A Reader




Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall


Columbia University Press, New York






If art is to be pro-society, it must show the West as the best.  The best narrative for this is the traditional progress model.  But, it might also spin to pro-western art.  High brow. 


Editors note xi

The exerpts have been altered to be complete herein.


Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall

2 – Literary criticism is dying.  New Historicism cliams to be ‘post theory’  But, they are still postructuralist: Marxist and Freudian.  At the same time, evolutionary thought is growing.

3 – [The reader of this summary must know that “consilience” is a phrase coined by Edward O. Wilson. Although the authors herein and Wilson himself largely think it a new idea, it is THE basic idea of early sociology.   I am not sure if they are ignorant or afraid to associate with early sociology.  But, I accept their term.  Culturism is an attempt at concilience: an attempt to unified all academic disciplines. That is consilience would mean a total connection between the social sciences, humanities, and hard sciences, say biology or physics.  Particularly in my work in relationship to literature, I attempt to link religion and political policy.]

3 – Biocultural meaning: works of art are shaped by our evolved human nature.  Culture must be rooted in the biological characteristics from which all human cultures grow.

4 – People worry that they will therefore,

Š          Ignore human differences;

Š          Fall into biological determinism.

Š          Say that nature is an alternative to culture.

Culture defined: “The nongenetic transmission of behavior, including local customs and even fashions” which has been discovered in many social species, including birds and mammals.

Š          Call the natural right. 

Š          Promote genetic selfishness.  In fact Evolutinary psychology (EP) has places far more emphasis on generosity, trust, and fairness, than non-EP ever did.

Š          Fix human nature ((culture is evolution in overdrive.”)

Š          Valorize ‘nature red in tooth and claw  But we also need to know why we’re so “good natured.” They say we have “found aways to control the urge for dominance.”  We do this by unleashing “the power of human cooperation.”

[Here they are ensuring all that they are old-fashioned liberal pussies.]

Š          The same as other species.  Human culture has made a great transition, as great as that from single-celled to multiple celled.  [

Š          Really, so why tie to nature at all?]

7 – FAQS:

Isn’t LD reductive?  Reductiveness” is a fault, but “reduction” is essential to causal explanations. 

Isn’t this just another attempt at scientism?  No. Evidence will win out.

Aren’t these ‘just so’ stories?  No.  Evidence.

10 – People leave evolutionary concepts as a reaction against “social Darwinism.”  But, we are reassured, this was Spencer, not Darwin. 

11 – “No understanding of human nature that leaves out the arts  could possibly give an adequate account of its subject.”

14 – It looks like this book will use all western examples.

17 – They understand arts inspire passion.  But, they wish to look at it with the impersonal, objective scrutiny of science.







This is a history of science. Lamarck is profiled.

23 – Malthus’ article on population was published in 1798.

24 – Darwin’s answer to the puzzles of life was natural selection.  And, the mechanisms were variation, inheritance, and selection.   Differential reproductive success is essential here.

Then Darwin hit upon natural selection to explain the peacock’s tail.  Intrasexual – between members of the same gender.   Intersexual or mate choice.

There is also the bottleneck effect.

29 The modern synthesis is Darwin and genetics.




31 – Konrad Lorenze started a new branch of evolutionary biology called “ethology  It is the study of the proximate mechanisms and adaptive value of animal behavior.

Ethologists are interested in four key issues, the four ‘why’s.  From Niko Tinbergen:

1)     The immediate influences on behavior.

2)     The developmental influences on behavior

3)     The function of behavior.

4)     The phylogenetic origins of behavior (what sequence of events led to the origins of an imprinting mechanism in the duck?)

They came up with ‘fixed action patterns.’

32 – Problems with ethology: 1) labels don’t explain behaviors.  And 2) the focus on behaviors didn’t take us inside the animals’ heads.



Hamilton came up with this one in 1964.  What are the total impact on genes of actions?



George Williams in his 1966 ‘Adaptiation and Natural Selection” created three shifts.

34 – 1) He challenged group selection models. Genes for sacrifice for the group would not be passed along. [Yes.  But, if that makes the group survive it is a genetic boon.  And, who are these totally sterile primates who don’t reproduce or commit suicide for the group?]

2) He translated Hamilton’s work into clear prose.  This solved the ‘problem of altruism’ but it wasn’t altruistic.

He defined ‘adaptations’ as “evolved solutions to specific problems that contribute either directly or indirectly to successful reproduction.

He cautioned us not to overuse the concept of adaptation.  Not all is one. Only when the mechanism is “reliable, efficient, and economic. (helping more than it costs). 

Wilson’s 1975 sociobiology was not really new, but it synthesized so much and brought it under one roof.  The last 20 pages on humans caused much controversy.





It may be hard to conceive of all species coming, not from rational choice, but by variation.  But, look at how much variation there is within species.

There are too many animals to all survive.  The dominant increase more. Their adaptations continue.

43 – This explains why many animals have features they no longer use. Inhabitants of a country only compete with those around them.   So it is not surprising that those from another country, with other pressures for development, conquer them.

All the imperfections we see, moles with eyes now covered in skin, make more sense with natural selection than with divine creation.

45 – Also when species are gone, they are gone.

46 – Migration and specialization explain similarities and differences. This explains why islands have peculiar species and continents have variations.

47 – “All past and present organic beings constitute one grand natural system, with group subordinate to group, and with extinct groups often falling in between recent groups. “

Bones are the same in the hand of man and the wing of a bat.

50 – All animals must have ultimately come from one progenitor.

52 – This theory will make objects and connections make sense.  Their relationship will be cleared.  This will be more interesting, not less.  It will lead to an understanding of species’ history.

53 – We will better see the interrelation of one organism to another.

53 – In the “distant future,” Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation.  Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”



55 – “All peoples have epic legends about their tribal ancestors, and these legends often formalize themselves into religious cults.  People revere and even worship their ancestors,” who hold the key to understanding life.  He does not follow up on this at all.


We are the descendants of successful heterosexual procreation and raising all the way back. 


57 – [Use in gay essay – “It is the environment, not the genes, that determines whether an individual termite, say, becomes a reproducer or a sterile worker.”]


His main point is that all is digital.  And, absolutely digital.  We can hide stories in our DNA code.  The reason this is digital is analog would fade and corrupt after time. 


A disadvantageous gene may skirt along for a while.  But, eventually, after thousands of times through the sieve, bad genes will out.


The piece is really philosophical.  Life is a digital river.




75 - It is now beyond any reasonable doubt that we descend from earlier species.  Our embryos are so dog like!


76 – Via embryology and homologous features, “We thus learn that man is descended from a hairy , tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits.”


76 – Our mental powers seem to challenge this connection with the animal world.  That is until we look at how much like primates and other animals we are.


77 – “The half-art and half-instinct of language.”


77 – Looking at our moral qualities, “Animals endowed with the social instincts take pleasure in one another’s company, warn one another of danger, defend and aid one another in many ways.  These instincts do not extend to all the individuals of the species, but only to those of the same community.”


78 – The Fuegians he studied in Chile “delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.”


Man has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system  - with all these exalted powers – Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.”




As a Martian zoologist, Wilson considers our body structures.  Our being totally bipedal is unique. Women’s hidden estrous cycle is odd. We have heavier bleeding.  Our continuous sexual availability cements close marriage bonds.


A chart shows the increase of our cranial capacity.


The big question is how much of our ‘biogram’ represents an adjustment to modern life?




84 – UP are universal characteristics of man.  

Š          Proficient use of language leading to prestige.

Š          We lie and insult in a funny way.

Š          We use binaries in language (ie; good and bad)

Š          Nouns and verbs are universal.

Š          (86) Most units of language are the same: Chin and tip of jaw.

Š          There are terms for black and white

Š          Male female and time are universal

Š          Inner states (emotions, sensations and thoughts) are universal.

Š          Some lump father and father’s brother into one category.

