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RE: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Bo yd

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  • Carroll, Joseph C.
    Tom, I think the demand for new knowledge-- tell us something we didn t know about this text --is perfectly legitimate, and I think that challenge has been met
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 24, 2009
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      Tom,

      I think the demand for new knowledge--"tell us something we didn't know about this text"--is perfectly legitimate, and I think that challenge has been met in quite a few readings from a Darwinist interpretive perspective. The criterion of "new" can be satisfied in at least three ways: (1) locating common knowledge within a deeper explanatory framework; (2) clearing up old interpretive puzzles; (3) bringing together bits and pieces of a critical tradition and fusing them into a new, comprehensive interpretive synthesis by locating them within that deeper explanatory framework.

      When people say the Darwinists have not produced interesting new readings, they probably haven't read most or any of the readings I would point to as offering genuine advances in understanding. But then, too, what is meant in the demand for "new" has to be specified. If it means "overturning" or radically discounting the validity of all common-sense, common-language understanding of literary texts," most Darwinists would respond that that criterion is a red herring. A reading that tells us that Hamlet is not about a man upset because his mother's a slut would simply be wrong. Again, the level of intentional meaning (common understanding) should be assimilated and developed, not merely replaced with some arcane set of meanings that merely reflect the inner workins of some theoretical system. We've already seen a good deal of that kind of thing from "Theory," and most of us don't wish to see more.

      Joe






      om: Thomas Dolack [mailto:dolack_thomas@...]
      Sent: Wed 12/23/2009 8:05 PM
      To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com; Carroll, Joseph C.
      Cc: Cog Lit Assn
      Subject: Re: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd



      Thank you Jeff and Joe for the bibliography, some new things there to
      throw in the hopper.

      Too much to reply to while traveling, but a few quick responses:

      * I have some work from cognitive poetics in mind for my second class,
      nothing from the Darwinist side. Perhaps Lisa Zunshine's first book as
      well. It's not a negative evaluation, it's just psychology of reading
      as apposed to literary criticism.

      *Perhaps I sounded too negative in my formulation. In response to
      "what else I would want" beyond my third category?: Nothing. My third
      category is, in my opinion, the most productive application of both
      Darwinian theory and the cognitive sciences. I agree with pretty much
      everything in the message below about a Darwinian approach being a
      "heuristic".

      *But this leads me to one major concern. The vast majority of people
      who could be "fellow travelers" are interested primarily in praxis as
      apposed to theory. I've had conversations with people and seen reviews
      that say essentially "so what - I knew that already" or "it seems
      right, but what do I learn that's new about the text?" Part of my
      answer would be that we can now finally rule some interpretations out
      for the simple reason that they don't jibe with the way the mind
      works. But I don't know that that will cut it for making much headway
      within the 'institution of literary theory'. (As a side note, I'm
      interested in rhetoric answers to that response for the next time it
      comes up.)

      That's not organized, but I'm in a hotel room and nothing is organized
      at the moment.

      Grateful for the responses. Happy Holidays!

