UNIVERSALS IN LITERARY STUDY
From the time of Aristotle until the late eighteenth century, most literary theorists believed that literature represented universal realities or gave expression to universal truths. The belief in universals has been based on two distinct philosophical orientations, the naturalistic and the transcendental. Transcendental theorists postulate absolute spiritual realities--ultimate forms of beauty and truth--and argue that literary works gain access to those ultimate realities. Naturalistic theorists postulate a common human nature--a structure of motives, cognitive processes, and emotions that are common to all people--and they argue that literary works represent that common human nature. The naturalistic conception of universals has had the deepest and most widespread influence on literary theory, and it is almost inescapably implied by literary practice. In respect to the idea of a common human nature, naturalism and transcendentalism are not necessarily incompatible, and transcendental theorists have sometimes also been, in this respect, naturalistic. At present, naturalism is the only orientation in which theorists are actively developing the theory of literary universals. Most contemporary proponents of literary universals are Darwinians. They argue that the universal characteristics of human nature have been produced by an adaptive process of natural selection, and they seek an understanding of human nature in evolutionary disciplines such as ethology, sociobiology, and evolutionary psychology.
Two main schools of thought have challenged the idea of literary universals: philosophic particularism and historicism. Philosophic particularism is the belief that every moment of perception is unique and irreducible, and that the only regularity is flux. This belief has roots both in ancient Heraclitean philosophy and in the empirical English philosophy of the eighteenth century, but it became a major component of literary theory only in the late nineteenth century. Philosophic particularism enters into the closely related literary movements of aestheticism, decadence, and symbolism, and through these movements it had a major impact on modernist literature in the first half of the twentieth century. Historicism is the belief that human experience and literary expression can be radically modified by differences of cultural context. The historicism that arose in the later eighteenth century and that pervades nineteenth-century cultural theory is largely developmental and progressivist. The order of cultural change is sometimes attributed to the developmental design of human nature, and in this form historicism is itself a theory of a universal human design. The ?New Historicism@ that has emerged in the past twenty years, and that currently dominates Anglophone literary theory, repudiates human universals. The New Historicists subscribe to the deconstructive doctrine that all experience is wholly constituted by verbal forms and cultural constructs, and they treat all historical change as discontinuous and non-progressive.
In the first part of this article, I shall give some illustrative instances of naturalistic universalism, transcendental universalism, philosophic particularism, and historicism. In the second part, I shall examine the effort to make sense of universals within the Darwinian framework.
UNIVERSALISTS, PARTICULARISTS, AND HISTORICISTS
Aristotle is the chief classical exemplar of a naturalistic conception of literary universals. In his Poetics he maintains both that the impulse toward literary representation and the represented content of literature are universal. Representation is a form of ?imitation,@ and the impulse toward imitation is Arooted in human nature@ (47). In a passage that has been very frequently quoted as a defense of literary meaning, he contrasts the literal particularity of historical writing with the typical or representative character of literature. Literature, he claims, ?is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history, in that poetry tends rather to express the universal, history rather the particular fact@ (54).
The writers of the neo-classical period in Europe and England--the later seventeenth century and most of the eighteenth century--refine and complete the classical version of the naturalistic conception of literary universals. The import of their work can be exemplified by a passage from Samuel Johnson. Probably the single most frequently cited formulation of a neo-classical aesthetic creed is that which Johnson gives to his spokesman, the poet Imlac, in the philosophical novel Rasselas. Johnson=s creed is both naturalistic and transcendental. That is, he appeals both to human nature and to a divinely sanctioned order of moral truth. Imlac declares that ?the province of poetry is to describe Nature and Passion, which are always the same@ (39-40). The poet=s purpose must be ?to examine, not the individual, but the species; to remark general properties and large appearances: he does not number the streaks of the tulip, or describe the different shades in the verdure of the forest@ (43). Johnson recognizes that the forms of experience are modified by changes of time and cultural circumstance, but he believes that beneath all variations the same motives and passions are at work. The poet must ?estimate the happiness and misery of every condition; observe the power of all the passions in all their combinations, and trace the changes of the human mind as they are modified by various institutions and accidental influences of climate or custom@ (44). The elementary passions and motives are essential components of a universal design; changes of culture and climate are merely ?accidents,@ that is, superficial or adventitious modifications of the design. Thus far, Johnson=s formulation closely parallels the views of evolutionary psychologists, but Johnson has no suspicion of the evolutionary basis for the species-typical human design, and his classical naturalistic conception orients itself instead to a transcendental morality. The poet, Imlac says, ?must divest himself of the prejudices of his age or country; he must consider right and wrong in their abstracted and invariable state; he must disregard present laws and opinions, and rise to general and transcendental truths, which will always be the same@ (44).