Š          (87) There are two genders all relate from.  Some times folks cross over and some are a blend, but they are a blend of two.

Š          88 – Face communication is important. Happiness, sadness, anger fear, surprise, disgust.  Crying and flirting are UP.

Š          They distinguish normal from altered states.

Š          Sexual attraction and sometimes jealousy.

Š          Childhood fears of loud noises and (end of first year) strangers.

Š          Tool makers. 

Š          Most are right-handed.

Š          Intoxicants.

Š          Shelter.

Š          Weaning.

Š          They live part of their lives, if not all, in groups.

Š          The UP “have groups defined by locality or claiming a certain territory.” “A sense of being a distinct people characterizes the UP, and they judge other people in their own terms.”

Š          (89) The core of family is mother and child.  “On a more or less permanent basis there is usually a man (or men) involved, too, and he (or they) serve minimally to give the children a status in the community.”

Š          (90)Senior kin are expected to contribute substantially to socialization.

Š          “Prestige is differentially distributed among the UP and the members of UP society are not all economically equal.”

Š          (91) Men and women are seen as having different natures and women do more child-rearing.  Men are dominant in the public sphere and women correspondingly submissive or acquiescent.

Š          They have governments that make binding decisions.

Š          Never a pure democracy or autocracy, they have an oligarchy.

Š          They use sanctions including removal. 

Š          The UP have religious or supernatural beliefs in that they believe in something beyond the visible and palpable. They practice magic.

Š          (93) “

Š          Their worldview is a part of their supernatural and mythological beliefs.”

Š          They have standards of beauty.

Š          They know how to dance and have music. “At least some of their dance (and at least some of their religious activity) is accompanied by music. “Their music includes . . . a conjunction of music and poetry.”

Š          Their youngsters are playful.




98 – The 30 pages on man in sociobiology were not well-taken.  It was called reductionist, though this is a main tool of science.  And, the book also stresses holism.


99 – [“statistical racial differences, if any, remain unproven.”]


99 – Sociobiology is now called evolutionary psychology.


100 – “Whereas cognitive neuroscience  aims to explain how the brains of animals and humans work, and genetics how heredity works, evolutionary biology aims to explain why brains work.”


101 – Robin Trivers’s parent-offspring conflict has been a great addition.


102 – We know that the evolution of the brain, especially the neo-cortex, happened in a social context.


103 – He tries to tie all together with ‘conservation’ as the ultimate ethical issue.  Snooze and out.



104 – Pinker’s psychology courses were all disappointing as they presented psychology as a laundry list of unrelated phenomenon.


Tooby and Cosmides solved his problem.  Evolutionary psychology!

108 - “Evolutionary biology rules out, for example, adaptations that work toward the good of the species, the harmony of the ecosystem, beauty for its own sake, benefits to entities other than the replicators that creat the adaptations.”


109 – [He discounts music as creating group cohesion because he says it doesn’t tell us why we like music and why it should keep groups together.  -  Well, why does the eye see?  It serves a function.  It seems to me that he’s making a barrier that is impossible.  Why does it create cohesion?  It does.  Isn’t that enough?]

TOM (theory of mind) solves adaptive problem. And, it explains how religion could come about.  But, it does not say why religion would evolve out of TOM. 


110 – Research on topics like sex, attraction, jealousy, love, food, disgust, status, dominance, friendship, religion, art, fiction, morality, motherhood, fatherhood, sibling rivalry and more have been opened up by EP.




The divide is between ‘sociobiology and EP on one side and social constructivism, postmodernism, and deconstructionism on the other.  This essay looks for a middle ground.


He presents a range of EP varies from E1. All our mental faculties are adaptations to ancestral environments, to E2, “psychological and cultural processes” are created and selected on the basis of given criteria.  “Blind variation and selective retention.”  And E3.  There is more to evolution than adaptation. Literature is a form of play, that hangs around as a form of neoteny.  


He presents a range of social constructivist positions. S1 is that all is very flexible with little constraint from human biology.  And s2.  All culture is totally arbitrary and has zero grounding in biology.   S1 has some room for human nature.


E1.  He says, provides substantial support for s1.  The link is phenotypical plasticity.  If a, do b.


Women in inner cities have kids early cause they know they will die early and want to see their grandkids.   This is not ‘anything goes.’  This is an algorithm.


120 – We spin potentials as a culture.  That does not mean that all  potentials are equi-potential.


“Those who feel strongly about the potential for individual and societal change need not feel threatened by evolutionary theory.”  Really?


We should study reproduction as much as pottery in ancient societies. 


121 - In literature we should see themes that would “most interest a nonhuman primate.”


We spin stories and some help and some don’t help reproduction.


“Unless we appreciate the importance of narratives in adapting us to our current environments, we will not have a fully developed genre of evolutionary literary studies.”


122 – Social constructivists should not only “feel unthreatened by evolutionary theory, but they should actively learn to use it to achieve their objectives.” [He seems to be unaware that he is making peace with anti-American Marxists.]


Still he asks us to see a middle ground.






126 – Why do the arts exist?  One is to show you have money to burn.   Most people would lose their taste for a musical record if they learned it was being sold at supermarket check out stands. [Perhaps, but this points to the importance of inclusion in a concise group, as much as status].


127 – People’s choice in music is so unimportant, but we give it such significance.  Why?


128 – “Some parts of the mind register the attainment of increments of fitness by giving us a sense of pleasure.”  So our mind aims at “figuring out how to get at the pleasure circuits of the brain and deliver little jolts of enjoyment without the inconvenience of wringing bona fide fitness increments from the harsh world.”


129 – “Religion and philosophy are in part the application of mental tools to problems they were not designed to solve.”


130 – Fiction mimics life so well that people have a hard time telling the two apart. So why do people love art is the same as why do they love life?


133 – Plots from headlines and famous novels are the same.   Sex and death.




136 – “Interpretation is the logical channel of consilient explanation between the science and the arts.” 


138 – Rather than a divine spark, a gene has been found in those with musical talent. “What the masters of the Western canon, and those of other high cultures, possessed in common was a combination of exceptional knowledge, technical skill, originality, sensitivity to detail, ambition, boldness, and drive.”  [He admits some cultures are higher than others, but leaves out those cultures as sources of being a master! Where is the consilience?]


They rose to prominence by a slight edge over their competitors.  So we may be able to find the epigenetic rules that made these authors liked so much.


141 – “When addressing human behavior, science is coarse-grained and encompassing, as opposed to the arts, which are fine-grained and interstitial.”


142 – “The dominating influence that spawned the arts was the need to impose order on the confusion caused by intelligence.”


Because natural selection is slow, intelligence emerged to deal with changes, to react optimally to all events.


Arts emerged to control though magic the abundance of the environment, they could be ritualized via a simulated reality.  [He is very definite about this information processing view.  Not me.]




144 – Love is created and sustained by mothers and their infants in ritualized, evolved interactions.  By “rhythms and modes.”


145 – Foraging folks needed not just competition, but “strongly bonded social groups that could work together with confidence and loyalty, convinced of the efficacy of their joint actions.”  The selfish vision cannot account for this.


There is a positive need for infants to form attachments with their caretakers.  To this end, they cry when left alone, life their arms to be picked up, cling to momma.  Look at her happily frequently.


146 – This creates a intersubjectivity. 




147 – Baby talk is joyful because it is shared. In some societies there is no tradition of talking to babies, but other rhythmically regular noises such as tongue-clicking, hissing, grunting, or lip-smacking may be used and supplemented by physical movements and exaggerated facial expressions [Who?  The Ingolnot?]


The baby talk phrases are 3 ½ to 5 seconds in length and rhythmic and repetitive. (the length of adult phases and poetry and musical lines) They often have clicks.  Temporal analysis shows they’re rhythmic. 


The baby tries to match the rhythm with body movements.  And these are shared via programming to have emotional matches to vocal correlates of emotion.


