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CFP: Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination

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  • katjamellmann
    Call for Papers Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination We are soliciting essays for a special journal issue dedicated to what could broadly be
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 12, 2008
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      Call for Papers

      Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination

      We are soliciting essays for a special journal issue dedicated to what
      could broadly be labelled "evolutionary literary studies" -- an
      emerging field of scholarship that has (arguably) been amongst the
      most innovative and controversial contributions to literary studies in
      recent years. Although evolutionary criticism is a far from
      homogeneous "school", most of the work done from this perspective
      shares a thematic, content-centred focus. Often drawing on the
      findings of traditional sociobiology, whose main interest is to trace
      echoes of our ancestral past in the experience and behaviour of modern
      humans, critics have explored character, plot structure and stylistic
      features of literary texts with view to explaining them as expressions
      of adaptive functions. Hence scholars have read nineteenth-century
      novels in terms of mate choice, explained the Byronic hero of Romantic
      and post-Romantic literature by referring to the selective pressures
      of sexual attraction and investigated fairy tales for their
      concurrence with notions of beauty shaped by an evolutionary calculus.
      However, in equating such fictional realities with ancestral
      conditions of an evolutionary past, such readings not only fall prey
      to a simplistic mimeticism, they also run the risk of becoming
      formulaic, reductive and predictable, confirming the same suspicions
      raised against evolutionary perspectives on art by their critics.
      With this projected special issue, by contrast, we wish to go beyond
      such thematic investigations and instead explore how evolution can
      help to explain intrinsic features of literary aesthetics not only
      with regard to the production of literature, but also on the level of
      its reception. By emphasising this dimension, we hope to extend the
      scope of evolutionary literary criticism beyond the predictable
      interpretations currently en vogue and make it available to a
      genuinely literary scholarship.

      Proposed articles should consider the following questions:

      - What are the biological foundations of literary fictions and why do
      humans have the desire to create and consume them?
      - How are textual features and adaptive cognitive algorithms (the
      evolved architecture of the human brain) related?
      - How does the literary inventory of textual features reflect these
      algorithms and what does literature implicitly presuppose about the
      human brain?

      Potential contributions may be informed by the concerns of cognitive
      narratology and cognitive poetics as well as take a more specifically
      evolutionary angle. When employing adaptationist explanations, the
      essays should take into account the sophisticated standard of
      evolutionary psychology as established by (and developed since) the
      volume "The Adapted Mind" in 1992, notably its emphasis on the
      differentiation between ultimate and proximate causes (adaptive value
      and actual function) and reveal an awareness that adaptive algorithms
      may perform completely different functions, or even turn out to be
      dysfunctional, in a modern cultural environment.

      Please submit 300-word abstracts by 1 September 2008 to Prof. Dr. Anja
      Müller-Wood (wood@...) and Dr. Katja Mellmann
      (katja.mellmann@...-muenchen.de).
    • Karl Eibl
      So, hier hast mal einen Fetzen. Schau mal, ob Du Deine Lust da organisch anschließen kannt. ... So, hier hast mal einen Fetzen. Schau mal, ob Du Deine
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 13, 2008
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        So, hier hast mal einen Fetzen. Schau mal, ob Du Deine 'Lust' da organisch anschließen kannt.

        katjamellmann schrieb:

        Call for Papers

        Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination

        We are soliciting essays for a special journal issue dedicated to what
        could broadly be labelled "evolutionary literary studies" -- an
        emerging field of scholarship that has (arguably) been amongst the
        most innovative and controversial contributions to literary studies in
        recent years. Although evolutionary criticism is a far from
        homogeneous "school", most of the work done from this perspective
        shares a thematic, content-centred focus. Often drawing on the
        findings of traditional sociobiology, whose main interest is to trace
        echoes of our ancestral past in the experience and behaviour of modern
        humans, critics have explored character, plot structure and stylistic
        features of literary texts with view to explaining them as expressions
        of adaptive functions. Hence scholars have read nineteenth-century
        novels in terms of mate choice, explained the Byronic hero of Romantic
        and post-Romantic literature by referring to the selective pressures
        of sexual attraction and investigated fairy tales for their
        concurrence with notions of beauty shaped by an evolutionary calculus.
        However, in equating such fictional realities with ancestral
        conditions of an evolutionary past, such readings not only fall prey
        to a simplistic mimeticism, they also run the risk of becoming
        formulaic, reductive and predictable, confirming the same suspicions
        raised against evolutionary perspectives on art by their critics.
        With this projected special issue, by contrast, we wish to go beyond
        such thematic investigations and instead explore how evolution can
        help to explain intrinsic features of literary aesthetics not only
        with regard to the production of literature, but also on the level of
        its reception. By emphasising this dimension, we hope to extend the
        scope of evolutionary literary criticism beyond the predictable
        interpretations currently en vogue and make it available to a
        genuinely literary scholarship.