      Tom

      On Wed, 23 Dec 2009 16:19:13 -0600
      "Carroll, Joseph C." <jcarroll@...> wrote:
      > I recognize Darwinist lit crit that answers to Tom's first category.
      > I'm not sure which specific readings he has in mind in the third
      >category. I'm not sure what he means by the formula in the second
      >category.
      >
      > The third category interests me most. There are various levels at
      >which Darwinist readings can aim. At the lowest level, they would
      >aim only at being sensible, at recuperating the folk wisdom latent in
      >the humanist tradition, at correcting tendencies toward absurdity or
      >extavagance in various theory-based readings. At this lowest level,
      >the only relation between reading and speciifically Darwinist ideas
      >is one of consistency or congruence--"not inconsistent with"
      >evolutionary concepts. This seems what Tom actually has in mind. At
      >a level higher than that, though, evolutionary categories are used
      >heuristically to guide close reading. Judith Saunders' readings of
      >Edith Wharton and other American writers delineates their thematic
      >structures using concepts from evolutionary psychology--especially
      >mate selection, parenting, and mating-parenting trade-offs. A still
      >more strenuous kind of interpretive challenge is to capture the basic
      >forces at work in a whole cultural ecology, to analyze the interplay
      >among conditions of provisioning, levels of technology, the
      >reproductive economy, the forms of social organization, forms of
      >religious and political belief, and the forms of imagination specific
      >to that cultural ecology. This is what Gottschall does in Rape of
      >Troy. When I speak of "levels," of course, I don't mean discrete
      >quantum spheres, like the shells filled with electrons around the
      >nuclei of atoms. I mean more blurred lines in which it is sometimes
      >hard to distinguish level one from level two and level two from level
      >three.
      >
      > The kind of challenge Tom poses with respect to his third category
      >is the one that has seemed most pressing to me ever since I started
      >on this line of thinking in Evolution and Literary Theory. In the
      >critique of Wuthering Heights published in Philosophy and Literature,
      >I try to meet that challenge by posing human life history as a
      >governing concept both in folk psychology and in evolutionary
      >psychology and reading the novel in terms of human life history--a
      >systemic interaction among the developmental phases of human life,
      >including sexual polarity and parent-child dynamics.
      >
      > Most literary texts are meant to be understood on the level of
      >common understanding, the level of "folk psychology." If capturing
      >the intentional structure of meaning is part of the total task of
      >criticism, good criticism can't merely violate the common
      >understanding. It must encompass it within wider, deeper levels of
      >explanation. That's what I've been trying to do with critiques of
      >various literary works--most notably Wuthering Heights, the Picture
      >of Dorian Gray, and Hamlet.
      >
      > A couple of days ago, I read a draft of an interpretive essay on a
      >canonical horror novel, Mathesson's I Am Legend. The author of the
      >article, Mathias Clasen, seemed to me to have succeeded in posing
      >significant interpretive questions about the kind of fascination this
      >novel has exercised, and he also succeeded in answering those
      >questions in specifically bio-cultural terms, delineating the
      >interplay of universal ("archetypal") themes and concerns,
      >delineating the way they articulate themselves within a very specific
      >cultural context (cold war nuclear terror), locates them also within
      >the particular wrinkles in Mathesson's personality, and locates the
      >analysis at all these levels in relation to the imagery and
      >circumstances of the novel (post-apocalyptic world of vampires, in
      >which the only remaining human is the protagonist). This is good
      >literary crticism, and it is also criticism couched very specifically
      >in evolutionary terms, in "biocultural critique" and in psychological
      >categories (personality and emotions) formulated specifically within
      >an evolutionary, adaptationist perspective. I mention this one case
      >only because it is the most recent one I encountered. It is very
      >good but not unique; the kinds of things it is doing are the sorts of
      >things much evolutionary literary study has tried to do, some of it
      >with excellent success.
      >
      > Joe Carroll
      >
      >From: biopoet@yahoogroups.com on behalf of b.boyd@...
      > Sent: Wed 12/23/2009 3:38 PM
      > To: Jeff P. Turpin
      > Cc: Thomas Dolack; Cog Lit Assn; biopoet@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: Re: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Tom Dolack suggest three categories of readings from the cognitive
      >and evolutionary critics:
      >
      > 1) Fairly pedestrian readings of a text that are dressed up in
      >
      > scientific language.
      >
      > 2) Cognitive/psychological explanations of how a "naive" reading of
      >
      > the text is reached - these can be quite interesting from a
      >
      > psychological point of view, but don't add much from the lit crit
      >
      > point of view.
      >
      > 3) Decent to excellent readings of the text that are mostly
      >
      > old-fashioned close reading, but are based on a
      >cognitive/evolutionary
      >
      > foundation-the theory mentioned above (although they don't always
      >
      > acknowledge this).
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Tom, you seem to approve at least to some degree of 3), but not of
      >the fact that they "are mostly old-fashioned close reading."
      >
      > Since you are talking of readings of literary texts, what else would
      >you want? Distant readings according to some cognitivist or
      >evolutionary formula or template? Doesn't the fact that the readings
      >are close, i.e. sensitive to the particulars of the text, count in
      >their favor? Doesn't the fact that they respond to what is in the
      >text, even if seen through an evolutionary or cognitive lens, count
      >in their favor? Doesn't the fact that they come from research
      >traditions where negative or counter-evidence is appreciated as
      >crucial count in their favor? (If they fail to consider
      >counter-evidence, they are damned by their own standards.)
      >
      > On the other hand Derridean equivocation, Foucauldian suspicion and
      >proclamations of new epistemes, New Historicist assertions of
      >thoughts unthinkable within a given era, and Freudian or Lacanian
      >retranslation seem distortive and blurry lenses, and unrelated to an
      >active, critical research tradition with a sophisticated methodology.
      >(This does not mean that every proposal advanced within cognitive and
      >evolutionary traditions is valid-there is no method for arriving at
      >only true conclusions, or we'd all use it; only that invalid results
      >are likely to be sifted out as invalid much faster than without good
      >methodology.)
      >
      > All the traditions above, from Derrida to Lacan, AND old-fashioned
      >close reading, rely on positive evidence, on evidence FOR a claim.
      >Cognitive and evolutionary approaches on the other hand accept (or
      >should accept, if they are to be worthy of the name) the need to take
      >into consideration, above all, possible counter-evidence. This should
      >immediately rule out a host of untenable claims about any literary
      >work you like to consider.
      >
      > Cognitive and evolutionary approaches also allow us to understand
      >more-and more that has been well tested-about human minds and
      >natures. That does not mean that "To be or not to be" will now be
      >read as "To computate or not to computate" or "To copulate or not to
      >copulate," but depending on what questions you are interested in
      >about a literary work, cognitive or evolutionary approaches may be
      >able to supply richer answers.
      >
      > And cognitive and evolutionary considerations can also provide new
      >models of literary production and reception, incorporating, for
      >instance, explicit recognition of costs and benefits for both artists
      >and audiences, of both writing and readings as problem-solving, and
      >as involving problems slightly differently formulated than in
      >conventional criticism, and involving commonalities and differences
      >at multiple levels. This will not make writing and reading look
      >entirely different-if it did, that would count against new approaches
      >rather than for them-but it can finesse critical theory and critical
      >practice. And it certainly does not eliminate the need for close
      >reading, especially by expert readers, although it should also take
      >into account the costs and benefits for non-expert readers.
      >
      > More of this in my next book.
      >
      > Brian Boyd
      >
      > On 22/12/2009, at 5:20 AM, Jeff P. Turpin wrote:
      >
      >
      > Tom--Thanks for the post and query. Frankly, I have also been a
      >bit
      > disappointed with the results of lit dar inquiries to date--but I
      >am hardly
      > as well read in the genre as I should be, with two jobs, a just
      >completed