149 - Baby talk has nothing to do with information exchange.  It is a wish to share emotional experiences that motivates it.


150 – Others do baby talk with baby.  And these are eventually replaced by ‘similarly structured and longer-lasting group events that unite numbers of people.”


We have no group rituals in our heterogeneous modern societies, and this may explain our increase dependence on romantic love in songs and past times.



151 – “Cultural knowledge practices direct our attention to particularly biologically significant things and help us know what to think and do about them.”


“The rhythms and modes of human infancy and childhood predispose us to acquire systematic and storied accounts of the world into which we are born.”


“Small-scale cultural groups, have utter confidence in the propriety of their way of life as opposed to any other.  No matter how isolated or technologically impoverished, every human culture has . . . an account of the cosmos, its creation and maintenance, and the origin of themselves and other beings.” There are non-natural beings and another world and what happens after death.


She lists many plots, but they seem to have no existential import.  They are individual.  They present no group function.   She really pushes the informational aspect.


152 – Children love to hear the story over and over and we wait for the punch line or comeuppance.  These seem to have some biological feel, unlike her other list.


153 – Science presents mind blowing facts.  These seem cosmic.  But it takes heavy training to get them.


154 – [Yet judging from ancestral and traditional examples, the systems and stories that keep society orderly and individuals secure work best when they are vividly presented as part of a compelling belief system and irradiated with conviction of transcendental truth.]


We have evolved to find meaning in our own interests.




156 – The evolution of art is difficult to tie to survival.  But, it is easy to tie to sexual selection, which does useless ornamentation a lot.


158 – He sort of denies the explosion of 35,000 years ago.  He say ocre of 135,000 years ago is just the same.


159 – The functionalists like Bronislaw  Malinowski and Radcliffe_Brown and Talcot Parsons liked the social glue function for art.

160 – [ ANTI ANCESTRESS discussion] But, chimps create groups and hierarchies without art.  So why should we need it?  Language, Dunbar has shown convincingly, is there to facilitate larger groups.


The idea that art socializes and conveys info could be called the “propaganda theory of art.” The problem is that only large organizations can pay propagandists. (APPARENTLY, he has never heard of Shamans).  The high cost and low gain to the propgandists argues against it.   Why not just pass on info with language?  [He also never considers the thought that our minds may have evolved to absorb such indoctrination.]


The religious function idea of art fails too as we don’t know if the Venus de Milo is a Goddess statue or porno. 


Evolution is not a cultural relativist. If Gods don’t work, they will not continue.  [But they do!!]


161 - He thinks there is no advantage to sacrificing to Gods if they don’t exist.  The same goes for ancestors.  Natural selection would have clearly gotten rid of such inefficiencies.  [Obviously they didn’t!!!]


But, if the art gives one status, then sexual selection directly benefits the maker.  Usually we don’t see art in museums, we have jewelry we paint our homes.  We hav gardens and choose cars that look good.


163 - Now we look at art in other species used for sexual selection.  BOWERBIRDS


166 – Some genes select for effects that spread outside of the body (says Dawkins).  For example, spider webs.


Darwin noticed that people decorating themselves is ubiquitous.   Art doesn’t have to be about sex to be a sexual indicator.


To be a good fitness indicator, such things must difficult to produce. Hence our love of virtuousity.  Art doesn’t only tell us about the state of the world, but the state of the artist.


Cyrano de Bergerac shows the import of language virtuosity in language. Poetry is a series of handicaps that test fitness. If you can make great poetry in pentameter, rhyming, well you must be mentally fit.


Poets who write works are no longer read.  But ones who sing their works are huge.




175 – We pretty much understand animal psychology from an evolutionary perspective.  But, not humans.  If we didn’t have art, no evolutionary psychologist would have predicted it.


Involvement in fictional narratives seems to be universal, without apparent utilitarian pay off. 


176 – They engage our emotional states, seem real, while disengaging action systems. We have evolved mechanisms to allow us to enter and participate in imaginary worlds. Children with autism cannot enter these worlds, while their logic may be okay. 


Engagement in fiction must be genetic. Art engages theory of mind.  Our minds were designed for the latter and the former comes out incidentally.  This is Pinker’s sort.


The distinction between true and false info is very useful in survival.  We hunger for info, not the true. But info may be true and wrong and so harmful in another environment or season.  Like Hamlet and Alice in Wonderland, we must tell what is and is not true.


Fiction is a way to store information that is to be attended to, valued, preserved and transmitted.  Scope syntax tells us what is and isn’t true. Animals only react when the situation IS true. Info with no narrative, (textbooks) , does not stay.  We learn things that mimic first person experience.


The experiences tell us how to relate to the world.  They give us access to the minds of others navigating the world.


182 - So art sharpens “skills of understanding, and skills of valuing, skills of feeling and skills of perceiving, skills of knowing and skills of moving.”  Since we understand unreal narrative, we can add to it.




185 – Tooby and Cosmides acknowledged.  Children can tell truth from fiction and so we adults can do art.


186 – 18 moths to two years is when play develops in kids.


17 - The average Briton spends roughly 6 percent of all waking life attending to fictional drama performances.  And that’s just television, plays and cinema.


The love of fiction is as ubiquitous as that of marriage, hierarchies, jokes, religion, sweet, fat and the incest taboo.   Remember here Pinker’s caution that all adaptations must be our ancestral environment.


187 – 188: Three possible adaptive advantages that might explain the pervasiveness of fiction. 


1: Stories make low – cost surrogate experience. 

2. They convey factual information.

3. They help us explore other’s minds (TOM). They extend our mind-reading powers.


Pinker does allow some function to art; it helps us consider our options.


In all known societies fictions are about conflict and problems. So stories involve 1) human will and 2) resistance to it.


There are only so may options for stories: sex and reproduction. Love and death is tragedy, love and marriage is comedy.  Throw in character types.


Video games are games, not fiction.  We may overestimate the import of film






So he is basically saying the ‘greatest generation’ of literary critics, those descended from Derrida, got it all wrong.


We are biological. We have senses that order experience in predictable ways.  We also have ritualization in all cultures.  We have fast and frugal heuristics. We are afraid of snakes.

Rather than endlessly deferred, biology is recurrently enlarged. We are uncertain, but we can learn with the biocultural approach.  We are not just deconstructing. 


The biocultural approach sees regional differences in the context of wider commonalities.


This emphasis on difference


208 – The biocultural explanation of art is the least likely to focus on a canon.  It looks at all sorts of art as adaptive.  


Deconstruction keeps us from taking art seriously.  We don’t really look at it except as confirmations of our theory.  EP makes knowledge possible. It uses science.  It is an enormous step forward.




211 – Until recently, people thought human nature, ‘folk psychology’ was their business, their principle point of reference.  This mean self-preservation, sexual desire, favoring kin, jealousy, maternal love, belonging to a social group and desiring prestige.  


The morality was standard too: resentment against wrongs, gratitude for kindness, honestly in fulfilling contracts, disgust at cheating: reciprocity and revenge.


Vanity and self-interest and hypocrisy are also part of his.


Post modernists poo poo all of this.


212 - Early EP folks put forward modules, but not a well-rounded picture of the human being.  The ultimate in this might be Browns ‘Universal People.’  But, now behavioral ecologists and developmental psychologists are looking more at functional interaction.  It is ike the romantics’ “organic unity.” But they call it “flexible general intelligence.” (213)


Life history is another way to typify a human life.  Birth, growth, reproduction, social life, death.


213 – But we live in imagined space, unlike other animals, which gives us art, literature, tech, myths, philosophy.


214 – We don’t have a choice but to live in this realm of meaning, in which we define ourselves.


Foucault is the patron saint of New Historicism.


215 – Post folks see ‘nature’ and ‘human nature’ as cultural artifacts, that – because they are products of nature – cannot exercise no restraining function on culture.