In Johnson=s thinking, the elementary human passions are closely connected with moral realities that are universal and accessible to enlightened reason. In another form of transcendental theory, the passions and the senses are taken to be part of the lower, animal nature of humanity, and this lower nature is set in stern opposition to the supposedly divine powers of reason and will. If, within this dualistic conception of human nature, the theorist associates literature with the lower nature, the senses and feelings, he will regard literature with deep moral suspicion. It is thus that Plato chooses to banish poets from the ideal republic, and similar motives animated the English Puritans in shutting the Elizabethan theaters. Plato believes in beauty and good as absolutes, but he does not believe that literature, concerned as it is with flux and the surface of things, can gain access to this absolute good.
In contrast to Plato, transcendental writers of a Romantic bent take literature and the literary imagination as the central means of access to absolute beauty or good. Percy Bysshe Shelley, for instance, declares that Ato be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word, the good. . . . A poet participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one@ (123-24). In Romantic theorists, transcendentalism is often combined with a naturalistic appeal to a common human nature. Thus, Shelley argues that poetry represents actions in accordance with Athe unchangeable forms of human nature@(128). And William Wordsworth argues that poetry traces Athe primary laws of our nature,@ and especially Athe essential passions of the heart@ (447). Wordsworth thinks that poetry both represents and appeals to ?our elementary feelings@ (447). Though the Romantics emphasize fervor of composition and response rather than objectivity of representation, formulations of this sort recall the neoclassical formulations of Samuel Johnson, and they anticipate Victorian reaffirmations of a classical universalism. The most prominent Victorian literary theorist, Matthew Arnold, simultaneously invokes Aristotle and echoes Wordsworth. He declares that the purpose of dramatic poetry is to depict actions, and he identifies the most excellent actions as those ?which most powerfully appeal to the great primary human affections: to those elementary feelings which subsist permanently in the race, and which are independent of time@ (4).
In the twentieth century, the most prominent theorist of literary universals has been Northrop Frye. Like his Romantic predecessors Frye invokes both transcendental and naturalistic versions of universals. The best known aspect of Frye=s literary theory is the cyclical seasonal taxonomy of genres in Anatomy of Criticism. Frye associates each of four major genres with a season: spring with the romance quest, summer with romantic comedy, fall with tragedy, and winter with irony and realism. Frye links each of these phases with a set of character types, plot situations, and tonal perspectives. Each type has mythic antecedents or archetypes, and the types serve to categorize both specific individual works and whole cultural periods. Frye=s sources include Jung=s theory of psychological archetypes as innate mental forms derived from inherited ancestral experience, but the most comprehensive framework for his theory is a Platonic conception of transcendent ideal forms. He argues that at the highest level, the ?anagogic@ or spiritual level, all of the archetypal forms merge into a single spiritual absolute, ?a single infinite and eternal verbal symbol@ (121).
In the mid-century period, Frye was widely esteemed the most creative and authoritative among modern literary theorists, but his prestige has now faded. Archetypal myth criticism flourished in the nineteen-sixties and seventies but has had very few recent proponents. From the nineteen-forties through the nineteen-sixties, a large proportion of Anglophone literary critics cherished beliefs, similar to Frye=s, about the transcendent nature of the poetic symbol, but the Derridean deconstructionists who came into prominence in the nineteen-seventies gleefully repudiated transcendentalism, and the general ideological temper of recent theory has been subversive, not reverential.
In both its transcendental and naturalistic forms, the idea of literary universals sets itself in dialectical opposition to the idea of literary particulars. This opposition can be conceived either invidiously, as a contrast between the better and the worse, or as a complementary relationship between interdependent poles of representation.