      > dissertation, and a two-year-old, so I don't want to claim
      >authority. I do
      > think the new discipline is busy establishing method and
      >foundation, and
      > guarding its backside against the incredible level of hostility
      >that seems
      > to dog evolutionary theory wherever it goes. We have to remember
      >that ours
      > is the first critical school in a long time to demand empirical
      >testing and
      > verification like a science, rather than bursting untested but
      >inflammatory
      > rhetorical Eureka!s out into the world. Rigor and disciplined
      >method
      > require solid foundations and careful extensions. And patience.
      > But I
      > thought Gottschall's piece on fairy tales and Salmon's piece on
      >pornography
      > were productive examples of the application of scientific methods
      >to
      > existing critiques, and still think Scalise-Sugiyama's work on
      >Oedipus and
      > Hamlet is important. Off the top of my head I can't remember the
      >name of
      > the scholar from RMMRA who put me on to you and Joe Carroll, but
      >his
      > adaptive analysis of Chaucer's WoBT was productive, and I hope to
      >combine
      > that approach with a look at Chaucer's ClT soon, hopefully to good
      >affect.
      > Also, I thought John Niles's new look at Beowulf in the recent
      >Donaldson
      > edition was incredibly good, but when I wrote Niles to congratulate
      >him he
      > was not particularly enthusiastic about my assertion that his essay
      >was a
      > stout Darwinian read of the poem ;-).
      > I can hardly call people out on a listserve for plugging their
      >own books
      > and writings and then proselytize on my own behalf, but I have an
      >article on
      > Wharton and Steinbeck purportedly coming out in 2010, a similar
      >piece in a
      > published collection on Steinbeck (Rodopi), and a rather truncated
      >essay in
      > a recent book on Latino culture, that try to put more meat on the
      >bone, so
      > to speak. I also have a dissertation section on L. M. Silko's
      >novel
      > Ceremony that I will present to a cynical audience this winter.
      > All of
      > these should also come out in the next year or two in "my book," if
      >and when
      > a publisher accepts the proposal. These fall mostly into your
      >categories 1
      > or 3 (is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? ;-). I will
      >copy the
      > shortest of these to you by individual email, and you can pass your
      >own
      > judgment. In some of these cases I think I am saying something new
      >about
      > the text, in others I am simply pointing out why the text is as
      >powerful as
      > it is--what instincts or universals it taps into, and what adaptive
      > functions it fulfills. I hope they are worthy contributions.
      > I should also say that I agree with you about the unnecessary
      >division
      > between cog psych and lit dar. In the Silko piece I combine the
      >two for
      > what I hope is a productive read. But I think Joe Carroll
      >effectively
      > describes the potential win/win combining of the two disciplines in
      >his
      > essay in Style, and I am strongly committed to combining the two in
      >adaptive
      > analyses (I think the split is more about the competitive nature of
      >the
      > academic/critical hierarchy that I wrote about in my original post.
      > But
      > let's not get into that again--enuf nasty language in my inbox
      >already).
      > Attachments to follow. I am open to all criticism, negative,
      >positive,
      > as long as it is progressive. Thanks again. JT
      >
      >
      > Jeff P. Turpin, President
      > Turpin and Sons Inc.
      > Cultural Resource Management
      > 2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
      > (512) 922-7826
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: "Thomas Dolack" <dolack_thomas@...
      ><mailto:dolack_thomas@...> >
      > To: "Cog Lit Assn" <CogLAs@...
      ><mailto:CogLAs@...> >; <biopoet@yahoogroups.com
      ><mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups.com> >;
      > "Jeff P. Turpin" <jpturpin@... <mailto:jpturpin@...> >
      > Sent: Monday, December 21, 2009 9:24 AM
      > Subject: Re: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > "As to claims about tepid results of adaptationist criticisms, the
      >jury is
      >
      >
      > still out on this topic. The discipline is young, and is still
      >trying to
      >
      >
      > fight free of the gravity (and criticism) of its predecessors. I
      >won't
      >
      >
      > stoop to plugging my own pubs here, but there are very productive
      >new
      >
      >
      > critiques out there for the interested reader, and I am confident
      >that the
      >
      >
      > new methodologies will bear more palatable fruit."
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Hi Jeff,
      >
      >
      >
      > I was wondering if you could forward some bibliography, and please
      >feel
      >
      >
      > free to plug your own stuff.
      >
      >
      >
      > I must say, on the whole I agree with the tepidness of the
      >results, with
      >
      >
      > certain caveats. My general impression of both cognitive and
      >Darwinian
      >
      >
      > readings of literature is that the readings (and I mean
      >specifically the
      >
      >
      > readings here, and not the theory, some of which I think is
      >outstanding)
      >
      >
      > fall into a few categories:
      >
      >
      >
      > 1) Fairly pedestrian readings of a text that are dressed up in
      >scientific
      >
      >
      > language.
      >
      >
      >
      > 2) Cognitive/psychological explanations of how a "naive" reading
      >of the
      >
      >
      > text is reached - these can be quite interesting from a
      >psychological
      >
      >
      > point of view, but don't add much from the lit crit point of view.
      >
      >
      >
      > 3) Decent to excellent readings of the text that are mostly
      >old-fashioned
      >
      >
      > close reading, but are based on a cognitive/evolutionary
      >foundation-the
      >
      >
      > theory mentioned above (although they don't always acknowledge
      >this).
      >
      >
      >
      > I could probably subdivide a bit, but it's the holidays. I really
      >haven't
      >
      >
      > seen a whole lot from either camp (and I still don't understand
      >why
      >
      >
      > cognitive and Darwinian approaches are so separate) that
      >demonstrates what
      >
      >
      > I would call a Darwinian or cognitive reading of a text *per se*.
      >This
      >
      >
      > gets quickly into what I think an important issue: what is the
      >proper
      >
      >
      > sphere of application for the field? Some of the contretemps in
      >the field
      >
      >
      > (or coming from outside it) stem from this issue (as far as I can
      >tell).
      >
      >
      > One of these days I'll get around to writing something up
      >formally, but in
      >
      >
      > the meantime I'm happy to read things that change my mind.
      >
      >
      >
      > Tom
      >
      >
      >
      > _______________________________________________
      > CogLAs mailing list
      > CogLAs@... <mailto:CogLAs@...>
      > https://lists.purdue.edu/mailman/listinfo/coglas
      >
      >
      >
      >
    • Jeff P. Turpin
      At the risk of sounding terribly old-fashioned, I think new readings should also in some sense legitimate the text, or correspond more strongly to the
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 24, 2009
      • 0 Attachment
        At the risk of sounding terribly old-fashioned, I think "new" readings should also in some sense legitimate the text, or correspond more strongly to the text--be empirically validated by what is actually there on paper.  They should also explain or uncover some of the "how" and "why" of a text's effectiveness.  This "how" and "why" will mostly correspond to the text's utilization or deployment of universals--but note the use of the word "some" in the previous sentence.  Evolutionary psychology should explain many of the hows and whys, but the particular and peculiar impressions made on individual minds are also the purview of cognitive and other psychologies, and of personal experience.  So, again, universals can pre-load a text towards a certain interpretation, and their presence should be easy to see and commonly understood, but some nuances of interpretation will always reside in the individual reader, perhaps best explained by "life history" analyses (although critical interpretations are often colored by the competitive needs of the interpreter, and can thus also be the purview of ev psych).  So those interpretations that incorporate, first, the text itself, second, the common human pool of experience, and third the individual's or critical group's nuanced life history, will probably be the most satisfying; and the first two criteria will contribute most to the longevity or "goodness" or a particular text.  So, lit dar should be producing more satisfying (yes, I know, an ambiguous criterion) of long-lived and/or popular texts, while in principle refuting or replacing readings that do not recognize universals and adaptive needs, and which do not rely on what is actually in the text.  All poststruc to the nonce, some interpretations will be more accurate than others.  And, yes, I have just re-privileged the text.  I think. jt