216 - Northrup Frye’s “Anatomy of Criticism” is the most influential taxonomy of lit yet. The main elements in it are ‘social relations and their corresponding emotions.’


The three “natural genres” are tragedy, comedy and satire.  Satire looks at free riders and cheats.  Romance marriage; Tragedy sexual and familial relations become pathological and social bonds disintegrate.


Early in any given narrative, authors send signals to establish generic expectations.   (217) These, in turn, establish a range of emotional expectations for readers.


But, do to gene recombination, writers are individuals, putting their own spin on genre (Boyd, On the Origin).  All great novels can be located in one genre or another, but none is generic.




217 – Characters have goals that they succeed in or fail in; the desire to survive, to get married, to make friends, help friends, get an education.  These happen in settings and must be comprehensible by the auditor (reader or viewer).


218 – The passivity of the authorial mind in Foucauldian cultural theory and New Historicist lit crit is a big error.




218 – German ‘Geist’ is ghost, as distinct from the mechanical world.  This division is in our university organization.  We need integration.


Post modernism means ‘it is language and / or culture all the way down.’ All taste is socially constructed and a socially defined signifier.


222 – But, evidence is mounting that taste is “grounded in a set fairly robust innate dispositional propensities and perceptual capacities.”




226 – Sciences get more complex as we go from the inanimate through life.  Biology is more complex than chemistry.  Art more so than biology.


227 – Rather than just map human universals onto fiction, critics must focus on “formal features and constraints, rhetorical devises, and questions of genre and narrative, treating thematic elements . . . sparingly.”


This barely works.  As soon as we ask what a text is about, we’re doing thematics. How can we apply universals without plowing the specificity of literature into the ground?


228 – The important questions are: What can we know about literary interpretation; What can we know a priori, and what can only be decided in concrete interpretive contexts;  And, finally, what are the consequences of such knowledge or the absence thereof?


To answer we must know there is a text, a reader and a world.


229 – What can we know a priori about the world?  From an evolutionary perspective, Shakespeare is not distant, but near.   Jealousy is not a social construct, but a biological reality.


230 – With EP, the complexity of interpretation does not land us in a sea of endlessly deferred signification and uncertainty.  We know certain things about the world.




231 - Chomsky noted that if we’re just a construct the State can mold us in any way it wants.  He hopes we’re not so pliable.   Mead and Geertz see us as totally moldable.


233 – Cultural Materialism is also against universal humanism.


234 – There was no such thing as homosexuality in England in early modern England, one author says.


235 – Historians have long thought history useful because if human nature is steady, we can apply lessons learned in other epochs to our own era.


239 – Geertz wrote in The Interpretation of Culture, “Our ideas, our values, our acts, even our emotions, are, like our nervous system itself, cultural products.”


239 – Hebephrenia is the incessant facetious punning and wise-cracks syndrome.


242 – We share with our simian relations a “tendency .  . to frame laws or codes of conduct that seek to regulate the ruthlessness, violence, cunning and powers of decption.”


242 – Matt Ridley wrote, “The conspicuously virtuous things we all praise – cooperation, altruism, generosity, sympathy, kindness, selflessness – are all unambiguously concerned with the welfare of others.  This is not some parochial Western tradition.  It is a bias shared by the whole species.”


The post moderns may be simply washed away as untrue.




248 – The first film theorist, Hugo Munsterberg, came to Harvard in 1892 at the invitation of William James. Munsterberg and other proponents of “classic film theory.” Wanted to cement its status as an art.


249 – Sergei Eisenstein was part of this first generation.  He made a theory of montages based on Hegel.


Auteur theory tried to establish the director as an artist. They looked at director’s oeuvre.


250 - In the 1960s Christian Mertz said film was more than art, it was a language. This was swept away for Freudian theory in support of Marxism. Film is a creator of false consciousness and praises capitalism.


Now film theory is not theory.  It points out oddities without postulating coherent themes.


252 – His calls his metatheory ‘ecological’ because it attempts to place film production and spectatorship in a natural context.


The sequence of a film or its sound is not arbitrary.  US style leans towards accessibility. 


253 – 254 That requires these rules of thumb: Every shot should advance the story line.  Actors should avoid broad gestures and never look directly into the lens.  That there should b a change of camera angle and image size from one shot to the next, that the camera should be kept on the side of the action (the 180 degree rule), that the tools of the making craft (and workers) should never intrude on the screen, and the story should be told in action, not words, whenever possible.


254 – Films change, filmgoers don’t.  So the film maker must appeal to the viewer.


The computer does sequential stuff, but we have a great ability to guide us through three-dimensional space. It also locates objects.  Vision didn’t need to be perfect, it needed to be good enough to avoid predators.  It needed vertigality; to serve the function of finding objects and navigating.  So it can be trickd by a 2-D object into thinking it is 3-D. 


Errors, like spokes spinning backwards, are interesting because they reveal how the mechanisms of sight work – or don’t.


256 – 257 “To ask how we process continuity and character and narrative in motion pictures is to ask how the forces of evolution equipped us to know where we are in time and space, to make rapid judgments of character, and to narratize the events of our existence.”  Our capacities are limited by our processors and cannot be overridden by transitory cultural fads or clever linguistic fabrications.




259 – The imagination enhances our foresight and ability to plan. Fictions, in turn, engage our emotions. Emotions are a crucial part of social life and cultural life.


We have long considered emotion an unwanted burden on logic.  We are often led astray by them.  But, then, from an evolutionary perspective, why would they have developed / survived.


260 - Two arguments:

1)     Motivational gravity

2)     Rapid response


Film must pay attention to this as the genres are around emotions: horror, thrillers, comedy (laughing) romance (love). Also, we must know the grammar of expression (accompanied by emotional music cues).


Faces that do not express are troubling.


262 – The king of facial expressions is Paul Elkman.

263 – While he saw universal emotions he noted that they have “culture-specific display rules” which govern who can express what sort of emotion in which social context.  Japanese express less.  But men express less horror in Hollywood films than women.


265 – Hitchcock created a cross-current of emotion in Sabateur (1942) as he had the spy / enemy of democracy, look at the camera as he dangled from the Statue of Liberty, and show real fear.  We have ‘emotional contagion’ so we feel fear for him as we hate him.


When he killed a NAZI in lifeboat, he showed no close up, and rarely showed the NAZI’s face,  and so let us purely hate him.  It would have been inappropriate.


266 – “Now all of this is to argue that an aspect of the biology of the emotions is enlisted in a cultural and political cause.”  As Gould said, our biological potentiality can be various ends. Thus, “we do not have to make a choice between an evolutionary, biological explanation, and a purely cultural one; and if we do make that choice we weaken our explanation.”


But expressions in film are different than in real life.  He wants to profile the use of expression in three film makers: Robert Bresson, Takeshi Kitano and Wong Kar-Wai.


Kitano gives us total blankness in his gangster characters. Bresson has his characters moderate their expressions only a tiny bit. He cuts to body parts in moments of emotional intensity.  He thus makes them beyond ordinary human psychology and puts them in a spiritual destiny category. 


KarWai is so naturalistic that emotional expressions are often partially obscured.


268 – Each, Hitchcock included, has an emotional style.


268 – Some traditional humanists see the evolutionary approach as reductionistic.  He hopes he has shown the inadequacy of this view.  He is not saying the concerns of artists or critics should be reduced to those of scientists.  A good artist must know how film impacts audiences.





270 - The author projected a kung fu film to a class without translation to see how much they would get. They got a lot of the story.


271 – Viewers saw different things though: the bankruptcy of Hong Kong cinema, Kung Fu moves to use, a celebration of Jackie Chan. He calls this the ‘processing’ of films by viewers.


His system of analysis is “mentalistic” because we can characterize the spectator’s embodied mind as engaging with the film.  It is also ‘naturalistic” in that it uses cognitive sciences.


Some might object that this discounts the influence of society, ideology or culture.  But, his system doesn’t focus totally on individuals.


