Evolution and Popular Narrative


The contributors to this volume share the assumption that popular narrative, when viewed with an evolutionary lens, offers us an incisive index into human nature. In theory, narrative art could take a near infinity of possible forms, but in actual practice particular motifs, plot patterns, stereotypical figures, and artistic devices persistently resurface, indicating specific predilections frequently at odds with actual living conditions. The papers explore various media and genres to gauge the impact of our evolutionary inheritance, in interdependence with the respective cultural environments, on our aesthetic appreciation. They also suggest that research into mass culture is indispensable for evolutionary criticism and that it may contribute to discussions of the prehistoric conditions that still influence modern preferences in popular narrative. Contributions by David Andrews, James Carney, Mathias Clasen, Brett Cooke, Tamás Dávid-Barrett, Tom Dolack, Kathryn Duncan, Isabel Behncke Izquierdo, Joe Keener, Alex C. Parrish, Todd K. Platts, Anna Rotkirch, Judith P. Saunders, Michelle Scalise Sugiyama, Dirk Vanderbeke, and Sophia Wege.
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Biographical Note

Dirk Vanderbeke is Professor of English Studies at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. He has published on a variety of topics, e.g. physics and literature, evolutionary criticism, James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, John Milton, and popular narratives including comics and graphic novels. Brett Cooke is Professor of Russian at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Pushkin and the Creative Process, and Human Nature in Utopia: Zamyatin's We, (co-) editor of Sociobiology and the Arts, The Fantastic Other, Biopoetics: Evolutionary Explorations in the Art, and Critical Insights: War and Peace.


Specialist and popular readers of popular narrative; these include popular literature, film, opera, children’s literature, science fiction and fantasy, and folklore. Our collection should interest the growing audience for attempts to comprehend the arts through the lens of evolutionary psychology or sociobiology.