        Jeff P. Turpin, President
        Turpin and Sons Inc.
        Cultural Resource Management
        2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
        (512) 922-7826
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2009 9:49 AM
        Subject: RE: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd

         

        Tom,

        I think the demand for new knowledge--" tell us something we didn't know about this text"--is perfectly legitimate, and I think that challenge has been met in quite a few readings from a Darwinist interpretive perspective. The criterion of "new" can be satisfied in at least three ways: (1) locating common knowledge within a deeper explanatory framework; (2) clearing up old interpretive puzzles; (3) bringing together bits and pieces of a critical tradition and fusing them into a new, comprehensive interpretive synthesis by locating them within that deeper explanatory framework.

        When people say the Darwinists have not produced interesting new readings, they probably haven't read most or any of the readings I would point to as offering genuine advances in understanding. But then, too, what is meant in the demand for "new" has to be specified. If it means "overturning" or radically discounting the validity of all common-sense, common-language understanding of literary texts," most Darwinists would respond that that criterion is a red herring. A reading that tells us that Hamlet is not about a man upset because his mother's a slut would simply be wrong. Again, the level of intentional meaning (common understanding) should be assimilated and developed, not merely replaced with some arcane set of meanings that merely reflect the inner workins of some theoretical system. We've already seen a good deal of that kind of thing from "Theory," and most of us don't wish to see more.

        Joe






        om: Thomas Dolack [mailto:dolack_thomas@ wheatoncollege. edu]
        Sent: Wed 12/23/2009 8:05 PM
        To: biopoet@yahoogroups .com; Carroll, Joseph C.
        Cc: Cog Lit Assn
        Subject: Re: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd

        Thank you Jeff and Joe for the bibliography, some new things there to
        throw in the hopper.

        Too much to reply to while traveling, but a few quick responses:

        * I have some work from cognitive poetics in mind for my second class,
        nothing from the Darwinist side. Perhaps Lisa Zunshine's first book as
        well. It's not a negative evaluation, it's just psychology of reading
        as apposed to literary criticism.

        *Perhaps I sounded too negative in my formulation. In response to
        "what else I would want" beyond my third category?: Nothing. My third
        category is, in my opinion, the most productive application of both
        Darwinian theory and the cognitive sciences. I agree with pretty much
        everything in the message below about a Darwinian approach being a
        "heuristic".

        *But this leads me to one major concern. The vast majority of people
        who could be "fellow travelers" are interested primarily in praxis as
        apposed to theory. I've had conversations with people and seen reviews
        that say essentially "so what - I knew that already" or "it seems
        right, but what do I learn that's new about the text?" Part of my
        answer would be that we can now finally rule some interpretations out
        for the simple reason that they don't jibe with the way the mind
        works. But I don't know that that will cut it for making much headway
        within the 'institution of literary theory'. (As a side note, I'm
        interested in rhetoric answers to that response for the next time it
        comes up.)

        That's not organized, but I'm in a hotel room and nothing is organized
        at the moment.

        Grateful for the responses. Happy Holidays!