Invidious oppositions can favor either universals or particulars, though the proponents of universals have been more numerous. Invidious universalist conceptions are apparent in the contrast that Aristotle makes between poetry and history, in the contrast that Johnson makes between the essential structure of unchanging human passions and the merely accidental variations of climates, and customs. Invidious proponents of particularity include advocates of ?realism@ in fiction. Ian Watt, for instance, identifies the novel as the paradigmatic realist form, and he presents it as an integral part of ?that vast transformation of Western civilisation since the Renaissance which has replaced the unified world picture of the Middle Ages with another very different one--one which presents us, essentially, with a developing but unplanned aggregate of particular individuals having particular experiences at particular times and at particular places@ (31). Watt=s historical vision consists in a simple progression from Platonic transcendentalism through British empiricism. The one British writer who most forcibly articulates an extreme philosophic particularism, the critic and novelist Walter Pater, offers a more complex account of philosophical history. Pater sets his own vision in contrast to that of Plato, but he also affiliates himself with the ancient Heraclitean and Epicurean philosophy. Pater=s particularism is both ultra-individualistic and ultra-atomistic. He speaks of each ?individual in his isolation,@ and he insists that ?those impressions of the individual mind to which, for each one of us, experience dwindles down, are in perpetual flight; that each of them is limited by time, and that as time is infinitely divisible, each of them is infinitely divisible also; all that is actual in it being a single moment, gone while we try to apprehend it@ (The Renaissance, 187-88).
Pater=s particularism takes extreme form only in his earlier work. In his later work, he offers a more balanced account of the complementary interaction between particulars and universals, and in this more balanced account he rejoins the mainstream of modern European literary theory. Schiller=s distinction between ?naive@ and ?sentimental@ poetry offers an exemplary instance of this mainstream tradition. Assimilating previous formulations of the distinction between ancient and modern literature, Schiller holds that naive poetry, associated with pagan antiquity, is objective, sensual, concrete, action-oriented, and particularistic. Sentimental poetry, associated with modern European poetry, is subjective, reflective, abstract, meditative and synthetic. Schiller=s theory had a direct influence on the literary theory of Carl Jung, who invokes Schiller=s dichotomy and links it with extraversion and introversion, the primary polar terms of his theory of personality. Northrop Frye follows in the same tradition and adapts it to a generic distinction between the novel, which is supposedly realistic and extraverted, and the romance, which is symbolic and introverted. ?The romancer does not attempt to create >real people= so much as stylized figures which expand into psychological archetypes@ (304). The English poet and theorist Robert Browning formulates a dichotomy similar to Schiller=s and fashions it into a dialectic intended to describe the laws of development in all literary traditions. In one phase, Browning argues, poets seek new material from the concrete particulars of contemporary reality, and in a succeeding phase they organize this new material within a total imaginative synthesis. The dialectic progresses as an expansive spiral, not merely cycling through the phases of the dialectic but using it to increase the range of poetic representation.
In the later eighteenth century, cultural historians
began attempting to take account of the differences of imaginative life in
differing periods of history. Before the publication of
Most historicists presuppose some continuity in the
ground-plan of human nature. They nonetheless tacitly allow for some level at
which basic cognitive and emotional processes and basic social interactions can
be compared. In their programmatic statements, however, they tend to emphasize
the differences between their own views and the more strongly universalist bias
of neo-classical writers. Hippolyte Taine offers an instructive instance. Taine
is a naturalistic historicist who was influenced by
They thought men of every race and century were all but identical; the Greek, the barbarian, the Hindoo, the man of the Restoration, and the man of the eighteenth century, as if they had been turned out of a common mould; and all in conformity to a certain abstract conception, which served for the whole human race. They knew man, but not men; they had not penetrated to the soul; they had not seen the infinite diversity and marvelous complexity of souls; they did not know that the moral constitution of a people or an age is as particular and distinct as the physical structure of a family of plants or an order of animals. (5)
In practice, the historicists do in fact give more sensitive attention to the peculiarities of period and culture, but at the level of theoretical formulation, Taine=s contrast is too sharply drawn. Recall the representative neo-classical formulation of universals in Samuel Johnson=s Rasselas. Johnson declares that ?Nature and Passion@are ?always the same,@ but he also argues that the poet must ?trace the changes of the human mind as they are modified by various institutions and accidental influences of climate or custom.@ Moreover, Taine himself compares various distinct cultures by analyzing differences in the way certain common motives and cognitive processes operate among different races and at different periods.
