Darwin, Dickens, and Dutton


Over at Arts & Letters Daily, Denis Dutton has posted his review (originally in Philosophy and Literature) of the literary critic Joseph Carroll's excellent and provocative new essay collection, Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature.

Dutton's summation:

[Carroll] is able to demonstrate how a knowledge of Darwinian mechanisms shines light on some of the most cherished aesthetic emotions and experiences we are capable of feeling–and he does it without impoverished reductionisms, without making the endlessly complex seem stupidly simple.

Whole thing here.

A million years ago–back in 1998–I covered a similar waterfront in the Reason story "Darwin and Dickens: A new breed of literary crtitics is using evolution to explain literature–and to challenge intellectual orthodoxy." Read all about it here. Carroll, Dutton, and others (including Robert Storey, Ellen Dissanayake, Frederick Turner, and Nancy Easterlin, to name a few) are doing very interesting stuff in this area.

NEXT: Velvet Hammer

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  1. I’ll post a comment. Kudos to you, Nick, for trying to bring a little culture to the joint. Why aren’t there 40-60 comments up already on this story? These ingrates just don’t know what’s good for ’em. Maybe we can turn it into a referendum on the general incuriousness of products of American government schools.

    P.S.: I didn’t actually understand what you were getting at, or even check out your links, because I’m not that interested in literature, Darwinian imperative or not. You should have put a link to Celebrity Skin in there, or something about the war. Still, good job, though.

  2. We just don’t like critics, IRS, that’s all.

  3. I’m a poor dilettante at best in matters literary, but I seem to recall not too long ago there being a tacit academic consensus that Marx and Freud would remain the intellectual giants through whose interpretive lenses criticism would stand or fall. Nice to see Darwin getting his due.

  4. Chip,
    You are probably thinking of the secret cabal of intellectuals whose decision it was to make sure the proles are fed a steady diet of pop-culture leftism, filtered through a matrix of Euro-Semitic sensibilities. Technically, members of the academic meritocracy are still able, for purposes of argument only, to entertain the idea that all roads do not, if fact, lead to Vienna. I sometimes make that mistake, too.

    Douglas Fletcher,
    So we are agreed; literary critics are to be dropped in the wilderness to be chased by bears. Those who survive will be taken somewhat seriously.

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