Evolution, Literature, and Film:


A Reader


edited by


Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall


Columbia University Press





Table of contents 


Part 1: Evolution and Human Nature


1.1.        Historical Overview


1. David Buss. Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind (2008)


1.2. The Theory of Evolution

2. Charles Darwin. On the Origin of Species: Recapitulation and Conclusion. (1859)

 3. Richard Dawkins. The Digital River. (1995)


1.3. Evolution and Humankind


4. Charles Darwin. The Descent of Man: General Summary and Conclusion. (1871)

5. Edward O. Wilson. Man: From Sociobiology to Sociology. (1975)

6. Donald E. Brown. The Universal People. (1991)

7. Edward O. Wilson. Sociobiology at Century’s End. (2000)

8. Steven Pinker.  Evolution and Explanation (2005)

9. David Sloan Wilson. Evolution and Social Constructivism. (2005)


Part 2: The Riddle of Art


10. Steven Pinker. Art and Adaptation (1997)

11. Edward O. Wilson. The Arts and Their Interpretation. (1998)

12. Ellen Dissanayake. Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began. (2000)

13. Geoffrey Miller. Arts of Seduction. (2000)

14. John Tooby and Leda Cosmides. Does Beauty Build Adapted Minds?  (2001)

15. Denis Dutton. The Uses of Fiction. (2009)


Part 3: Literature, Film, and Evolution: Theory


16. Brian Boyd. Getting It All Wrong: Bioculture Critiques Cultural Critique. (2006)

17. Joseph Carroll, Jonathan Gottschall, John Johnson, and Daniel Kruger.  Imagining Human Nature.

18. Edward Slingerland. Two Worlds: The Ghost and the Machine. (2008)

19. Marcus Nordlund. Consilient Literary Interpretation. (2002)

20. Robin Headlam Wells. Humanism and Human Nature in the Renaissance (2005)

21. Joseph Anderson. The Reality of Illusion. (1996)

22. Murray Smith. Darwin and the Directors. (2003)

23. David Bordwell. What Snakes, Eagles, and Rhesus Macaques Can Teach Us. (2008)


Part 4: Interpretations


24. Jonathan Gottschall. Homeric Women: Re-imagining the Fitness Landscape. (2008)

25. Michelle Scalise Sugiyama. New Science, Old Myth: An Evolutionary Critique of the Oedipal Paradigm. (2001)

26. Daniel Nettle. The Wheel of Fire and the Mating Game: Explaining the Origins of Tragedy and Comedy. (2005)

27. Marcus Nordlund. Jealousy in Othello. (2007)

28. Nancy Easterlin.  Wordsworth, Psychoanalysis and the ‘Discipline of Love.’ (2000)

29. William Flesch. Vindication and Vindictiveness: Oliver Twist. (2007)

30. Joseph Carroll. The Cuckoo’s History: Human Nature in Wuthering Heights. (2008)

31. Brett Cooke. Human Nature, Utopia and Dystopia: Zamyatin’s We. (2002)

32. Judith P. Saunders. Paternal Confidence in Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘The Gilded Six Bits.’

33. Joseph Anderson. Character in Citizen Kane. (1996)

34. David Bordwell. Convention, Construction, and Cinematic Vision. (1996/2008)

35. Brian Boyd.  Art and Evolution: The Avant-Garde as Test Case: Spiegelman in The Narrative Corpse. (2008)


Part 5: Literature as Laboratory       

36. Jonathan Gottschall. Literature, Science, and a New Humanities. (2008)

37. Catherine Salmon and Donald Symons. Slash Fiction and Human Mating Psychology. (2004)

38. Michelle Scalise Sugiyama. Cultural Variation is Part of Human Nature: Literary Universals, Context-Sensitivity and ‘Shakespeare in the Bush.’ (2003)

39. Joseph Carroll, Jonathan Gottschall, John Johnson, and Daniel Kruger. Paleolithic Politics in British Novels of the Nineteenth Century.



Contributor Biographies

Joseph Anderson is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Central Arkansas and founding director of the Society for Cognitive Studies  of the Moving Image. He is the author of The Reality of Illusion: An Ecological Approach to Cognitive Film Theory (1996, 1998) and coeditor (with Barbara Fisher Anderson) of Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations (2005, 2006) and Narration and Spectatorship in Moving Images (2007).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus of Film Studies, University of WisconsinMadison. He has written several books on the aesthetics and history of cinema, including Narration in the Fiction Film, On the History of Film Style, and, most recently, Poetics of Cinema (2007).