        Proposed articles should consider the following questions:

        - What are the biological foundations of literary fictions and why do
        humans have the desire to create and consume them?
        - How are textual features and adaptive cognitive algorithms (the
        evolved architecture of the human brain) related?
        - How does the literary inventory of textual features reflect these
        algorithms and what does literature implicitly presuppose about the
        human brain?

        Potential contributions may be informed by the concerns of cognitive
        narratology and cognitive poetics as well as take a more specifically
        evolutionary angle. When employing adaptationist explanations, the
        essays should take into account the sophisticated standard of
        evolutionary psychology as established by (and developed since) the
        volume "The Adapted Mind" in 1992, notably its emphasis on the
        differentiation between ultimate and proximate causes (adaptive value
        and actual function) and reveal an awareness that adaptive algorithms
        may perform completely different functions, or even turn out to be
        dysfunctional, in a modern cultural environment.

        Please submit 300-word abstracts by 1 September 2008 to Prof. Dr. Anja
        Müller-Wood (wood@uni-mainz. de) and Dr. Katja Mellmann
        (katja.mellmann@ germanistik. uni-muenchen. de).

      • Jeff P. Turpin
        Someone please translate that for us in the provinces. jt Jeff P. Turpin, President Turpin and Sons Inc. Cultural Resource Management 2047 Lakeshore, Canyon
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 13, 2008
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          Someone please translate that for us in the provinces. jt

          Jeff P. Turpin, President
          Turpin and Sons Inc.
          Cultural Resource Management
          2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
          (512) 922-7826
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Karl Eibl
          Sent: Sunday, July 13, 2008 10:14 AM
          Subject: [SPAM][biopoet] Zum Carroll

          So, hier hast mal einen Fetzen. Schau mal, ob Du Deine 'Lust' da organisch anschließen kannt.

          katjamellmann schrieb:

          Call for Papers

          Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination

          We are soliciting essays for a special journal issue dedicated to what
          could broadly be labelled "evolutionary literary studies" -- an
          emerging field of scholarship that has (arguably) been amongst the
          most innovative and controversial contributions to literary studies in
          recent years. Although evolutionary criticism is a far from
          homogeneous "school", most of the work done from this perspective
          shares a thematic, content-centred focus. Often drawing on the
          findings of traditional sociobiology, whose main interest is to trace
          echoes of our ancestral past in the experience and behaviour of modern
          humans, critics have explored character, plot structure and stylistic
          features of literary texts with view to explaining them as expressions
          of adaptive functions. Hence scholars have read nineteenth-century
          novels in terms of mate choice, explained the Byronic hero of Romantic
          and post-Romantic literature by referring to the selective pressures
          of sexual attraction and investigated fairy tales for their
          concurrence with notions of beauty shaped by an evolutionary calculus.
          However, in equating such fictional realities with ancestral
          conditions of an evolutionary past, such readings not only fall prey
          to a simplistic mimeticism, they also run the risk of becoming
          formulaic, reductive and predictable, confirming the same suspicions
          raised against evolutionary perspectives on art by their critics.
          With this projected special issue, by contrast, we wish to go beyond
          such thematic investigations and instead explore how evolution can
          help to explain intrinsic features of literary aesthetics not only
          with regard to the production of literature, but also on the level of
          its reception. By emphasising this dimension, we hope to extend the
          scope of evolutionary literary criticism beyond the predictable
          interpretations currently en vogue and make it available to a
          genuinely literary scholarship.

