in more than 25 societies or cultures, human female
is about as predictable as the courtship behavior of
the Black Headed
Gull. It all looks the same with slight variations.
Even in Muslim
societies where women are veiled one can see evidence
of it but it is
subtle. It's been well studied and there are many
books and papers on it.
This is one of the most awesomely daft assertions you
have made on this group.
Female courtship behavior all looks the same?
Perhaps you would like to explain how the courtship
behaviour of the heroines of
Taming of a Shrew
Romeo and Juliet
Much Ado About Nothing
Pamela [by Samuel Richardson]
Gone With the Wind
all looks or sounds the same?
The truth is the courtship behaviour of BOTH sexes
varies all the way from extreme pursuit to extreme
flight, extreme heat to extreme cold, extreme
affection to extreme aggression, extremely intimate
conversation to extremely reserved or no conversation,
- and the course of courtship similarly varies all
the way from instant copulation to delayed-by-decades
copulation, extreme companionship to extreme
separation, more-or-less immediate (within hours)
betrothal and marriage to after-decades
marriage, with all manner of twists and turns in
between. (That includes, obviously - since you don't
seem to care for what goes on in people's minds - what
they do with their bodies).
That is why there are hundreds of thousands of
narrative works of art - films, plays, novels, - on
the subject. They depict hundreds of thousands of
variations on courtship. And artists - people who
actually observe human as distinct from animal
behaviour in depth - will never cease depicting new
variations on courtship, because courtship, like the
roles of the sexes, is continually evolving.
That is why human beings agonize so about courtship
and choosing partners - because there are such
differences between people and it is so difficult to
find partners with compatible views of courtship and
sexual roles, let alone anything else.
Of course, there are some typical patterns of
courtship, but the different types vary as much as
different types of music.
What you have presented above is an extreme caricature
of how divorced from reality, EP can sometimes be -
although I don't know any other scientist of human
behaviour besides you (and others please correct me)
who cares about, or is seriously influenced by,
I would recommend - in fact, if it were in my power,
insist - that you go through a long reading/viewing
list of works of art on love and marriage, before you
toss off any more generalisations on the subject.