A Biocultural Approach to Literary Theory and Interpretation by Nancy Easterlin

By Nancy Easterlin

Combining cognitive and evolutionary examine with conventional humanist equipment, Nancy Easterlin demonstrates how a biocultural point of view in idea and feedback opens up new percentages for literary interpretation.

Easterlin keeps that the perform of literary interpretation remains to be of imperative highbrow and social worth. Taking an open but really appropriate process, she argues, besides the fact that, that literary interpretation stands to achieve dramatically from a fair-minded and artistic program of cognitive and evolutionary learn. This paintings does simply that, expounding a biocultural approach that charts a center direction among overly reductive methods to literature and traditionalists who see the sciences as a possibility to the humanities.

Easterlin develops her biocultural technique through evaluating it to 4 significant subfields inside of literary reports: new historicism, ecocriticism, cognitive techniques, and evolutionary techniques. After a radical overview of every subfield, she reconsiders them in mild of proper examine in cognitive and evolutionary psychology and gives a textual research of literary works from the romantic period to the current, together with William Wordsworth’s "Simon Lee" and the Lucy poems, Mary Robinson’s "Old Barnard," Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s "Dejection: An Ode," D. H. Lawrence’s The Fox, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, and Raymond Carver’s "I may well See the Smallest Things."

A Biocultural method of Literary conception and Interpretation deals a clean and reasoned method of literary stories that right now preserves the primary value that interpretation performs within the humanities and embraces the fascinating advancements of the cognitive sciences.

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Extra resources for A Biocultural Approach to Literary Theory and Interpretation

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To dissect a phenomenon into its elements, in this case cell into organelles and molecules, is consilience by reduction. To reconstitute it, and especially to predict with knowledge gained by reduction how nature assembled it in the first place, is consilience by synthesis. (67–68) My understanding is that this is an entirely material process in biology, and it is therefore hard to see how this method might work for a literary text, whose constitutive material elements—words, punctuation marks, pieces of paper, and sometimes pictures—are its vehicle rather than its substance.

To restate his position, he quotes a passage from an essay first published in Biopoetics in 1999: If literary studies are ever to satisfy the criteria for empirical validity, they will have to include a range of activities that can be located on a scale of empirical constraint, and these activities will have to be interdependent. At the lower end of the scale, with the least empirical constraint, we can locate most of what we now think of as literary criticism. At the upper end, with the greatest constraint, we can locate the kinds of experimental study—in psychology and linguistics—that are already being conducted but that have not often been expanded to include literature.

32 The text under discussion is Shakespeare’s sonnet 73, in which the poet enjoins his lover to look upon his aging body. The concrete details of Williams’s passage convey how fully the sonnet “means” for Stoner, whose physical response— his attention to his hands and his consciousness of his circulation—demonstrates his understanding of the poem’s metaphors and their connection to human decay. Although he is dumbstruck, Stoner’s sensory awakening to the reality of the place and to his own body promise that his epiphany will be more than equal to the humiliation to which Sloane is subjecting him.

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