272 – Top down and bottom up processing are introduced.  Top-down is concept driven.  Bottom up is data driven (from moment to moment, what you encounter).  Bottom up is fast and consistent across viewers; not so top down. 272 – So he says that Muslims felt the same thing on 9/11 (that is his example).  I am not so sure that dancing in the streets equates with horror.


Perceptual uptake happens in seconds.  We don’t have access to how we make such reactions. 


275 – When we think of a film in a particular way, it can attune us to details. So top down can impact bottom up. But, the reciprocal impact cannot go all the way up or down.  His three levels are up down, down up, and appropriation of both.


We do film easily. Babies recognize films and audio of care takers.  People without images recognize film and photos as presenting things.


Rhesus macaques are not afraid of film, but react fearfully to films of other monkeys shrinking from snakes.


277 – He uses a clip from a comic depiction of a bank robbery and we get it. Top down appropriation is much more deliberate.  But still Thelma and Louise dying cannot be willed away.  People use films to change their moods.


278 – 1950s gay viewers of Judy Garland’s A star is born were more interested of when she shot which scene than the plot (already known).


279 – So we must ask how much of the text controls its readings?  Coen Brother films, very little.


280 – Commitment emotions may have evolved to strengthen group bonds.


280 – “So-called commitment emotions may have evolved to strengthen group bonds, even if they work against self-centered rationality.”


281 – Emotions also color our appropriations: People get angry about Brokeback mountain.  Fans love their films. And, then there is startle in horror.


In-groups identify emotions faster than out-groups. Asians can see Asian faces better.  Emotions cue us as to how a person in the film might react to events.


282 – Emotional moments are plot turning points as we remember emotional events more.


282 - He says we should study the “bonding effects of watching a film with others.  I propose that narrative films often model social intelligence and that modeling in turn rests upon sensitivity to emotional signals.”  He then drops the subject.


283 – This perception of film’s impact blurs the boundaries between biology and society.  We call these film conventions, but they are not so arbitrary as that.


283 – “Writing a language and chess are artificial.”  The most important person in a film being in the center of the frame is not something that we need to learn.


Films use conventions.  In most movies, characters face each other in an odd way.    Non-natural music is played.  But we quickly accept these conventions.   PoMo folks view that this is convention. His ecological view relies on capacities and processes. 






289 – “The Rape of Troy is about men – about their battles, real and ritualized, for dominance, wealth, women and, ultimately, for reproductive success.” [He doesn’t consider that if you don’t live, you don’t reproduce.  I would say that when you’re in a battle, the thought of ‘jeez, I won’t be able to make a baby if they kill me’ is a secondary motivator.]


Women seem to be secondary.  But this chapter looks at them as driving the narrative and evolution via sexual selection.


291 - The principal hazards facing Homeric women stemmed from the darker aspects of Homeric men.  Their men could be killed in a second.


292 – Women were also interested in money and status and power. But they did this via connecting themselves to a high power mate.


293 – Their beauty is the most stressed aspect of them in the stories.   That’s what Paris chose, despite their scheming and other temptations.


294 – Women compete with Zeus via seduction – Aphrodite.


295 - Hera seduces Zeus, puts him to sleep, and then turns the battle against the Trojans she hates. Thus she exacts her revenge on Paris for his defiling the home.


296 – Without men, survival of women’s offspring was difficult.   Men also liked loyalty, endurance, sense, decorum, skill and industriousness.


297 – Families got dowry if they married her well.  Women did infidelity. 


298 - They were not at the mercy of their kinsman.  The man had to get the family gifts and the women too.  If they had no power, why the gifts?  Even when arranged, women exert non-negligible veto power on the choice.


300 – Men are a breeding experiment run by women.  They wanted big men with resources, who also have valor and big massive arms, like Odysseus.


302 – No man can pull Odysseus’ bow.  They are all too weak.   Women contribute to the brutal cycle by despising weakness and cowardice.


303 – [Evidence of diversity:  “Homeric women respect bravery and strength in their men and are loath to reward the weak and cowardly.”]


305 – There is a vicious cycle wherein males are aggressive.  So women give access to aggressive men that can protect them.  Their children are then, in turn, aggressive – via genetic and socio-cultural pressure.  Odysseus is such a bad ass that he even protects here when he is not there by reputation.




307 – Freud did not understand that for a characteristic to survive it had to contribute to fitness.   Thus the idea that one should covet their mother has no grounding.   And Freudian scholars rarely think about EP. 


308 – Incest produces unhealthy offspring.  Throughout most of history, there was no contraception.  So the stakes were high.  A mechanism inhibiting incest is much more likely than an instinct towards it.


309 – In 1891 Edward Westermarck noted the Westermarck effect, if people are raised together, they have no sexual interest in each other.


310 – In 2,769 kibbutz raised folks, no marriages were found between people that spent ages 0 to 6 in the same household.


311 – In light of this research it is important to note that Oedipus does not fall in love with Merope, the woman he believes to be his biological father.  Nor does he murder the man he takes  to be his biological father.   Technically, he has no oedipal complex. He avoids sex with those who were his early caregivers, via adoption.  


312 – Furthermore, eros is not part of the reason to hook up with Jocasta.  It is a political marriage.


313-  Also sexual desire would be a waste in nature because kids can’t reproduce.


It is plausible that kids develop a mechanism to stop their father from sleeping with their mother to delay the birth of the next child. But it is not a battle with dad for sexual access to mom.




318 – One result of the flexibility of the primate social system is you need to keep track of a lot of social knowledge.  Who is dominant? Subordinate?


Dunbar has shown, the larger the social group, the larger the neocortex.


319 – Put monkeys in a room and they fight, mate or groom each other.  Humans talk. And, we’ll talk about our social worlds.


Thus we would find cognitively rewarding 1) observation of key interpersonal behaviors and 2) shared information about social group motivations, deceptions and coalitions.


320 – Our talk should be about biological matters: illness, health, mating, rises and falls in status, and coalitions.    So as impact on fitness goes up, so should interest. We should be very interested in others sequestering resources, status and mates.


The most basic biological subgoals are: 321:

1.       Self-preservation (being fed and away from predators)

2.       Mating

3.       Status

4.       Coalition formation

5.       Kin


322 – [Nice quote for Coen article. “Drama consists of the creation of a (fictional) tight-knit group.  The audience observes, but also has a chance to sit in on conversations about what is going on with the group.]


TRAGEDY does status competition and COMEDY mate choice


323 – This theory would predict that these would be small knit groups wherein the impact of every person effect the outcome for every other person.  

And there is tragedy: about heavy political cunning.  And comedy: about silly conflicts that are positively resolved.


326 – Shakespeare’s 12th night ends in the optimal fitness outcome.  His comedies all end with several obstacles overcome and optimal partnering and status raising.


330 – Richard the III is one man struggling to reach the top by a combination of direct power and coalition.


331 – Very reductionist.  Here is a chart that shows almost all stories are either about status or mating and the variation is that sometimes the outcome is positive and sometimes not. ]


Negative                             Positive


Status                   Tragedy                                Heroic

                                    Richard III                           Henry V

                                    Taxi Driver                          Die Hard


Mating                 Love Tragedy                  Comedy

                                    Romeo and Juliet            Twelfth Night

                                    Hedda Gabler                     When Harry Met Sally




335 – A survey of the natural world shows many males in species go to great lengths to keep their mates from having sex with others. It’s called “mate guarding.”


333 – Jealousy needs no cause but is born upon itself, a character tells Desdemona.  The purpose herein is for the author to make the play seem more enigmatic, mysterious, and interesting.


335 – Claustration evolved on all five continents and still survives in the Islamic world.


336 – Since it was everywhere, it may be evolved. The question really isn’t if it is rooted in human nature.  The question is whether it is separable from the attachment drive and involves specialized neural structures. And, British women had more freedom to wander from the home than women in southern Europe.


