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RE: [evol-psych] clarifications on call for papers

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  • Carroll, Joseph C.
    John Knapp, the current editor of the journal Style, sent me a followup note with a copy of the mission statement on the masthead of the journal: Style invites
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 20, 2011
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      John Knapp, the current editor of the journal Style, sent me a followup note with a copy of the mission statement on the masthead of the journal:


      Style invites submissions that address questions of style, stylistics, and poetics, as before.  These submissions may include research and theory in discourse analysis, literary and nonliterary genres, narrative, figuration, metrics, and rhetorical analysis. In addition, Style also now welcomes contributions employing the new psychologies: cognition, bio-evolutionary psychology, family and natural systems, and human development.  Furthermore, the editors will be pleased to consider submissions on pedagogy generally as such relate to the teaching of literature and the humanities. Contributions may draw from such fields as literary criticism, critical theory, linguistics, philosophy of language, rhetoric, narrative, and composition studies, as well as the varieties of psychologies and pedagogies.


      Style also publishes reviews, review-essays, surveys, interviews, translations, and reports on conferences.  Major articles may range from

      5,000 to 9,000 words (inclusive of Endnotes and WC pages) although typically articles run about 6,000 to 7,000 words; reviews are generally

      1,500 to 2,000 words (again, inclusive of Endnotes and WC).


      Authors submitting to Style should send a 100 word Abstract and three copies of the manuscript following MLA guidelines for style and documentation.  Author's name should only appear on the title page of the essay and on the letter to the editors."



      Joe Carroll


      From: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com [mailto:evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Carroll, Joseph C.
      Sent: Sunday, March 20, 2011 8:57 AM
      To: evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
      Cc: rstonjek@...
      Subject: [evol-psych] clarifications on call for papers



      Joe Carroll here.


      Robert asked for clarifications on the call for papers for a special evolutionary issue of the journal Style:


      Style i s an academic journal of literary criticism based at Northern Illinois University (http://www.style.niu.edu/). John Knapp has been the chief editor there for the past few years. Under Knapp’s editorship, Style has become a chief venue for literary research oriented to two main areas of psychology: evolutionary psychology, and cognitive psychology.  Literary scholarship oriented to evolutionary psychology and related disciplines (behavioral ecology, evolutionary anthropology, etc.) has various labels: “literary Darwinism,” “evolutionary literary study,” “adaptationist literary study,” “biocultural criticism,” and “biopoetics.” (One of the earliest anthologies in the field, co-edited by Brett Cooke and Frederick Turner, was titled Biopoetics.)  Literary scholarship oriented to cognitive psychology is referred to as “cognitive poetics” or “cognitive rhetoric.”


      Literary Darwinists use concepts from evolutionary biology and the evolutionary human sciences to formulate principles of literary theory and interpret literary texts. They investigate interactions between “human nature” and the forms of cultural imagination, including literature and its oral antecedents. By “human nature,” they mean a pan-human, genetically transmitted set of dispositions: motives, emotions, features of personality, and forms of cognition. Because the Darwinists concentrate on relations between genetically transmitted dispositions and specific cultural configurations, they often describe their work as “biocultural critique .” I wrote most of the Wikipedia entry on literary Darwinism. That entry gives a quick overview of the field as a whole: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwinian_literary_studies


      Practitioners of "cognitive rhetoric” or cognitive poetics affiliate themselves with certain language-centered areas of cognitive psychology. The chief theorists in this school argue that language is based in metaphors, and they claim that metaphors are themselves rooted in biology or the body, but they do not argue that human nature consists in a highly structured set of motivational and cognitive dispositions that have evolved thro ugh an adaptive process regulated by natural selection. Cognitive rhetoricians are generally more anxious than literary Darwinists to associate themselves with postmodern theories of “discourse,” but some cognitive rhetoricians make gestures toward evolutionary psychology, and some critics closely affiliated with evolutionary psychology have found common ground with the cognitive rhetoricians. The seminal authorities in cognitive rhetoric are the language philosophers Mark Johnson and George Lakoff.


      In 2002, I published an overview of evolutionary literary studies in Style, and in 2008 a big double issue of the journal was devoted to a symposium on evolutionary literary stud y: a target article by me (“An Evolutionary Paradigm for Literary Study”), responses by 35 scholars and scientists, and a rejoinder by me http://www.style.niu.edu/vol42ns23.html). Another recent double issue was devoted to psychological studies of literary texts (http://www.style.niu.edu/vol44nos12.html). One of the articles in this group, “Quantifying Tonal Analysis in The Mayor of Casterbridge,” was produced by a team of literary scholars and psychologists using empirical methods. A forthcoming issue of Style will have a target article by Alan Palmer, one of the leading theorists using cognitive psychology to analyze narrative form.


      So, basically, the Call for Papers was asking for papers oriented to either the evolutionary human sciences or to cognitive science. The editors say they are particularly interested in close readings of major literary works, and they’re also interested in essays about teaching literary works. From my knowledge of the work produced by the two editors, I’d say with confidence that they are not asking for papers in that range of “cognitive rhetoric” that is overtly hostile to evolutionary psychology. Probably they are thinking more along the lines of work like that of Brian Boyd, who draws heavily from developmental cognitive psychology (On the Origin of Stories).



