Mar 23, 2009, 10:15AM

The novel: more important than you think

"Why does storytelling endure across time and cultures? Perhaps the answer lies in our evolutionary roots."

Foor for thought (and writing):

In the novels, dominant behaviour is "powerfully stigmatised", says Gottschall. "Bad guys and girls are just dominance machines; they are obsessed with getting ahead, they rarely have pro-social behaviours."

While few in today's world live in hunter-gatherer societies, "the political dynamic at work in these novels, the basic opposition between communitarianism and dominance behaviour, is a universal theme", says Carroll. Christopher Boehm, a cultural anthropologist whose work Carroll acknowledges was an important influence on the study, agrees. "Modern democracies, with their formal checks and balances, are carrying forward an egalitarian ideal."

  • Or perhaps we should be asking, why do we continually turn to the trope of evolution to explain behavior? What's so attractive about interpreting the insane diversity of modern life through evolutionary thinking? This seems pretty reductionist in its understanding of both novels and people. Hunter-gatherer groups encourage egalitarian cooperation for social cohesion? This kind of thinking went out of fashion with Radcliffe-Brown's evolutionism.

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  • This was really just a ridiculous article in all ways. Trying to tie together why we love reading about the good guy winning in the end with our earliest social evolutionary developments doesn't make much sense to me. And ignores, well... all kind of novels where that doesn't happen, as though Bronte and Austen have some monopoly on the novel. De Sade, anyone?

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