336 – [Perhaps for Islam, polygamy, and aggression article.  Mildred Dickemann has shown that wherever ‘claustration’ practices occur, they are status-graded.   The higher the status of the family, the more intense the practice.]


Historians believe the monogamous nuclear family may have been the basis of English society sicne the 14th century.  This may have added to jealousy.  But, benevolent patriarchy, not tyranny was the model of said marriage.


340 - The textual evidence is that racism was not a cause of the jealousy.


342 – Feminist say his jealousy stems from ‘patriarchy.’  Well that is everywhere, so not a full explanation.  So having failed to uncover a sociological cause for Othello’s jealousy, look at his love being flawed.   This too is no good. 


345 – A good theory is that Othello is powerful so people try to bring him down and he has no institutional checks against his jealousy – no one tells him to shut up.  But that fails too.   So why no one answer as to why his jealousy is overwrought?


346 – We are looking at intentional artifacts bound by literary conventions.  This isn’t real life.  As Robert Story says, tragedy educates people three ways:

1)     It improves empathetic identification; 2) it creates ambivalence about the emotional allegiance that results; 3) it gives a vicarious experience of catastrophe.

We have an inborn desire to explain tragedy to make it manageable.  Othello plays on this desire, but does not satisfy it.  


Jealousy is a worldwide feeling.  But, Othello’s act being excessive shows us that human variety is wide: we have individual and cultural variation.  Othello’s gullibility and anger is the horrifying exception to the rule wherein people figure out who is lying to them.


347 - We can’t explain it and that is why it is horrible and fascinating.


[This is a fine article, but does it belong here?  I guess as the one article to largely deny LD.  It acknowledges power and the dynamics of love, but only passively as biological].




348 – Freud and Lacan dominate Wordsworth scholarship.  But, it is no longer accepted by developmental psychologists, who regard the infant as a self-organizing system engaged in a fundamentally productive and social relationship with its primary caregiver – usually Mom).


350 - We’re looking at Book 2 of the Prelude, because it deals with infant development. Regression versus leaving mom for individualism is a strong theme in the last 30 years of analysis.   This makes the mother and child antagonistic. They also see the bond as sexual between boy infant and mom while sucking at the breast, so seeking return. 


352 – But attachment is towards all family members and is the basis for their growth. And Harlow’s monkey studies show that there is no connection between affection and food.  And, Lorenz found imprinting regardless of food. And incest is not normative – the Westmark effect is. Now we read the prelude as showing a productive relationship:


354 – There is no fixation on the breast!  It is on the place of breast feeding, the mother’s arms.  Etc.,

355 – The gaze Wordsworth emphasizes agrees with new developmental psychology. This Freudian outlook is, itself, sexist as it makes motherhood primarily destructive, not positive.




360 – We get two lessons from EP:  1) People usually cooperate and don’t like free riders.  2) We reward those who engage in altruistic behavior.


We like altruistic characters and distrust others. And, in lit, if we cannot hate on those who free ride, we can cheer on those who do.


365 - We resent the wrongs done to Oliver. And then he pretty much disappears from the second half of the book. We cheer those who vindicate him.  As we cheer at the vindication of Hamlet’s absent father in Hamlet.




This book has been difficult to interpret for many and for very long.  There are two generations of protagonists, and the different phases take divergent forms.


Humanists compared the tale to norms.  But these varied from critic to critic.  Postmodernists are comfortable with there being no meaning or reading.


368 – One angle has been missing, that of “human nature.” This allows us to delineate norms Bronte shares with her audience.   She has naturalism and balances it well against the supernaturalism she includes.


An EP account of human nature puts it in the contex of life history, gestation speed, growth, length of life, forms of mating,  parental care, etc.


369 - We humans too build coalitions and social groups hierarchically.  Culture is a part of nature.  It is “a medium through which we organize our dispositions into a system that regulates public behavior and informs private thought.


Two houses: One the Lintons who are civilized but weak.  Second, Wuthering Heights with the Earnshaws, rough and bleak, harsh and crude.


Conflict and resolution cut across two generations.  In the first generations childhoods are disrupted and families fail.  Catherine Easrnshaw and Heathcliff are the most destructive.


In generation two: Catherine Linton and Hareton Earnshaw bridge the division between the families. They will make, we suppose, a successful bond. People pay attention to the first but, the second provides the resolution and moral.


370 – The first generation is tragedy and the second, romantic comedy. But the genre is odd in that the comedy is not totally without taint from the tragedy of the beginning half.   The human is comedy, the supernatural is tragedy. 


The book overtly refers to Heathcliff’s perverted view of “human nature.”


371 – “Humanist critics do not overtly repudiate the idea of human nature, but they do not typically seek explanatory reductions in evolutionary theory, either.  Instead, they make appeal to some metaphysical, moral, or formal norm – for instance, cosmic equilibrium, charity, passion, or the integration of form and content – and they typically represent this preferred norm as a culminating extrapolation of the common understanding.”


Postmodernists see human nature and nature as social constructs.


372 – EP sees individuals, but they are situated biologically.  Mothers are for their kids, people for their groups, siblings conflicting, individuals for themselves. And, of course, inclusive fitness.


373 – Kinship is all over Wuthering Heights.  Their lineages show consistencies. Heathcliff is not related  to them.  He is adopted but given a place of favor over Hindley, the real son.  He is an alien force in a domestic world, causing terror.  In the romantic comedy resolution, the property goes back to the rightful heirs.


We put time into our kids and giving them resources is not cultural, it is universal.


378 – The story has some necrophilia.  It disrupts the reproductive cycle, or represents it.


Catherine’s relationship with Heathcliff is adolescent. Freudians note this.  She urges him into the afterlife. Carroll sees this as a way to leave the human push to social relations and reproduction. Hareton and Cathy negotiate this social / biological world well, by contrast. Heathcliff’s adolescent escape captivates readers.  Catherine and Heathcliff break out but they are only ghosts.  The contrast is between normative biology and nihilism.  Bronte resonates because we all understand this tension.




381 – We points out behavioral universals by confronting them.

382 – Remaking people is standard fare for utopia.  This is a Marxist dream.  No wonder, We was first banned in the Soviet Union. 


People in it are called “numbers.”


387 - It depicts a supremely controlled society.  And, it thus illustrates the idea that art is society’s way of selecting amongst possible futures. We can visit social orders without building them, let alone living in them.  We not only see what they would look like, but what they would feel like.


We was written before the 1918 revolution.


388 -  (50 is the normal for hunter gatherers).


Non-natural names are often used in dystopias. Hunter-gatherer societies were so small a single name would do.  Here we get number tags.


390 - There are no plants in this dystopia.  Attraction to beauty generally correlates with biological viability.  Foragers had to keep going.  So perhaps the very “arrived-at” state of utopias is so stifling. We satisfy the forager within us by traveling in and through texts in search of diversion.  Utopias are usually boring.  We like dystopias more.


391 – The lead in We starts with a very bland personality and no inner life.  We wonder if this is possible. By the end, he becomes a well-rounded literary figure, we can believe and relate to. He is us.



PAGE 392


392 – “The Gilded Six-Bits” is a short story from 1933.She focuses on a husband’s reactions to his wife’s infidelity, emphasizing paternal certainty.  So, it is very EP.


Rather, critics have looked at real versus false values; country versus city; material and nonmaterial wealth; Caucasian and AA systems of valuation.


They are working class and he gives his earnings to her.


They go to an ice cream parlor where the flashy richer proprietor says women pay for access to him sexually. Saunders finds this hard to believe.


He offers gold to the wife if she’ll sleep with him.


The husband brings his wife to the shop to show her off.


Feminists may not like her getting money for sex (prostitution), but women had to consider a man’s resources when mating in ancestral times.


396 – Anne Campbell has undertaken a careful, point-by-point comparative analysis of feminist and evolutionary theory. 