      Robert raised a question about the relation between evolutionary psychology and cognitive psychology. I’ll excerpt a segment on that subject from the “An Evolutionary Paradigm for Literary Study,” the essay published in the 2008 double issue of Style. This is pretty long, so it is meant only for any listserv readers who are particularly interested in this subject. I’ll cut out the footnotes. They’re available either in the article in Style or in the version of this essay I include in m y new collection Reading Human Nature:


      Literary Darwinism and Cognitive Poetics

      In their effort to bring about a fundamental shift in paradigm, the literary Darwinists can be distinguished from practitioners in a school that is in some respects their closest disciplinary neighbor—cognitive poetics. In her preface to a collection of essays in cognitive poetics, Ellen Spolsky explains that the cognitivists aim to “supplement rather than supplant current work in literary and cultural studies.” She assures her audience that “these essays have no interest in repudiating the theoretical speculations of poststructuralist and historicist approaches to literature.” She and her colleagues wish only to enter into “a construc tive dialogue with the established and productive theoretical paradigms.” Her co-editor, Alan Richardson, takes a similar line. Emphatically distancing the cognitivists from the literary Darwinists, he describes the work of the Darwinists “as an outlier that helps define the boundaries of cognitive literary criticism proper.” Describing the disciplinary alignments of individual contributors to the volume, he affirms that Spolsky seeks “not to displace but to supplement poststructuralist approaches to literature like deconstruction and New Historicism,” that F. Elizabeth Hart seeks only “to supplement ‘postmodern’ accounts of language, subjectivity, and culture,” and that Mary Crane “locates her work between cognitive and poststructuralist accounts of subjectivity, language, and culture.”

      Efforts to segregate cognitive poetics from evolutionary literary study are doomed to failur e. One thinks of early stages in the development of American cities. Enclaves outside the city core are inevitably swallowed up as the cities expand outward. Evolutionary social science seeks to be all-inclusive. Because it is grounded in evolutionary biology, it encompasses all the more particular disciplines that concern themselves with human evolution, human social organization, and human cognition. As a distinct school within evolutionary social science, “evolutionary psychology” can be described as the offspring of a coupling between sociobiology and cognitive psychology. Evolutionary psychologists derive from sociobiology an emphasis on the logic of reproduction as a central shaping force in human evolution, and they seek to link that logic with complex functional structures in cognitive mechanisms. Hence the title of the seminal volume in evolutionary psychology: The Adapted Mind. The human mind has functional cognitive mechanisms for precisely the same reason that the human organism has complex functional structures in other organ systems—because it has evolved through an adaptive process by means of natural selection. In the process of expanding outward from the logic of reproduction to the explanation of cognitive mechanisms, evolutionary social scientists have already given concentrated attention to many of the standard topics in cognitive psychology, for instance, to “folk physics,” “folk biology,” and “folk psychology”; perceptual mechanisms; the relation between “modularized” cognitive processes and “general intelligence”; the relation between emotions and conscious decision-making; mirror neurons,  “perspective taking,” “Theory of Mind,” and “metarepresentation”; “mentalese” and language acquisition; metaphor and “cognitive fluidity” or conceptual blending; “scripts” and “schemata”; and narrative as an elementary conceptual schema. If evolutionary psychology can give a true and comprehensive account of human nature, it can ultimately encompass, subsume, or supplant the explanatory systems that currently prevail in the humanities.

      As things currently stand, the use of cognitive psychology in literary study can be located on a spectrum running from deconstruction at one end to evolutionary psychology at the other. At the deconstructive end, practitioners seek only to redescribe poststructuralist ideas in terms derived from cognitive science. Spolsky, for instance, argues that the supposedly modular character of the mind approximates to deconstructive accounts of the decentered and fragmented self. Somewhere closer to the middle of this spectrum, Lisa Zunshine references evolutionary psychology to support her claims that the human mind has evolved special powers of peering into the minds of conspecif ics—what psychologists call Theory of Mind (ToM). Despite her appeal to selected bits of evolutionary psychology, Zunshine strongly emphasizes the “cognitive” aspect of her views, muting and minimizing their sociobiological affiliations. Beyond ToM, she declines to attribute any very specific structure to the adapted mind, and in citing other literary scholars, she prudently avoids reference to most of the published work in evolutionary literary study. She unequivocally locates herself in the community of practitioners who explicitly segregate their work from the evolutionary literary critics. Moving toward the evolutionary end of the spectrum, in film theory, David Bordwell has long identified his work as “cognitive” in orientation, but he has increasingly envisioned cognitive mechanisms as the result of an adaptive evolutionary process, and he firmly contrasts his naturalistic vision with the prevailing poststructuralist theories in film studi es. Bordwell and his associates have done excellent work in linking evolved cognitive mechanisms with specific formal features of film.

      Because evolutionary psychology draws heavily on cognitive developmental psychology, all evolutionary literary critics are in some measure de facto cognitivists. They vary, though, in the degree to which they have incorporated information on cognitive mechanisms not just indirectly through evolutionary psychology but directly from cognitive psychology. Among the evolutionary literary critics, Brian Boyd has gone further than any other scholar in assimilating information directly from cognitive psychology, especially cognitive developmental psychology. Like Bordwell, but with more explicit and detailed reference to evolutionary thinking, Boyd demonstrates that the findings of cognitive psychology make sense ultimately because they are embedded in the findings of evolutionary psychology. He emphasizes the continuity between “play” in animals, human curiosity, and the generation of novelty in form, ideas he applies to classical works such as the Odyssey, modernist works such as Lolita, and avant garde graphic narratives.

      Clearly, one central line of development for evolutionary literary study will be to link specific cognitive structures with specific literary structures and figurative modes, locating both in relation to evolved human dispositions. So far, the Darwinists have focused more on drama and fiction than on poetry, but Frederick Turner has correlated the length of poetic lines with the duration of perceptual units, and Michael Winkelman demonstrates that Zahavi’s handicap principle can be effectively used to analyze the tension between convention and invention in Donne’s poetic forms. Boyd, Michelle Scalise Sugiyama, and Francis Steen use goal-orientation and problem-solving to construct basic fra meworks for the analysis of narrative, and Daniel Nettle uses goal-orientation for analyzing the structure of drama.






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