        Tom

        On Wed, 23 Dec 2009 16:19:13 -0600
        "Carroll, Joseph C." <jcarroll@umsl. edu> wrote:
        > I recognize Darwinist lit crit that answers to Tom's first category.
        > I'm not sure which specific readings he has in mind in the third
        >category. I'm not sure what he means by the formula in the second
        >category.
        >
        > The third category interests me most. There are various levels at
        >which Darwinist readings can aim. At the lowest level, they would
        >aim only at being sensible, at recuperating the folk wisdom latent in
        >the humanist tradition, at correcting tendencies toward absurdity or
        >extavagance in various theory-based readings. At this lowest level,
        >the only relation between reading and speciifically Darwinist ideas
        >is one of consistency or congruence-- "not inconsistent with"
        >evolutionary concepts. This seems what Tom actually has in mind. At
        >a level higher than that, though, evolutionary categories are used
        >heuristically to guide close reading. Judith Saunders' readings of
        >Edith Wharton and other American writers delineates their thematic
        >structures using concepts from evolutionary psychology-- especially
        >mate selection, parenting, and mating-parenting trade-offs. A still
        >more strenuous kind of interpretive challenge is to capture the basic
        >forces at work in a whole cultural ecology, to analyze the interplay
        >among conditions of provisioning, levels of technology, the
        >reproductive economy, the forms of social organization, forms of
        >religious and political belief, and the forms of imagination specific
        >to that cultural ecology. This is what Gottschall does in Rape of
        >Troy. When I speak of "levels," of course, I don't mean discrete
        >quantum spheres, like the shells filled with electrons around the
        >nuclei of atoms. I mean more blurred lines in which it is sometimes
        >hard to distinguish level one from level two and level two from level
        >three.
        >
        > The kind of challenge Tom poses with respect to his third category
        >is the one that has seemed most pressing to me ever since I started
        >on this line of thinking in Evolution and Literary Theory. In the
        >critique of Wuthering Heights published in Philosophy and Literature,
        >I try to meet that challenge by posing human life history as a
        >governing concept both in folk psychology and in evolutionary
        >psychology and reading the novel in terms of human life history--a
        >systemic interaction among the developmental phases of human life,
        >including sexual polarity and parent-child dynamics.
        >
        > Most literary texts are meant to be understood on the level of
        >common understanding, the level of "folk psychology." If capturing
        >the intentional structure of meaning is part of the total task of
        >criticism, good criticism can't merely violate the common
        >understanding. It must encompass it within wider, deeper levels of
        >explanation. That's what I've been trying to do with critiques of
        >various literary works--most notably Wuthering Heights, the Picture
        >of Dorian Gray, and Hamlet.
        >
        > A couple of days ago, I read a draft of an interpretive essay on a
        >canonical horror novel, Mathesson's I Am Legend. The author of the
        >article, Mathias Clasen, seemed to me to have succeeded in posing
        >significant interpretive questions about the kind of fascination this
        >novel has exercised, and he also succeeded in answering those
        >questions in specifically bio-cultural terms, delineating the
        >interplay of universal ("archetypal" ) themes and concerns,
        >delineating the way they articulate themselves within a very specific
        >cultural context (cold war nuclear terror), locates them also within
        >the particular wrinkles in Mathesson's personality, and locates the
        >analysis at all these levels in relation to the imagery and
        >circumstances of the novel (post-apocalyptic world of vampires, in
        >which the only remaining human is the protagonist) . This is good
        >literary crticism, and it is also criticism couched very specifically
        >in evolutionary terms, in "biocultural critique" and in psychological
        >categories (personality and emotions) formulated specifically within
        >an evolutionary, adaptationist perspective. I mention this one case
        >only because it is the most recent one I encountered. It is very
        >good but not unique; the kinds of things it is doing are the sorts of
        >things much evolutionary literary study has tried to do, some of it
        >with excellent success.
        >
        > Joe Carroll
        >
        >From: biopoet@yahoogroups .com on behalf of b.boyd@auckland. ac.nz
        > Sent: Wed 12/23/2009 3:38 PM
        > To: Jeff P. Turpin
        > Cc: Thomas Dolack; Cog Lit Assn; biopoet@yahoogroups .com
        > Subject: Re: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Tom Dolack suggest three categories of readings from the cognitive
        >and evolutionary critics:
        >
        > 1) Fairly pedestrian readings of a text that are dressed up in
        >
        > scientific language.
        >
        > 2) Cognitive/psycholog ical explanations of how a "naive" reading of
        >
        > the text is reached - these can be quite interesting from a
        >
        > psychological point of view, but don't add much from the lit crit
        >
        > point of view.
        >
        > 3) Decent to excellent readings of the text that are mostly
        >
        > old-fashioned close reading, but are based on a
        >cognitive/evolutio nary
        >
        > foundation-the theory mentioned above (although they don't always
        >
        > acknowledge this).
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Tom, you seem to approve at least to some degree of 3), but not of
        >the fact that they "are mostly old-fashioned close reading."
        >
        > Since you are talking of readings of literary texts, what else would
        >you want? Distant readings according to some cognitivist or
        >evolutionary formula or template? Doesn't the fact that the readings
        >are close, i.e. sensitive to the particulars of the text, count in
        >their favor? Doesn't the fact that they respond to what is in the
        >text, even if seen through an evolutionary or cognitive lens, count
        >in their favor? Doesn't the fact that they come from research
        >traditions where negative or counter-evidence is appreciated as
        >crucial count in their favor? (If they fail to consider
        >counter-evidence, they are damned by their own standards.)
        >
        > On the other hand Derridean equivocation, Foucauldian suspicion and
        >proclamations of new epistemes, New Historicist assertions of
        >thoughts unthinkable within a given era, and Freudian or Lacanian
        >retranslation seem distortive and blurry lenses, and unrelated to an
        >active, critical research tradition with a sophisticated methodology.
        >(This does not mean that every proposal advanced within cognitive and
        >evolutionary traditions is valid-there is no method for arriving at
        >only true conclusions, or we'd all use it; only that invalid results
        >are likely to be sifted out as invalid much faster than without good
        >methodology. )
        >
        > All the traditions above, from Derrida to Lacan, AND old-fashioned
        >close reading, rely on positive evidence, on evidence FOR a claim.
        >Cognitive and evolutionary approaches on the other hand accept (or
        >should accept, if they are to be worthy of the name) the need to take
        >into consideration, above all, possible counter-evidence. This should
        >immediately rule out a host of untenable claims about any literary
        >work you like to consider.
        >
        > Cognitive and evolutionary approaches also allow us to understand
        >more-and more that has been well tested-about human minds and
        >natures. That does not mean that "To be or not to be" will now be
        >read as "To computate or not to computate" or "To copulate or not to
        >copulate," but depending on what questions you are interested in
        >about a literary work, cognitive or evolutionary approaches may be
        >able to supply richer answers.
        >
        > And cognitive and evolutionary considerations can also provide new
        >models of literary production and reception, incorporating, for
        >instance, explicit recognition of costs and benefits for both artists
        >and audiences, of both writing and readings as problem-solving, and
        >as involving problems slightly differently formulated than in
        >conventional criticism, and involving commonalities and differences