397 – It seems, when caught in bed, that she really does love her husband and has no infatuation for the ice cream king.  But, perhaps, only wanted money to give to her husband?


398 – For a poorer woman, the access to resources cuckolding may enable, could prove a boon.  The wife goes into heavy domestic performance and the husband, jealousy. 


The husband stays abstinent for 3 months, then sleeps with her and puts the gold (gilded 50 cent piece) under her pillow.  Perhaps this is a critique of the gold standard and white civilization and values? 


The waiting period tests her remorse and punishes her.  She must again prove her emotional fidelity.   The husband’s relatives do the common strategy of saying the kid looks like him.


404 – He then again offers lavish gifts for his wife, indicating forgiveness, and he downplays the ice cream guy and says he hit him and took the coin.


406 – Hurston uses narrative distance from the minds of the characters to tell the story.  She, thus, implies that we are all the same and can infer the human motives and actions of the players in this story.


407 – Fitness explains his staying in the marriage better than ethics or romance.


408 - To discuss it this way does a disservice to its tough-mindedness.





410 – It is not surprising that we give so much import to a movie that deals with the central evolutionary question of character assessment.


411 – We perceive not what something means, but what it means to me.  This is based on Gibson’s theory of visual perception.  This is an ecological approach to character identification.


412 – We must also choose whether or not to identify with the character. This has three components: perspective-taking; caring; and role identification.   Not all can do the latter.


We don’t care about Thompson, the person who is investigating Kane’s character.  


414 – And we are kept away from Kane.  Person after person tells stories about him from their perspective.  An, alternatively, we are drawn and repelled by Kane.  Only when we learn that rosebud is a sled and he missed his mother, do we see things from his perspective and care about his fate.




416 – Shot / reverse shot displays the characters in face-to-face interactions, over each other’s shoulders in a back and forth. Sometimes it involves an over the shoulder shot (OTS). 


417 – It wasn’t used for the first 15 years of cinema.  And, then after 1910, only sometimes.  Now it is universal. Why?


418 – Reason #1 it is what we as a spectator would see – the naturalistic view.  But this is odd.  Usually, a third person watches from a 90 degree angle.  And, when interacting, we stare dead on, not at the ¾ angle of the OTS.  #2 – it is stylistic a “convention” like how we’d like to see it. This view dominates film studies today. But, this is not naturalistic.


420 – But this is not learned either.  It is not arbitrary, like a shot of the person speaking from the back of the ear, or looking away. It fits with our psyches.


421 – The author wishes to say that this is neither naturalistic nor a convention, but a mix he calls “contingent universals.” 


424 – He uses E. H. Gombrich’s continuum between skills that come to us naturally and those that are impossible. 
One example is sensory triggers, these cause automatic reactions in us, like birds with spotted sticks, and may cause us to run ahead of the story, infer what’s coming. Startle responses for example. 


There are also visual effects – the regularity of people’s shapes (and the horror of monsters that violate normal shape patterns).  Some, such as transitions marked by dark screens, are learned. But once learned, they are easy to spot.  And at the end of this we have the language of the avant garde.


426 – “Does this ascribe too little a role to culture?  I think not.”  He says it is culture that makes the “tasks and interests” (I think he means ‘story’).

[He is behind the times.  What of the ISIS films.  Do the makers of such films see Freddy Kruger as scary?  I think not.  They see him as blasphemy and the clothes of the women may also rile anger.  They do not rile anger in us. ]


426 – Things on the sensory trigger side of the spectrum seem more culturally specific and difficult to pick up on.  That’s where we need context.


429 – Some evidence indicates that we learn more of a face from the ¾ position.  And, the shoulder in OTS reminds us this is a conversation.




434 – We can understand all art as cognitive play with pattern.  The amount of play in a species correlates highly with the flexibility of its behavior. Animals from pigs to rats play.


435 – Art trains us in mental flexibility, the perceptual and cognitive area that matters most.  [I think the import of rationality is being overplayed here].  Humans uniquely inhabit the “cognitive niche.”  We like distinct colors, crisp outlines, shapes, and pattern.


435 – Extreme informational chaos causes distress and a loss of sensory function.  Art, the opposite. If play trains animals in bodily flexibility, art trains us in mental flexibility.   But this takes repetition: it therefore needs to engage our involvement.  It does so through the unique importance of human shared attention.  The whites of our eyes, directs our attention.


436 – List of art’s benefits:


1)     Art is play with patterns.  It reconfigures us to see patterns.

2)     It gives some folks the ability to attract extra attention.

3)     Art, regardless of content, intensifies the advantages and skills of shared attention, the sense of shared purposes.

4)     It strengthens group allegiance, through processes of tribal identification like scarification, tattooing, or costume, through chants and anthems, through mythical, heroic or prosocial stories.

5)     The stimulus reduces social tension that comes from high-density living.

6)     It generates confidence that we can change the world.

7)     It supplies skills and models we can refine and combine to ensure our ongoing cumulative creativity.


437 – The surrealist game wherein we keep adding to the previous persons phrase shows a connection between play and art.    The artists need to counter habituation, and that continuity holds attention best because it is not random.


The same happened in Spiegelman’s Exquisite Corpse.


438 – Advantages to a biocultural approach to art:


1)     It makes possible multilevel analysis – from deep evolutionary to specific artist concerns.

2)     It explains art at the global, species-wide level and at the local level, and at that of the individual artist, and the particular level (that of the decisions behind composing the work or responding to it).

This approach sees art as a behavior, as an action.


Artists work to create works that will maximize audience attention and response, and hence their own status, within the current economy of attention.  


439 - Trying to get the largest audience would incline them to be prosocial since we all benefit from associating with altruists or being in a successful group.


Biology works to make us individuals from the womb on.  Identical twins have different cerebral folds at birth).  Criticism has overemphasized group similarities at the expense of individual differences.   Even invertebrates and guppies have different personalities.


440 – So for biocultural approaches we must consider 1) multilevel analysis 2) a cost-benefit analysis for composition and reception 3) a problem – solution model for artists and audiences (how do they maximize attention via play with pattern?) 4) sensitivity to individuality.


Comics take advantage of our liking clear lines and species that cross boundaries.


Comics emerged in the tight competition of newspapers.  They have low comprehension costs – can be understood quickly.   They were, though, expensive to produce until the 1960s created a new technology.


443 – Comic artists make themselves distinct to get attention, and then they do not change their styles so that they can capitalize on the attention they have gained.


447 – Spiegleman plays with lots of patterns: dramatic, visual and verbal: with verbal allusion, and with repetition, anaphora, syntactic parallelism, metaphor, cliché, antithesis and pun, iconic visual comic language.


449 – 450  The biocultural brings us back to nature.  It posits people do things irrationally, without full awareness, but from  a neurological position, not Freudian.  It recognizes power in socieites; Rather than ideologies of hegemony, bioculturalists will be more likely to see the power and spread of cultural representations as dependent on species-wide susceptibilities and biases.   


451 - It is not that art is neutral, but a natural strategic response to sociality.   The biocultural view shows sex is not just a social construct.  Instead it is subtle.  That is why more men make comics. 


452 - Culturalists have subsumed the individual to power structures.  Bioculturists bring the individual author / artist back. But, it is a social person, not a romantic alone on a perch.


452 – Theory got rid of authorial intent.  But biocultural does not bring us back to the God like author either.  It complicates it.


Our thinking is fast and frugal – full of heuristics.  To save time, artists sometimes use known stories and problems. They propose richer solutions in what people have called the “Darwin – machine process – a series of cycles of idea generation, selection and regeneration.” Unlike the endless deferring of no meaning of theory, we understand intention and dynamics that also share with animals.


454 – Spiegelman’s references to Shakespeare and Krazy Kat also work on common coin and help social cohesion [well here is a rare reference to social cohesion!!]







457 – Congress thinks “the humanities are increasingly marginal contributors to the sum knowledge of the well-being of society.” = defunding.