          Proposed articles should consider the following questions:

          - What are the biological foundations of literary fictions and why do
          humans have the desire to create and consume them?
          - How are textual features and adaptive cognitive algorithms (the
          evolved architecture of the human brain) related?
          - How does the literary inventory of textual features reflect these
          algorithms and what does literature implicitly presuppose about the
          human brain?

          Potential contributions may be informed by the concerns of cognitive
          narratology and cognitive poetics as well as take a more specifically
          evolutionary angle. When employing adaptationist explanations, the
          essays should take into account the sophisticated standard of
          evolutionary psychology as established by (and developed since) the
          volume "The Adapted Mind" in 1992, notably its emphasis on the
          differentiation between ultimate and proximate causes (adaptive value
          and actual function) and reveal an awareness that adaptive algorithms
          may perform completely different functions, or even turn out to be
          dysfunctional, in a modern cultural environment.

          Please submit 300-word abstracts by 1 September 2008 to Prof. Dr. Anja
          Müller-Wood (wood@uni-mainz. de) and Dr. Katja Mellmann
          (katja.mellmann@ germanistik. uni-muenchen. de).

        • Katja Mellmann
          Sorry, Jeff, and everybody on the list, this was an error. Karl meant to transmit a paper to me, and obviously used the reply-button on my yesterday s
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 13, 2008
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            Sorry,
            Jeff, and everybody on the list,

            this was an error. Karl meant to transmit a paper to me, and obviously used the reply-button on my yesterday's CFP-message ...
            Please just ignore that message.

            Apologies especially to Joe, who might have wondered about his name in the subject ...

            Best
            Katja


            Jeff P. Turpin schrieb:

            Someone please translate that for us in the provinces. jt

            Jeff P. Turpin, President
            Turpin and Sons Inc.
            Cultural Resource Management
            2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
            (512) 922-7826
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Karl Eibl
            Sent: Sunday, July 13, 2008 10:14 AM
            Subject: [SPAM][biopoet] Zum Carroll

            So, hier hast mal einen Fetzen. Schau mal, ob Du Deine 'Lust' da organisch anschließen kannt.

            katjamellmann schrieb:

            Call for Papers

            Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination

            We are soliciting essays for a special journal issue dedicated to what
            could broadly be labelled "evolutionary literary studies" -- an
            emerging field of scholarship that has (arguably) been amongst the
            most innovative and controversial contributions to literary studies in
            recent years. Although evolutionary criticism is a far from
            homogeneous "school", most of the work done from this perspective
            shares a thematic, content-centred focus. Often drawing on the
            findings of traditional sociobiology, whose main interest is to trace
            echoes of our ancestral past in the experience and behaviour of modern
            humans, critics have explored character, plot structure and stylistic
            features of literary texts with view to explaining them as expressions
            of adaptive functions. Hence scholars have read nineteenth-century
            novels in terms of mate choice, explained the Byronic hero of Romantic
            and post-Romantic literature by referring to the selective pressures
            of sexual attraction and investigated fairy tales for their
            concurrence with notions of beauty shaped by an evolutionary calculus.
            However, in equating such fictional realities with ancestral
            conditions of an evolutionary past, such readings not only fall prey
            to a simplistic mimeticism, they also run the risk of becoming
            formulaic, reductive and predictable, confirming the same suspicions
            raised against evolutionary perspectives on art by their critics.
            With this projected special issue, by contrast, we wish to go beyond
            such thematic investigations and instead explore how evolution can
            help to explain intrinsic features of literary aesthetics not only
            with regard to the production of literature, but also on the level of
            its reception. By emphasising this dimension, we hope to extend the
            scope of evolutionary literary criticism beyond the predictable
            interpretations currently en vogue and make it available to a
            genuinely literary scholarship.

            Proposed articles should consider the following questions:

            - What are the biological foundations of literary fictions and why do
            humans have the desire to create and consume them?
            - How are textual features and adaptive cognitive algorithms (the
            evolved architecture of the human brain) related?
            - How does the literary inventory of textual features reflect these
            algorithms and what does literature implicitly presuppose about the
            human brain?