In the twentieth century, the teleological progressivism of historicist cultural theory has remained alive in its Marxist versions, but the effort of writers like Herder and Hegel to construct a comprehensive rationale, intrinsic to the historical process, for every phase of cultural history, has long been abandoned. The Darwinian vision of biological change in evolutionary time as a mechanical process directed to no particular end has discouraged large-scale transcendental conceptions. The sentiments and assumptions animating Victorian visions of a necessary progress leading to ?the solidarity of mankind@ and ?the perfection of our race@ were dissolved and scattered in the cataclysm of the First World War (Eliot, 428). In the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth, many social thinkers and literary artists assimilated the Darwinian vision, particularly the social Darwinists and the naturalists. Presumably, a biologically based social science would eventually have had further ramifications in literary theory, but after the first decade of the current century the social sciences turned sharply against any association with Darwinism. The idea of cultural autonomy became the cornerstone of standard social science, and until the 1970s Darwinism essentially disappeared from professional social theory.
In the ?new historicism@ that emerged under the auspices of French cultural historians, and especially of Michel Foucault, the idea of cultural autonomy reached a culminating extreme. Foucault and his followers deny not only that humans share a common set of psychological structures but even that the idea of ?humanity@ is itself the relatively recent invention of a specific cultural moment. ?Before the end of the eighteenth century, man did not exist. . . . He is a quite recent creature, which the demiurge of knowledge fabricated with its own hands less than two hundred years ago.@ (The Order of Things, 308). As reference to Aristotle or almost any ancient writer will demonstrate, such claims do not stand historical inspection, but they have nonetheless enjoyed considerable popularity among literary theorists.
LITERARY UNIVERSALS AND THE ADAPTED MIND
In the past two decades, evolutionary thinkers in the human sciences have reaffirmed the elementary Darwinian idea that human beings, like all other animals, have evolved through an adaptive process and that consequently they display an innate, species-typical structure of cognitive and behavioral characteristics. They have reaffirmed, that is, the primary tenet in the theory of literary universals--the idea that there is in fact such a thing as ?human nature.@ Literary theorists sympathetic to Darwinian thinking must now confront two basic questions: what precisely is this species-typical or universal structure, and what bearing does it have on literary representation? Beyond these basic questions, there are other problems that are familiar in the history of literary theory and that now must be reformulated within the context of Darwinian social science. What is the relation of literary universals to cultural difference--differences of ethnic and national identity, socioeconomic organization, and historical periods? And further, within any given culture, what is the relation of literary universals to individual differences among authors--differences of sex or gender, race, social class, temperament, personality, and quality of mind? Theories of literature have often broached the question of function or purpose, and most formulations have adhered to the ancient idea that literature is both useful and pleasurable--utile et dulce. To give just one example, in a seventeenth-century dialogue on dramatic poetry, John Dryden=s spokesman defines a play as ?a just and lively image of human nature, representing its passions and humours, and the changes of fortune to which it is subject; for the delight and instruction of mankind@ (25). The question of function on this level must now be situated, at a deeper level, in relation to the problem of biological or adaptive function.
Literature itself has until recently been the only great repository of information about human nature. Empirical psychology is scarcely a hundred years old, and much of the psychological theory in this century has foundered amidst the sensational and distorted speculations of Freud and the barren reductions of behaviorism. Throughout the greater part of our history, our best psychologists have been playwrights, poets, and novelists. When Hamlet tells the players that the purpose of the poet is to hold Athe mirror up to nature@ (III: ii), it is human nature he has most in mind. Literary authors have intuitively understood that the subject matter of literature is human experience, that experience is grounded in common natural motives and feelings, and that sympathetic response to the depiction of experience in texts depends on the common shared experience among authors, the characters depicted, and the audience. Understanding the inner workings of the mind has been the heart and soul of the literary tradition, as it no doubt was the heart and soul of the oral traditions that are the ancestors of all literate cultures.
A Darwinian conception of the evolved and adapted character of the human mind is the essential precondition for establishing an empirical understanding of human nature that is profound enough and incisive enough to correspond with the intuitive understanding embodied in the literary tradition. If Darwin=s basic thesis about adaptive structure is correct--the idea that all complex, functional structure is the product of an adaptive process of natural selection--this thesis is the necessary basis for all empirical psychology. Thus John Bowlby, an evolutionary developmental psychologist, roundly affirms that ?not a single feature of a species= morphology, physiology, or behaviour can be understood or even discussed intelligently except in relation to that species= environment of evolutionary adaptedness@ (64).
