Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Whither literary Darwinism?

Is anything happening with literary Darwinism? Do I need to pay attention to this likely-to-remain-small movement in literary studies? The paramecium-ancestor (to speak evolutionarily) of my upcoming class, Imitation of Life, was actually Joseph Carroll's reading of Jane Austen as a record of mating behaviors. Yet the article has yet to work itself into my syllabus. I think there are two reasons why: it's still depressing to me to think about literature this way, despite the fact that I believe in evolution, believe we must promote the teaching of evolution everywhere, and think evolution itself is interesting (and not depressing). But such a reading takes the feel--the whimsy and the fancy--out of reading entirely. Some might say this is a good thing, given where critical whimsy sometimes takes us (see SocialText, etc.). Second: to do this criticism properly, you really need to be a proper scientist. It's hard enough to get one PhD, let alone two or more; but you really can't BS (that's bullshit, as well as Bachelor of Science) your way through a sophisticated scientific reading. So, collaboration might be necessary, but few humanists want to do that.

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