On the origin of stories : evolution, cognition, and fiction /

Main Author: Boyd, Brian, 1952-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Cambridge : Belknap Harvard, 2010
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Review by Choice Review

A renowned Nabokov scholar, Boyd (English, Univ. of Auckland, NZ) has created a compelling, erudite, and thoroughly original work about the nature of humanistic expression in art and literature. Beautifully written and wide-ranging, the book delves into social science, evolutionary biology, art, and literature to create a comprehensive account of the evolutionary origins of art and storytelling. The author argues that art derives from play and is a humanistic adaptation, offering advantages for human survival. Storytelling, he contends, fosters cooperation, social cognition, and creativity. Boyd divides the volume into two "books." The first, "Evolution, Art, and Fiction," examines how one can--and should--see human nature within an evolutionary framework. The second, "From Zeus to Seuss: Origins of Stories," provides "an evolutionary account of art in general" and offers a new understanding of and appreciation for works of literature of all types. (In this section, Boyd looks at Homer's Odyssey and Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who!) Apropos the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, this book is a fitting tribute to Darwin. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. K. Wein University of Wisconsin, Platteville

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Having just celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, it seems appropriate to reconsider the many ways his theories influence evolutionary thinking in all subjects, particularly writing. Boyd (University Distinguished Professor, English, Univ. of Auckland, New Zealand) reminds readers of the ways in which language is changing and adapting, the ways in which literature helps humans better understand our willingness and need to adapt, and why we tell stories. Using examples as diverse at Homer's Odyssey and the Dr. Seuss favorite Horton Hears a Who, Boyd offers a lively discussion of why human emotions are "triggered" by particular works, why those works hold our attention, and how storytellers derive solutions to fundamental human problems. The resulting book is a fascinating blend of the humanities and the sciences. Recommended for all academic libraries and for public libraries as interest warrants.-Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.