A wide array of social scientists and a few literary theorists now accept the basic Darwinian premise of the adapted mind--a mind imbued with a rich and complex structure of innate dispositions and developmental programs. Literary Darwinians make the necessary extension from this premise to the claim that literary texts are themselves organized in close correlation with the elementary structures of the adapted mind. Working out from this premise, how much else is actually known? What specific features of human nature can be identified, what organization can be discerned among them, and how do they translate into the formal characteristics of verbal order and literary representation?
Two main schools of thought have directed the development of contemporary Darwinian theory about human motives: sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. The sociobiologists formed the first wave in the resurgence of Darwinism in the nineteen seventies. They went to the root of Darwinian thinking, the idea of ?inclusive fitness@ as the ultimate regulative principle of evolution. Inclusive fitness is the differential success in the transmission of genes, and sociobiological psychologists, geneticists, and anthropologists have tended to concentrate their attention on the elementary biological processes of survival and reproduction. One result of this concentration is a tendency to regard ?fitness maximization@or the maximization of progeny as a direct and primary motive in human behavior. Seeking to avoid this result, a younger generation of Darwinians, the evolutionary psychologists, distinguish between fitness maximization, as an ultimate regulative principle, and the proximal mechanisms through which fitness is mediated. Evolutionary psychologists maintain that these mechanisms--the structures of cognition and motivation--are the actual evolved content of the adapted mind. Some of the most influential evolutionary psychologists integrate Darwinian theory with cognitive psychology, and they identify the elementary components of the adapted mind as ?cognitive domains@or ?modules.@ These modules are conceived as genetically transmitted mechanisms that are designed through natural selection for the purpose of solving specific adaptive problems. They display complex functional structure and have anatomical components, physiological processes, or neural circuitry dedicated to the execution of their purposes.
The theory of cognitive domains is a large-scale research program, not an established body of confirmed fact. The identity and number of specific domains remains an open question, and lists have been compiled that vary from three or four to fifteen or sixteen. Much of the controversy in such matters, like that in the study of personality factors, consists in the problem of how to group specific items in larger categories. Beneath such uncertainties, there is a good deal of agreement on some of the most important large-scale components of human nature. The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker summarizes a view common among cognitive psychologists that ?innate intuitive theories or modules for the major ways of making sense of the world@ include ?modules for objects and forces, for animate beings, for artifacts, for minds, and for natural kinds like animals, plants, and minerals@ (How the Mind Works, 314-15). Pinker adds that this list, reflecting the limited concerns of cognitive psychology, ?is surely too short.@ A more realistic inventory would include ?modes of thought and feeling for danger, contamination, status, dominance, fairness, love, friendship, sexuality, children, relatives, and the self@ (315).
Similar lists can be found in the work of Darwinian anthropologists concerned with typical goal structures or universal human attributes. Jerome Barkow, for instance, compiles a list of common goal structures that includes maintaining physiological well-being, engaging in sexual and family relations, being a member of a social group, and constructing cognitive maps of one=s environment, including the social environment. In a book that offers an extensive and carefully considered treatment of human universals from within the Darwinian framework, the anthropologist Donald Brown constructs a composite portrait of ?the universal people,@ and in this portrait he includes the idea of the self and of other persons as beings actuated by beliefs and feelings, a set of six basic emotions and facial expressions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust), a dimorphic organization of sexual identity that involves division of labor and differential reproductive strategies, the elementary forms of kinship organized around the four components of the nuclear family (father, mother, son, daughter), some basic forms of social interaction, such as reciprocal exchange and status relations, the formulation of world views, and some basic forms of proto-literary (oral) expression, including narrative, metaphor, metonomy, onomatopoeia, and poetic meter.