458 – The decline of literary studies does not mean a decline in interest in literature.  Book stores are full of fiction. We need a new paradigm, moving closer to the sciences.


461 – “The liberationists” wanted to show that “the natural” was only a DWEM phenomenon. “They would shout truth to power in the classrooms and in the journals until the hegemons toppled and the masses were free.”


464 – “Science can be understood as the most successful method humans have devised for shrinking the space of possible explanation.”  This corresponds with our having, though, increased possibilities – check tech.


465 – When a young professor, Woodrow Wilson said, literary “expressions of the spirit. . . escapes all scientific categories.  It is not pervious to research.”  But he was wrong.


And while the idea that all is reducible to numbers is absurd so is the idea that beauty is the product of a mysterious vital force. 


466 – At some point literary academics went from knowledge creators to knowledge dissolvers: endless questions and disparaging answers.


467 – Louis Menand described the history of literary studies as going back and forth on science: Philologists to structuralists, to semiologists, the psychoanalytics, to narratologists, to Marxists. But this is wrong.  While literary studies may have been attracted to science, they have never employed the method.


Gottschall’s method departs in three ways: 1) it is grounded in evolution by natural selection.  2) He is advocating that scientists ‘do science.’ 3) the attitude changes to the scientific ethos.




This chapter is replicated in The Literary Animal.  The summary of this book and chapter is available under book summaries, in the art section, (scroll down),  at www.culturism.us.


But, . . .  Slash mags have gay relationships between popular hetero figures: Spock and Kirk, for example.


471 – Why do humans enjoy fiction?  1) no reason  2) It is an adaption.

472 – Fiction probably both has organizing adaptations and pleasure circuit lock picking.  If we look at it, then, we can see what picks men’s and women’s locks – so to speak.


473 – Male ejaculation happens outside of the woman as proof of climax. Men learn nothing of female psychology or life herein, it is lock picking. It is pornotopia.


474 – Exposure to porn does not make the vast number of men more likely to commit acts of violence.  So, it is not violence against women (as feminists argue) so violence is not a component.  It is wish fulfillment. 


475 – The core of romances are love stories in which the heroine overcomes obstacles to identify, win the heart of, and marry the one right man for her. Sex is not the focus.  His passion binds him to her and promises future fidelity.  Sex scenes show the heroines control, not submission. Sex serves the plot, not the reverse.


476 – The heroes are described as tall.  Sexually bold, calm, confident and intelligent.  His feelings for her are the most consistently described trait.  Usually he is rich, but this is not necessary.


478 – Women who enjoyed slash more were more likely to describe themselves as tomboys, they liked buddy films and horror more, and they were attracted to the leads’ working partnership.


479 – Perhaps slash is not homosexual after all.  It is female hetero fantasies acted out by men.  Frequently in romance, women give up their virginity.   Here too.  And sexual exclusivity is part of it.


480 – Tomboys, research suggests, do not reject female roles, they just embrace male ones, in addition, more.  In slash the romance comes out of a friendship.


481 – People say porn is organized to degrade women; but gay porn is just the same.




483 – More than 3 decades ago Laura Bohannan wrote an essay saying that people in the bush could not comprehend Hamlet.   Prior she thought people were the same all over the world.  This proved to her that they weren’t – no human nature.


485 – But, character, setting, and narrative theory are all the same. People do, though, very geographically, economically, technologically, and demographically. Local terrain brings different needs.  Foragers’ oral traditions explain environmental hazards, plant and animal characteristics and uses, as well as hunting and gathering techniques (see Scalise Sugiyama, “Food,” “Lions,” Narrative Theory).


486 – So our literature has little hunting and gathering.  It has people going to the store. So we see difference in the bushmen (Tivs) Bohannan interviewed.  They didn’t like Hamlet getting revenge as that was for elders and chieftains.   But, this does not mean they don’t get revenge.  Claudius caused Hamlet’s madness.  This was witchcraft to the Tiv.  But, they agreed he should be punished.  


487 - The Tiv also thought Claudius and Gertrude should marry as a man marries his deceased brother’s wife.  But, they get family obligation. Bohannan thought they should be upset by the quickness of the remarriage.  But, who will tend the fields?


487 – Also Tivs believe in witchcraft, but not ghosts.  So Dad freaked them out.   But, there were many convergences in understanding.  All thought Polonius a fool. People unjustly social climb in both societies.


The moral?  There are some human universals.




491 – This numerical project is to demonstrate a bridge across science and literary studies.


They listed about 2,000 characters from 201 canonical Brit novels.  They got responses on them from worldwide English faculties. They also did listserves.  They got 509 responses.  They got 8 character sets.  They got contrasts between protagonists and antagonists. They designate the results an “agonistic structure.”


493 – Their hypothesis: “Protagonists and their associates would form communities of cooperative endeavor and antagonists would exemplify dominance behaviors.  This would replicate early egalitarian ethos in which people stigmatize status seeking in potentially dominant folks.


494 – Both male and female antagonists showed pronounced and exclusive social dominance (men more).   Female protagonists score highest on romance. But they are vairly balanced on constructive effort, romance and nurture.


495 – In protagonists seeking predominance is subordinated to communitarian values.  These books are classics because they mirror deep human nature.


496 - Dominance versus affiliation are contrasted with the aesthetic, intellectual, and moral powers of individual artists.


EP found women like wealth, prestige, and power.  Men, attractiveness. (though both like both). Female protagonists and antagonists both like extrinsic attributes, but female antagonists like them more. Protagonists like intrinsic attributes more.


Male protagonists, to their surprise were really into physical attractiveness and antagonists not.  Thus the antagonists defy norms. Like the female antagonists’ social dominance striving, not caring for beauty in mates is a male antagonists’ de-sexing.


498 – Human nature looks at general characteristics, personality individual ones.


Female protagonists score higher than all else on agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, and they are positive on stability.  Male protagonists are muted females, in this profile.  Antagonists are all bad. 


499 – Being agreeable is a trait that distinguishes good characters generally, but being conscientious and open to experience are very specific to protagonists. 


Antagonists are assertive, volatile and unreliable. They are mostly into social dominance which varied negatively with agreeableness.


500 – The second study is built on Paul Ekman’s seven emotions: anger, fear, disgust, contempt, joy, sadness, and surprise. They found that protagonists were liked and not disliked.


504 – In this study the differences between genders is much less than that between protagonists and antagonists. This is interesting to gender studies.  These are not competing value systems between genders.  Marxists would say competition is essentially and economic.  But, the complimentary interests in genders is much more pronounced. This jives with Darwinism. They both resist predatory antagonists.


Christopher Boehm’s ‘Hierarchy in the Forest’ shows how such dominance and affiliation have shaped human political behavior.  He claims thatsociobiological theorists repudiated the idea of ‘altruistic’ behavior and restricted prosocial dispositions to nepotism and reciprocal benefits.


505 – Boehm says about 100,000 years ago we developed a capacity for enforcing altruistic or group oriented norms, this controlled ‘free riders’ or ‘cheaters.’  This, in turn, allows for multilevel selection and gene – culture co-evolution that would alter human nature itself, because when authoritarianism is dampened, individuals can bloom.  


[This book and  Boehm’s Blood Revenge: Anthropology of Feuding in Montenegro and Other Tribal Societies seem really interesting]


The egalitarian ethos that Boehm found within groups is mirrored in the novels and the audience responses to the novels surveyed herein.


In chimpanzee society, social organization is regulated by dominance; in us it is impulses of dominance and impulses for suppressing dominance.  State societies, agriculture, made elaborate systems of hierarchy possible, the hoarding of resources too. The tribal, with the suppression of hierarchy had at least a 100,000 year run before that.


In pre-literate cultures, face-to-face with few people was the only way. In literate cultures, we navigate hierarchy via literature.


[But, would this flattening of dominance have taken place equally in all human populations?]