            Potential contributions may be informed by the concerns of cognitive
            narratology and cognitive poetics as well as take a more specifically
            evolutionary angle. When employing adaptationist explanations, the
            essays should take into account the sophisticated standard of
            evolutionary psychology as established by (and developed since) the
            volume "The Adapted Mind" in 1992, notably its emphasis on the
            differentiation between ultimate and proximate causes (adaptive value
            and actual function) and reveal an awareness that adaptive algorithms
            may perform completely different functions, or even turn out to be
            dysfunctional, in a modern cultural environment.

            Please submit 300-word abstracts by 1 September 2008 to Prof. Dr. Anja
            Müller-Wood (wood@uni-mainz. de) and Dr. Katja Mellmann
            (katja.mellmann@ germanistik. uni-muenchen. de).

          • Mike Tintner
            Proposed articles should consider the following questions: ...- How are textual features and adaptive cognitive algorithms (the evolved architecture of the
            Message 5 of 8 , Jul 13, 2008
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              "Proposed articles should consider the following questions:

              ...- How are textual features and adaptive cognitive algorithms (the
              evolved architecture of the human brain) related?"
               
              I hope they'll also consider the truth that all the arts exist to *break* patterns and algorithms and create novelties - that pop songs, for example, are there not only to fit within certain genres, but continually to produce surprising variations on them ; that it is fundamental to new literature and dramas, that characters behave in surprising ways - that there are twists and turns in the plot; that all the dramatic arts stand for humans' potential for "redemption" - to radically change their characters.
               
              It's also worth noting that the algorithmic approach of AI has completely failed - and I am quite sure, always will fail - to produce Artificial *General* Intelligence, as opposed to the dedicated kind - intelligence that is truly adaptive, as humans are. AI, for example, has been unable to produce metaphors and analogies, or indeed any form of creativity, (other than hack variations on formulae). Computers currently are the embodiment of rationality. And rational systems, (logico-mathematical and, to some extent linguistic), have always eschewed and been opposed to imagination and the image-inative systems of the arts. Rational systems expressly forbid thinking outside the box -  2+2 must always equal 4.The imaginative systems of the arts insist on thinking outside the box - otherwise life would be too-too boring. (And the human need for novelty is extremely biological but, by definition and in reality, not algorithmic).
               
              There are more things in heaven, earth and the arts, than a few-decades-old algorithms can account for.

            • Stephen Berer
              Mike Tintner sagely says; ... I would paraphrase Mike this way: art is not only a product of evolution, it is the evolutionary process itself, in operation.
              Message 6 of 8 , Jul 13, 2008
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                Mike Tintner sagely says;

                I hope they'll also consider the truth that all the arts exist to *break* patterns and algorithms and create novelties - that pop songs, for example, are there not only to fit within certain genres, but continually to produce surprising variations on them ; that it is fundamental to new literature and dramas, that characters behave in surprising ways - that there are twists and turns in the plot; that all the dramatic arts stand for humans' potential for "redemption" - to radically change their characters....

                I would paraphrase Mike this way: art is not only a product of evolution, it is the evolutionary process itself, in operation. And I would further say that art is one of the means whereby consciousness accelerates physical evolution, adding human intention to a biological process that is generally thought to be random.
                         Steve Berer
                         ...Night by night I go hunting for this key. I know the hour of waking is approaching and my dreams turn troubled. Am I awake or am I sleeping? I test myself. In the world of dreams impossible things happen. Reason has no hold. I say to myself, "if this is a dream, then let this river run backwards!" It begins to run backwards and I know I am dreaming, so I wake myself. "Do not wake yourself the next time," I think....
                                 from Skechez for a Therd Tempel (work in progress)
                                 http://www.shivvetee.com
                                 http://shivvetee.blogspot.com/
              • Mike Tintner
                Stephen Berer:I would paraphrase Mike this way: art is not only a product of evolution, it is the evolutionary process itself, in operation. And I would
                Message 7 of 8 , Jul 17, 2008
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                  Stephen Berer:I would paraphrase Mike this way: art is not only a product of evolution,
                  it is the evolutionary process itself, in operation. And I would further
                  say that art is one of the means whereby consciousness accelerates physical
                  evolution, adding human intention to a biological process that is generally
                  thought to be random.
                  I'm not sure that I would quite agree. Artistic and technological "evolution" are different from natural species' evolution.
                   