Brown argues that the idea of the self or of individual persons is a human universal, and Pinker suggests it is almost certainly one of the evolved ?modules@ or cognitive domains. Among human beings, the sense of individual persons is the conscious correlative for the biological concept of the organism, and this concept is an essential precondition for the organization of behavior in goal-directed ways and for the interaction of individuals in social groups. In literary structures, the idea of an individual self is indispensable to the organization of literary meaning. Characters in poems, plays, and stories are individuals, and authors necessarily present their stories from some distinct point of view. All emotion and cognition is organized within the individual mind, and the response of audiences to literary works is thus necessarily lodged in individuals, even when the response is collectively experienced, as in the audience of a play. For these reasons, the study of individual psychology is both integral to the Darwinian conception of human beings and to literary analysis. As Taine understood, within both biology and literary analysis, the concept of an organism necessarily involves a complementary concept of an environment. Character and setting are thus elementary and inescapable components of all literary representation, and the principles that apply to all biological interaction must be taken as the larger context for all depicted action in literary texts. We now have a steadily growing body of empirical findings about the organization of individual organisms--psychological, cognitive, emotional--and the interactions of individuals with their social and physical worlds, and all of this information can be used as a framework for the critical analysis of literary depictions of human nature.
The modern study of Darwinian psychology has tended to concentrate on the idea of human universals, and within the Darwinian community itself there has been controversy over the adaptive significance of individual variations. Theorists who believe that individual variations are not adaptively important argue that adaptations display complex functional structure and that any such structure must be common to the species as a whole. Others seek to explain the adaptive value of variation within a given social ecology. For literary study, the vital point to be made is that universals and individual variations are not mutually exclusive concepts. The dimensions through which individual identity is structured and in which it necessarily varies are themselves universals. These dimensions are part of the evolved structure of human nature.
Two of the most important patterns through which individual identity is structured are personality factors and emotions. The five major factors of personality--extraversion/introversion, friendliness/hostility, neuroticism/security, conscientiousness/carelessness, and curiosity/dullness--can be used for the comparative analysis of characters, authors, and audience response. The universal human emotions are essential components in the tonal and generic structures in literary texts. Sadness is the basis of elegy and tragedy; and happiness the basis of comedy. Surprise is essential to suspense, and anger and disgust are the animating sentiments of satire. All individuals experience some measure of such emotions, and all individuals experience some of the affects that attend on the polar terms in the factors of personality. But individuals vary a great deal in the degree to which they experience any given emotion, for instance, anger or fear, and in their characteristically open or self-enclosed relations with the outside world.
The most important general structure available for the hierarchical analysis of motivating concerns within narrative and dramatic structures is the study of motives or life-goals. Motives vary in the depth and intensity of the concern they evoke. Some motivations have more fundamental structural significance than others. Brown observes that some universals ?are deeply meaningful to humans,@ and he specifies ?the attachments of family members, the grief they will feel at loss, the anguish at betrayal; bonds of loyalty among members of a group; pleasure in music and dance; distinguishing between true and false,@ and ?recognizing the morality in reciprocity@ (?Human Universals and Their Implications,@10). Generally, the closer one comes to the elementary principles of inclusive fitness--the closer to survival and reproduction (including family relations)--the deeper and more compelling the concern. The evolutionary psychologist David Buss notes that ?power and love emerge consistently and cross-culturally as the two most important dimensions of interpersonal behavior@ (21). They emerge also as the two most important motivating concerns in the plot structures of dramatic and narrative texts. Not all texts follow precisely the same struture of species-typical values and concerns, but the species-typical concerns provide the larger context within which all variation takes place, and they thus provide a common framework of analysis and comparison.
The question of the adaptive function of literature is at present highly controverted. At one extreme, literary theorists who take fitness maximization as a direct motive speculate that the writing of literature is a form of personal or sexual display. From this perspective, writing is a means of attracting attention, enhancing prestige, and thus advancing one=s reproductive prospects. At an opposite point on the spectrum of speculation about adaptive function, Steven Pinker suggests that the pleasurable aspect of all artistic activity, including literature, is merely a non-functional by-product of higher cognitive processes. Other theorists have argued that art and literature serve an array of adaptive purposes, including emotional and personal development, the integration of higher cognitive faculties and the elementary motivational structures, social bonding, social subversion, and cognitive mapping or the construction of models that can organize the complex and emotionally rich features of subjective life. Constructing an argument in parallel with those constructed for cognitive domains, one could note that literature or proto-literary forms of oral-behavior are universal features of human life, that they consume large quantities of energy and attention, and that they display complex functional structure. On these grounds, one could reasonably argue that they quite possibly have adaptive value. At the very least, they are forms of understanding and communication, and they participate in the adaptive value that attaches to all understanding and communication.
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