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Ergebnisanzeige "Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination"
RessourcentypCall for Papers
TitelBiological Constraints on the Literary Imagination
BeschreibungCall for Papers

Biological Constraints on the Literary Imagination

We are soliciting essays for a special journal issue dedicated to what could broadly be labelled "evolutionary literary studies" -- an emerging field of scholarship that has (arguably) been amongst the most innovative and controversial contributions to literary studies in recent years. Although evolutionary criticism is a far from homogeneous "school", most of the work done from this perspective shares a thematic, content-centred focus. Often drawing on the findings of traditional sociobiology, whose main interest is to trace echoes of our ancestral past in the experience and behaviour of modern humans, critics have explored character, plot structure and stylistic features of literary texts with view to explaining them as expressions of adaptive functions.
Hence scholars have read nineteenth-century novels in terms of mate choice, explained the Byronic hero of Romantic and post-Romantic literature by referring to the selective pressures of sexual attraction and investigated fairy tales for their concurrence with notions of beauty shaped by an evolutionary calculus. However, in equating such fictional realities with ancestral conditions of an evolutionary past, such readings not only fall prey to a simplistic mimeticism, they also run the risk of becoming formulaic, reductive and predictable, confirming the same suspicions raised against evolutionary perspectives on art by their critics.

With this projected special issue, by contrast, we wish to go beyond such thematic investigations and instead explore how evolution can help to explain intrinsic features of literary aesthetics not only with regard to the production of literature, but also on the level of its reception. By emphasising this dimension, we hope to extend the scope of evolutionary literary criticism beyond the predictable interpretations currently en vogue and make it available to a genuinely literary scholarship.

Proposed articles should consider the following questions:

- What are the biological foundations of literary fictions and why do humans have the desire to create and consume them?
- How are textual features and adaptive cognitive algorithms (the evolved architecture of the human brain) related?
- How does the literary inventory of textual features reflect these algorithms and what does literature implicitly presuppose about the human brain?

Potential contributions may be informed by the concerns of cognitive narratology and cognitive poetics as well as take a more specifically evolutionary angle. When employing adaptationist explanations, the essays should take into account the sophisticated standard of evolutionary psychology as established by (and developed since) the volume "The Adapted Mind" in 1992, notably its emphasis on the differentiation between ultimate and proximate causes (adaptive value and actual function) and reveal an awareness that adaptive algorithms may perform completely different functions, or even turn out to be dysfunctional, in a modern cultural environment.

Please submit 300-word abstracts by 1 September 2008 to Prof. Dr. Anja Müller-Wood ( and Dr. Katja Mellmann (

Dr. Katja Mellmann
Institut für deutsche Philologie Schellingstraße 3 D-80799 München
Quelle der BeschreibungInformation des Anbieters
PersonName: Mellmann, Katja [Dr.] 
Funktion: Veranstalterin 
KontaktdatenName/Institution: Institut für deutsche Philologie  
Strasse/Postfach: Schellingstraße 3 
Postleitzahl: 80799 
Stadt: München  
SchlüsselbegriffeNeurolinguistik/ Patholinguistik
Klassifikation03.00.00 Literaturwissenschaft > 03.07.00 Ästhetik
Ediert von  H-Germanistik
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