Why are good writers so rare? An evolutionary perspective on literature


Evolutionary approaches to literature can take one of two directions. One is to ask what functions story-telling serves. The second is to ask what role cognitive mechanisms play in the production of story-telling. I argue that story-telling evolved as part of the group-bonding processes that are concerned primarily with limiting the freedom of movement of freeriders within society. I then examine the extent to which stories reflect the author's intuitive grasp of the evolutionary principles that underpin human behaviour. Finally, I examine the extent to which human social cognitive capacities constrain both audience and composer in the production of stories. I argue that, to be successful, story-tellers have to work at cognitive levels beyond the norm for adult humans, and this may explain why good story-tellers are rare even though the ability to appreciate stories is universal. I understand that an author's success may be determined both by his/her intuitive understanding of the evolutionary factors that ultimately drive human behaviour and by the extent to which he/she is able to work at the cognitive limits of the target audience

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oaioai:ora.ox.ac.uk:uuid:90f2c35f-42ef-4ecb-87d9-daf7b2bce690Last time updated on 2/11/2012

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