Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories
Brian Boyd, On the Origin of StoriesCogliters,
As you know, Brian Boyd has just published book on stories. While the title made me blush, it’s got some good stuff in it. I’ve appended a short blurb that tells you what’s in the book. And here’s a link to a much longer and somewhat more critical review that I’ve published in The Valve:
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Brian Boyd. 2009. On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
If you are interested in or curious about what the newer psychologies bring to the study of fiction, then you must read this book. In the first half Boyd marshals work in evolutionary psychology, the cognitive sciences, anthropology and a dash of neuroscience by way of discussing attention, play, cooperation, and theory of mind. True to his evolutionary roots, he makes the general point that the mind consists of evolved mechanisms having deep phylogenetic roots along with the more specific point that art in general, and fiction specifically, are biological adaptations. Once his theoretical tools are in place, Boyd has an extended discussion of Homer’s Odyssey that focuses on the strategies Homer uses to hold and direct the reader’s attention, on how Homer conveys Odysseus’s qualities of mind, and on social cooperation. This is followed by an extended treatment Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! in which Boyd examines levels of explanation (universal, local, individual to the artist, and particular to the work) and the multiplicity of meaning.