Brian Boyd is University Distinguished Professor of English, University of Auckland. His Nabokov work (biography, criticism, editions) has been translated into twelve languages. His On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction (2009) proposes art and storytelling as adaptations, explains the evolved cognitive mechanisms underpinning fiction, and shows the implications for reading classic fictions. He has also published many evolutionary literary essays, theoretical and interpretive.


David Buss is Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, and Past President of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.  He is author of more than 200 scientific publications, as well as a number of books, including The Evolution of Desire:  Strategies of Human Mating; The Dangerous Passion; and Evolutionary Psychology:  The New Science of the Mind.


Donald E. Brown is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  His research focuses on the peoples and cultures of Southeast Asia, social structure, ethnohistory, human universals and ethnicity/ethnocentrism.  His principal publications include Brunei: The Structure and History of a Bornean Malay Sultanate; Principles of Social Structure: Southeast Asia; Hierarchy, History, and Human Nature: The Social Origins of Historical Consciousness; and Human Universals.


Joseph Carroll is Curators' Professor of English at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. His Evolution and Literary Theory (1995) integrated traditional humanist theory with evolutionary psychology and set both into sharp opposition with poststructuralist theory. The essays collected in Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature (2004) took in new developments in the field and worked toward a comprehensive theory of human nature and literature, and he has written many subsequent essays. His annotated edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (2003) is widely used in classes on the history of science.


Brett Cooke is Professor of Russian at Texas A&M University. In addition to Darwinist studies of opera, Western science fiction, Irish art, ballet, and, naturally, Russian literature, he is the author of Human Nature in Utopia: Zamyatin's We (2002). He is also co-editor (with Frederick Turner) of Biopoetics: Evolutionary Explorations in the Arts (1999) and (with Jan Baptist Bedaux) of Sociobiology and the Arts (1999).


Charles Darwin, independent scholar, biologist, discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Author of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, The Expression of Emotions in Animals and Man, and many other works.


Richard Dawkins retired in 2009 as the first Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford. Dawkins is the author of many books including The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, The Ancestor's Tale, The God Delusion and, most recently, The Greatest Show on Earth. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. His prizes include the International Cosmos Prize, the Kistler Prize, the Lewis Thomas Prize, the Shakespeare Prize, and the Nierenberg Prize.


Ellen Dissanayake is an independent scholar, writer, and lecturer, whose writings about the arts over 35 years synthesize many disciplines and draw upon fifteen years of living and working in non-Western countries. Author of three books and numerous scholarly and general articles, she is currently Affiliate Professor in the School of Music, University of Washington.  Her book, Homo Aestheticus (1992), has been translated into Chinese and Korean.


Denis Dutton is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He edits the website "Arts & Letters Daily" and the journal Philosophy and Literature,
published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. He is also author of The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution (2009).


Nancy Easterlin is Research Professor of English at the University of New Orleans. She is coeditor with Barbara Riebling of After Poststructuralism: Interdisciplinarity and Literary Theory (Northwestern,1993) and author of Wordsworth and the Question of ‘Romantic Religion’ (1996) as well as numerous essays on biocultural approaches to literature. She is currently completing a book entitled What Is Literature For? Biocultural Theory and Interpretation.


William Flesch teaches English, film, and sometimes philosophy at Brandeis.  In addition to Comeuppance (2007), he is the author of Generosity and the Limits of Authority: Shakespeare, Herbert, Milton, and The Facts on File Companion to Nineteenth Century British Poetry.


Jonathan Gottschall is an adjunct in the English Department at Washington & Jefferson College.  He is the author of The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer (2008) and Literature, Science, and a New Humanities (2008). He is co-editor of The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (2005).


Robin Headlam Wells is Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Roehampton University, London. His most recent book is Shakespeare’s Humanism (2005). He is currently writing A Short History of Human Nature.


John A. Johnson is Professor of Psychology, at Pennsylvania State University, DuBois. He has published many articles on the personality and evolutionary psychology of moral and educational development, career choice, and work performance. He is currently co-editing a book, Advanced Methods for Conducting Online Behavioral Research.


Daniel J. Kruger is an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan, where he is affiliated with the Prevention Research Center in the School of Public Health and the Life Course: Evolutionary and Ontogenetic Dynamics program at the Institute for
Social Research. His evolutionary research interests include: altruism, cooperation, competition, risk taking, mortality patterns, mating strategies, and applications for social and ecological sustainability. Many of his research projects are grounded in evolutionary life history theory.