        >at multiple levels. This will not make writing and reading look
        >entirely different-if it did, that would count against new approaches
        >rather than for them-but it can finesse critical theory and critical
        >practice. And it certainly does not eliminate the need for close
        >reading, especially by expert readers, although it should also take
        >into account the costs and benefits for non-expert readers.
        >
        > More of this in my next book.
        >
        > Brian Boyd
        >
        > On 22/12/2009, at 5:20 AM, Jeff P. Turpin wrote:
        >
        >
        > Tom--Thanks for the post and query. Frankly, I have also been a
        >bit
        > disappointed with the results of lit dar inquiries to date--but I
        >am hardly
        > as well read in the genre as I should be, with two jobs, a just
        >completed
        > dissertation, and a two-year-old, so I don't want to claim
        >authority. I do
        > think the new discipline is busy establishing method and
        >foundation, and
        > guarding its backside against the incredible level of hostility
        >that seems
        > to dog evolutionary theory wherever it goes. We have to remember
        >that ours
        > is the first critical school in a long time to demand empirical
        >testing and
        > verification like a science, rather than bursting untested but
        >inflammatory
        > rhetorical Eureka!s out into the world. Rigor and disciplined
        >method
        > require solid foundations and careful extensions. And patience.
        > But I
        > thought Gottschall's piece on fairy tales and Salmon's piece on
        >pornography
        > were productive examples of the application of scientific methods
        >to
        > existing critiques, and still think Scalise-Sugiyama' s work on
        >Oedipus and
        > Hamlet is important. Off the top of my head I can't remember the
        >name of
        > the scholar from RMMRA who put me on to you and Joe Carroll, but
        >his
        > adaptive analysis of Chaucer's WoBT was productive, and I hope to
        >combine
        > that approach with a look at Chaucer's ClT soon, hopefully to good
        >affect.
        > Also, I thought John Niles's new look at Beowulf in the recent
        >Donaldson
        > edition was incredibly good, but when I wrote Niles to congratulate
        >him he
        > was not particularly enthusiastic about my assertion that his essay
        >was a
        > stout Darwinian read of the poem ;-).
        > I can hardly call people out on a listserve for plugging their
        >own books
        > and writings and then proselytize on my own behalf, but I have an
        >article on
        > Wharton and Steinbeck purportedly coming out in 2010, a similar
        >piece in a
        > published collection on Steinbeck (Rodopi), and a rather truncated
        >essay in
        > a recent book on Latino culture, that try to put more meat on the
        >bone, so
        > to speak. I also have a dissertation section on L. M. Silko's
        >novel
        > Ceremony that I will present to a cynical audience this winter.
        > All of
        > these should also come out in the next year or two in "my book," if
        >and when
        > a publisher accepts the proposal. These fall mostly into your
        >categories 1
        > or 3 (is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? ;-). I will
        >copy the
        > shortest of these to you by individual email, and you can pass your
        >own
        > judgment. In some of these cases I think I am saying something new
        >about
        > the text, in others I am simply pointing out why the text is as
        >powerful as
        > it is--what instincts or universals it taps into, and what adaptive
        > functions it fulfills. I hope they are worthy contributions.
        > I should also say that I agree with you about the unnecessary
        >division
        > between cog psych and lit dar. In the Silko piece I combine the
        >two for
        > what I hope is a productive read. But I think Joe Carroll
        >effectively
        > describes the potential win/win combining of the two disciplines in
        >his
        > essay in Style, and I am strongly committed to combining the two in
        >adaptive
        > analyses (I think the split is more about the competitive nature of
        >the
        > academic/critical hierarchy that I wrote about in my original post.
        > But
        > let's not get into that again--enuf nasty language in my inbox
        >already).
        > Attachments to follow. I am open to all criticism, negative,
        >positive,
        > as long as it is progressive. Thanks again. JT
        >
        >
        > Jeff P. Turpin, President
        > Turpin and Sons Inc.
        > Cultural Resource Management
        > 2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
        > (512) 922-7826
        > ----- Original Message -----
        > From: "Thomas Dolack" <dolack_thomas@ wheatoncollege. edu
        ><mailto:dolack_thomas@ wheatoncollege. edu> >
        > To: "Cog Lit Assn" <CogLAs@lists. purdue.edu
        ><mailto:CogLAs@lists. purdue.edu> >; <biopoet@yahoogroups .com
        ><mailto:biopoet@yahoogroups .com> >;
        > "Jeff P. Turpin" <jpturpin@gvtc. com <mailto:jpturpin@gvtc. com> >
        > Sent: Monday, December 21, 2009 9:24 AM
        > Subject: Re: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > "As to claims about tepid results of adaptationist criticisms, the
        >jury is
        >
        >
        > still out on this topic. The discipline is young, and is still
        >trying to
        >
        >
        > fight free of the gravity (and criticism) of its predecessors. I
        >won't
        >
        >
        > stoop to plugging my own pubs here, but there are very productive
        >new
        >
        >
        > critiques out there for the interested reader, and I am confident
        >that the
        >
        >
        > new methodologies will bear more palatable fruit."
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Hi Jeff,
        >
        >
        >
        > I was wondering if you could forward some bibliography, and please
        >feel
        >
        >
        > free to plug your own stuff.
        >
        >
        >
        > I must say, on the whole I agree with the tepidness of the
        >results, with
        >
        >
        > certain caveats. My general impression of both cognitive and
        >Darwinian
        >
        >
        > readings of literature is that the readings (and I mean
        >specifically the
        >
        >
        > readings here, and not the theory, some of which I think is
        >outstanding)
        >
        >
        > fall into a few categories:
        >
        >
        >
        > 1) Fairly pedestrian readings of a text that are dressed up in
        >scientific
        >
        >
        > language.
        >
        >
        >
        > 2) Cognitive/psycholog ical explanations of how a "naive" reading
        >of the
        >
        >
        > text is reached - these can be quite interesting from a
        >psychological
        >
        >
        > point of view, but don't add much from the lit crit point of view.
        >
        >
        >
        > 3) Decent to excellent readings of the text that are mostly
        >old-fashioned
        >
        >
        > close reading, but are based on a cognitive/evolution ary
        >foundation- the
        >
        >
        > theory mentioned above (although they don't always acknowledge
        >this).
        >
        >
        >
        > I could probably subdivide a bit, but it's the holidays. I really
        >haven't
        >
        >
        > seen a whole lot from either camp (and I still don't understand
        >why
        >
        >
        > cognitive and Darwinian approaches are so separate) that
        >demonstrates what
        >
        >
        > I would call a Darwinian or cognitive reading of a text *per se*.
        >This
        >
        >
        > gets quickly into what I think an important issue: what is the
        >proper
        >
        >
        > sphere of application for the field? Some of the contretemps in
        >the field
        >
        >
        > (or coming from outside it) stem from this issue (as far as I can
        >tell).
        >
        >
        > One of these days I'll get around to writing something up
        >formally, but in
        >
        >
        > the meantime I'm happy to read things that change my mind.
        >
        >
        >
        > Tom
        >
        >
        >
        > ____________ _________ _________ _________ ________
        > CogLAs mailing list
        > CogLAs@lists. purdue.edu <mailto:CogLAs@lists. purdue.edu>
        > https://lists. purdue.edu/ mailman/listinfo /coglas
        >
        >
        >
        >