                  But I'm replying here mainly - & briefly - to recommend Stuart Kauffman's latest book Reinventing the Sacred. He v. explicitly is seeking a new mechanistic worldview, which sees the evolutionary process as fundamentally creative. As part of that view, he also v. explicitly repudiates the algorithmic view of the human mind - arguing (quite rightly) that the mind's creative thinking (of which the arts are a major example) cannot be produced by algorithms. [There are and were no algorithms that could produce, say, Hamlet - anyone here (JC?) disagree?] The mind is a machine that continually sets up algorithms in the form of routines, but is creative in its activities overall. He also is keen to heal the breach between sciences and arts. [I too believe in that, and see it as one of the next great cultural revolutions].
                   
                  I'm still reading it, and don't see it as a fully worked out set of ideas, but I do think it is a harbinger of exciting changes around the corner, and would be interested if anyone knows of works in a similar spirit.
                   
                  P.S. Maybe he should be invited to this conference or similar.
                   
                • Stephen Berer
                  Mike ... I m not sure I was clear. I m not talking about the kind of artistic evolution whereby Rothko, for example, rethinks abstract expressionism, or the
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jul 25, 2008
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                    Mike

                    Stephen Berer wrote: I would paraphrase Mike this way: art is not only a product of evolution,
                    it is the evolutionary process itself, in operation. And I would further say that art is one
                    of the means whereby consciousness accelerates physical evolution, adding
                    human intention to a biological process that is generally thought to be random.

                    Mik
                    e Tintner responds:
                    I'm not sure that I would quite agree. Artistic and technological "evolution" are different from natural species' evolution.
                    I'm not sure I was clear. I'm not talking about the kind of artistic evolution whereby Rothko, for example, rethinks abstract expressionism, or the technological evolutions of say, a GM that is marvelously able to improve gas mileage from 15 to 18 mpg. <gasp>. I'm talking about species wide evolution, the kind that has been measured by the movement from homo erectus to homo sapiens. This, I am suggesting, is accelerated, and given direction, by creative endeavor. I realize my suggestion may be a childishly romantic notion, but it's one that informs my own work.

                    But I'm replying here mainly - & briefly - to recommend Stuart Kauffman's latest book Reinventing the Sacred. He v. explicitly is seeking a new mechanistic worldview, which sees the evolutionary process as fundamentally creative. ...
                    He also is keen to heal the breach between sciences and arts. [I too believe in that, and see it as one of the next great cultural revolutions]. I'm still reading it, and don't see it as a fully worked out set of ideas, but I do think it is a harbinger of exciting changes around the corner, and would be interested if anyone knows of works in a similar spirit.
                             This breach between science and art is a popular belief, that perhaps might be dated from some time around Newton, I would guess. Correct me if I'm wrong. However, there has been a continuous line of thinkers that has rejected this division right down to the present day. Those interested in this historical counter culture might want to look at the history of alchemy, or theosophy, among other places. Jung was an important proponent of this belief, building his psychoanalysis on a foundation of art, philosophy, religion, and detailed observation. D'arcy Thompson is also very interesting in this regard, having wittingly or unwittingly spawned a whole genre of work that might be classified "art forms in nature."
                             What is happening now is that, perhaps we are becoming ready, in a more public and popular sense, to reject this "division." But as is so often the problem, people on opposite sides of the divide have difficulty talking to each other. I recently attended a lecture about Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, taught by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. R. Ginsburgh is a strictly observant Jew. However, he is also totally committed to a religion-science fusion. Required reading to attend his lecture was The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene. The problem is, he talks about this subject from a position grounded in Bible and Talmud. In other words, he builds his comparisons and metaphors from his canonical religious texts. Most likely, most members of this discussion group would build their comparisons and metaphors from the canonical texts of biology and perhaps quantum mechanics.
                             In sum, besides the issues of popular resistance to the idea of merging science, art, and religion, there is the issue of extreme differences in "language" by those who are, and who have long been pursuing this work.

                    -- Steve Berer
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