Geoffrey Miller teaches evolutionary psychology and human sexuality, and does research on mate choice, sexual selection, intelligence, creativity, art, music, personality, psychopathology, consumer behavior, and behavior genetics.  His books include The Mating Mind (2000), Mating Intelligence (co-edited with Glen Geher 2008), and Spent: Sex, evolution, and consumer behavior (2009).  Following a B.A. from Columbia and a Ph.D. from Stanford, he worked at University of Sussex, University College London, and London School of Economics, and is currently associate professor of psychology at University of New Mexico.


Daniel Nettle is a Reader in the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Newcastle University, where he studies the application of evolutionary theory to human behaviour in many domains. He is the author of several books including, most recently, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (2007). He also spent several years as a professional actor and theater director, and still retains an interest in theater in practice as well as theory.


Marcus Nordlund is an associate professor of English at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and specializes in English Renaissance literature and biocultural literary theory. He has published two books -- The Dark Lantern: A Historical Study of Sight in Shakespeare in Shakespeare, Webster, and Middleton (1999) and Shakespeare and the Nature of Love: Literature, Culture, Evolution (2007) -- and articles on a variety of literary subjects from Shakespeare to Toni Morrison.


Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and the author of seven books on language, cognition, and human nature, most recently The Stuff of Thought.


Catherine Salmon is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Redlands. She is the author (with Don Symons) of Warrior Lovers and the co-editor (with Charles Crawford) of Evolutionary Psychology, Public Policy and Personal Decisions and  (with Todd Shackelford) Family Relationships: An Evolutionary Perspective. Her research interests include female sexuality and pornography, eating disorders, and birth order and family relationships. When not in the office, she is usually found working with pit bull terriers or horseback riding.


Judith P. Saunders is Professor of English at Marist College in New York State.  Her articles take in a wide range of literary figures, including Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Thoreau, Stephen Crane, Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, and others.  She is the author of a book-length study of the British poet Charles Tomlinson. She has undertaken Darwinian analysis of a variety of literary works, most recently in Edith Wharton and Evolutionary Biology: Reading Her Fiction through a Darwinian Lens (2009).


Michelle Scalise Sugiyama is Research Associate at the University of Oregon Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, and founder and Director of the Cognitive Cultural Studies Division at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology, UC Santa Barbara.  Her research focuses on cognitive adaptations for cultural transmission, with an emphasis on narrative and art behavior in foraging societies.  She has written numerous articles on the origins of storytelling, the role that folklore plays in foraging societies, and the cognitive foundations of narrative.


Edward Slingerland is Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition at the University of British Columbia. His first book, Effortless Action: Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China (2003), won the American Academy of Religion’s award for the Best First Book in the History of Religions. His most recent monograph, What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body and Culture (2008), argues for the relevance of the natural sciences to the humanities.


Murray Smith is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. He is the author of Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema (1995), Trainspotting  (2002), and co-editor of Film Theory and Philosophy (1997), Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (1998) and Thinking through Cinema: Film as Philosophy (2006). His research interests include the psychology of film viewing and the place of emotion in film reception, as well as the philosophy of film, music and of art more generally. He is currently working on the implications of evolutionary theory for film culture.


Don Symons received a B.A. in psychology and a Ph.D. in biological anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley.  He has been a faculty member of the anthropology Department at U.C. Santa Barbara since 1970, and is currently Professor Emeritus.  He studied social play among free ranging rhesus monkeys (Play and Aggression, 1978) and was an early contributor to the field of evolutionary psychology (The Evolution of Human Sexuality, 1979).


John Tooby and Leda Cosmides are best known for their work in pioneering the new field of evolutionary psychology. They are professors of anthropology and psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where they co-direct the Center for Evolutionary Psychology.  Both were educated at Harvard and Stanford (postdoctoral). Awards for their research include the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Behavioral Science Research, the American Psychological Association’s Early Career Award; a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, and J. S. Guggenheim Fellowships; John Tooby has been president of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.


David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, both in his own research and as director of EvoS, a unique campus-wide evolutionary studies program. He is known for championing the theory of multilevel selection, which has implications ranging from the origin of life to the nature of religion. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (2002) and Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (2007). His next book is titled Evolving the City: An Evolutionist Contemplates Changing the Word—One City at a Time


Edward O. Wilson is University Research Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. His 25 books include On Human Nature (1978) and The Ants (1990, with Bert Hölldobler), which won Pulitzer prizes, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998), and most recently The Future of Life (2002), and again with Bert Hölldobler, The Superorganism (2009).