      • Stephen Berer
        ... I ve been following this discussion, and I confess, I was finding it rather annoying. Speaking as a writer, not an academic, unless the author of a text is
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 24, 2009
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          Thanks Jeff, for saying this:

          At the risk of sounding terribly old-fashioned, I think "new" readings should also in some sense legitimate the text, or correspond more strongly to the text--be empirically validated by what is actually there on paper.

          I've been following this discussion, and I confess, I was finding it rather annoying. Speaking as a writer, not an academic, unless the author of a text is pursing or using Darwinist  ideas and themes in some specific way, a Darwinist, evolutionary analysis is tangential to the text itself. It uses the text as DATA, but does NOT speak to the author's issues and intentions. That's fine, but it doesn't give any new insights about the text, per se. Rather, it uses the text as data to promote a particular theory. Same is true of psych-cog interpretations. You may be able to extract very interesting information from the text, but with all due respect, in MOST cases, it is NOT literary analysis.  Rather, it is analysis of literature.

          Steve Berer

          Excessive piousness is a cloak of evil.
                           http://www.shivvetee.com
                           http://shivvetee.blogspot.com/
        • Jeff P. Turpin
          For what it is worth, I have to say that after over three decades of creative writing, work in anthropology and archeology, and work in literary criticism, I
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 26, 2009
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            For what it is worth, I have to say that after over three decades of creative writing, work in anthropology and archeology, and work in literary criticism,  I have yet to find a statistically significant number of human activities, including the arts, that are not adaptations or attempted adaptations.  This includes most writing, and most criticism.  Further, an immense body of theory and empirical evidence indicates that those attempts at art or criticism that are not adaptive attempts would generally be ignored by the audience.  And even those artistic efforts which appear to try to ignore, oppose, or somehow trump evolutionary gravity are constrained by it, and are attempts to adapt, if in a manner different than that of organic evolution.  And, again, it is possible that there are non-adaptive artistic efforts and interpretations out there, but they will be practically invisible to human observers, because of our adaptive blinders, and/or because they do not serve the purposes that we devised art and culture to serve (despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage). jt

            Jeff P. Turpin, President
            Turpin and Sons Inc.
            Cultural Resource Management
            2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
            (512) 922-7826
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2009 12:16 PM
            Subject: Re: [CogLAs] [biopoet] Bé rubé review Boyd

             

            Thanks Jeff, for saying this:

            At the risk of sounding terribly old-fashioned, I think "new" readings should also in some sense legitimate the text, or correspond more strongly to the text--be empirically validated by what is actually there on paper.

