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Literature, Science, and a New Humanities (Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance) Paperback – 14 Sep 2008
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"This is an exhilarating book - a call for an intellectual revolution made with brio, unstinting reason, and an exciting proof of concept." - Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University and author of The Language Instinct, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought
"Gottschall is a major star in the emerging field of literary Darwinism. Literature, Science, and a New Humanities makes a brilliant and passionate case that literary studies needs to adopt the research methods of the natural and social sciences in order to combat the intellectual sclerosis that has set in as theory s grip has weakened. The book is beautifully written, highly intelligent, and morally bracing - it is at once a strong challenge, a how-to manual, a manifesto, and a clarion call to change." - Blakey Vermeule, Associate Professor of English, Stanford University
Literature, Science, and a New Humanities challenges dominant modes of literary analysis and sketches outlines of a new paradigm, theory, method, and ethos inspired by scientific models --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product description
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Gottschall convincingly delineates the pretentiousness and impenetrability of current literary studies, leading to a precipitous decline in their status and achievements. He proposes a scientization of such studies, dealing in the first part of his book with theory, methods, and attitude. In the second part he describes experiments which he has elaborated and conducted, exemplifying the use of the scientific method which he advocates.
Gottschall's reading is wide, and his documentation provides an excellent conspectus of research in this and related areas. He thus gives the reader who may lack background an entry into the bases of the position he holds. This factor alone makes the book of great value to the general reader who is interested in the better understanding of our complex world. I congratulate the author on this clear and convincing exposition.
In a lit theory class I was roundly castigated for suggesting that biology (imagine that!) plays an important role in human development and gender identification. When I suggested that Judith Butler's theories about gender were not only controversial, but largely unsupported in the scientific community, you'd think I'd just informed a class that Santa Claus didn't exist.
It was therefore refreshing to me to discover a book that recognizes work done outside humanities departments and that while Marx and Freud are doubtless important figures in intellectual development, they are largely historical figures and don't have much purchase in political science or economics (Marx) or modern neuroscience (Freud).
It's stunning that English departments are often dominated by figures that did their work in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It's as if no one has thought about these issues since then. I suspect that's why the humanities have languished in a backwater for the past twenty or thirty years stuck in ever-ending non-theorizing. Still, the humanities have important things to offer the quest for knowledge. And this book goes a long way toward offering a potential path that might be taken to re-integrate work in the humanities with the work that's proceeding in other academic disciplines.
I am not suggesting that we abandon Derrida or Lacan or Butler or Barthes or Frye or any of the other folks who have dominated the literary landscape. Nor do I discount the work of people like Butler who've offered important critiques of the status quo. What I do believe, however, is that this book ought to stand beside those texts as required reading. It offers important insights to the world of humanities...how they might sharpen their theories and strengthen their arguments and improve their means of analysing texts. I have yet to read a more important book on the future of modern literary theory.
For an interesting discussion of verbal art that takes serious the languages used in such art, I would encourage people to read Dell Hymes's In Vain I Tried to Tell You: Essays in Native American Ethnopoetics.
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