            I've been following this discussion, and I confess, I was finding it rather annoying. Speaking as a writer, not an academic, unless the author of a text is pursing or using Darwinist  ideas and themes in some specific way, a Darwinist, evolutionary analysis is tangential to the text itself. It uses the text as DATA, but does NOT speak to the author's issues and intentions. That's fine, but it doesn't give any new insights about the text, per se. Rather, it uses the text as data to promote a particular theory. Same is true of psych-cog interpretations. You may be able to extract very interesting information from the text, but with all due respect, in MOST cases, it is NOT literary analysis.  Rather, it is analysis of literature.

            Steve Berer

            Excessive piousness is a cloak of evil.
                             http://www.shivvete e.com
                             http://shivvetee. blogspot. com/

          • b.boyd@auckland.ac.nz
            Let me try to get a discussion re-started. How do you know, Stephen, that it s not literary analysis? Have you read what you are dismissing? In my own
            Message 5 of 6 , Dec 26, 2009
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              Let me try to get a discussion re-started.

              How do you know, Stephen, that it's not literary analysis? Have you read what you are dismissing? In my own evolutionary work, I argue for good evolutionary reasons that a problem-solution model helps us get closer to a writer's situation working on a specific text (just as problem-solution analysis is used at multiple levels in understanding evolutionary adaptations or individual animal behavior) or a reader's in reading a specific text with specific aims (which may be enjoyment or distraction). I draw on ideas developed by David Bordwell, the cognitive and evolutionary film theorist, historian and critic, whose latest book, Poetics of Cinema, carries among the endorsements this from a director--the sort of comment I try to deserve from the few living artists I write about, and would want from the dead if they could comment:

               

              Film Theory, rightly or wrongly, makes most film makers cringe. We rarely see our processes, collaborations, technologies, obsessions, or underlying motivations thoughtfully examined in such writings. David Bordwells work is radically different. Whether examining Hollywood cinema, Hong Kong, Independent, New Wave, silent or sound, high grossing or unknown, he addresses film with a clear mission -- to understand how a film works, how its made and why -- and to discuss his findings in a direct style that embraces intellectuals and non-academic readers too. I have learned a great deal from David about film narrative, and in Poetics of Cinema, he carries his mission further, drawing on a lifetimes perspective to lay out some universal truths.   --James Mangold, Director of 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line, and Cop Land

              Brian Boyd


              On 25/12/2009, at 7:16 AM, Stephen Berer wrote:

               

              Thanks Jeff, for saying this:

              At the risk of sounding terribly old-fashioned, I think "new" readings should also in some sense legitimate the text, or correspond more strongly to the text--be empirically validated by what is actually there on paper.

              I've been following this discussion, and I confess, I was finding it rather annoying. Speaking as a writer, not an academic, unless the author of a text is pursing or using Darwinist  ideas and themes in some specific way, a Darwinist, evolutionary analysis is tangential to the text itself. It uses the text as DATA, but does NOT speak to the author's issues and intentions. That's fine, but it doesn't give any new insights about the text, per se. Rather, it uses the text as data to promote a particular theory. Same is true of psych-cog interpretations. You may be able to extract very interesting information from the text, but with all due respect, in MOST cases, it is NOT literary analysis.  Rather, it is analysis of literature.

              Steve Berer

              Excessive piousness is a cloak of evil.
                               http://www.shivvete e.com
                               http://shivvetee. blogspot. com/


            • Stephen Berer
              Hi Brian. I wrote you a lengthy email, but decided this is really what I ... Brian, please read what I said. Here s my quote, which I am picking up ... Please
              Message 6 of 6 , Dec 27, 2009
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                Hi Brian.
                         I wrote you a lengthy email, but decided this is really what I need to say:
                How do you know, Stephen, that it's not literary analysis? Have you read what you are dismissing?

                Brian, please read what I said. Here's my quote, which I am picking up right out of your email:
                         You may be able to extract very interesting information from the text, but with all due respect, in MOST cases, it is NOT literary analysis.  Rather, it is analysis of literature.

                         Please notice the capitalized words. Clearly, I am acknowledging that there is SOME literary analysis going on. But what MOSTLY passes across this discussion group, and the books that MOSTLY get promoted in the discussion group are NOT literary analysis. That's my simple observation. It has no agenda attached to it; nor is it a product of any statistical analysis. It's a casual observation.
                         More importantly, I am utterly dismayed at how sloppy and inaccurate Joe Carroll's and your reading skills are. If you can't read a simple email accurately, how can I trust you to read and comment on the subtleties and complexities of literature? Worse still, Joe has shown himself to have a very limited capacity to understand and tolerate diversity of thought. Instead, he responds as a bully. He has been crude and unprofessional in his his intolerant attacks on me and others in this group. For ME, a person's worth is primarily established by his or her ethical treatment of another person, a treatment that accords dignity and respect particularly to those who differ in analysis and belief. I see NONE of that in Joe Carroll's behavior here.
                         As a writer, and a non-academic, it seemed to me you would welcome my insights. How naive. I didn't realize I was speaking to the biopoet ayatollahs.
                         So let me be very simple and clear: Brian, Joe: I am going to speak my mind, whether you like what I have to say, or not.
                         And I will definitely NOT shy away from exposing intellectual abusiveness.
                         Stephen Berer
                Excessive piousness is a cloak of evil.
                                 http://www.shivvetee.com
                                 http://shivvetee.blogspot.com/
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