Evolution and Literary Theory

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Carroll anatomizes the irrationalism of current literary theory with surgical precision. In a concise, lucid prose, he lays bare the sophistries at the heart of the doctrines propounded by Derrida, Foucault, Jameson, Greenblatt, Eagleton, J. Hillis Miller, Fish, and many others. In opposition to the textualism and indeterminacy that constitute the central doctrines of poststructuralism, Carroll affiliates himself with a realist and naturalist tradition of thought that runs from Darwin and Huxley, through Leslie Stephen and Thorstein Veblen, to Konrad Lorenz and Karl Popper. He offers a comprehensive synthesis of current evolutionary theory in the human sciences, and he shows why the evolutionary paradigm provides the only adequate source for a modern theory of culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Joseph Carroll's Evolution and Literary Theory is a courageous and much needed attempt to do battle with the dragon of social constructivism. Although, as its title suggests, the book focuses on literary theory, its scope is really much wider."—Washington Times

"Carroll is a man with big ideas and a big subject. If he is interested in literary criticism, and indeed he is, he is also interested in running this back to the moment of creation and looking on ahead to what may come to pass in the centuries ahead. In short, he has an enormous philosophical thesis."—Cleanth Brooks

"Evolution and Literary Theory is indeed a work of considerable erudition, and also a work of substantial engagement, partly because of the quality of the author's openness of mind, reasonableness of argument, and clarity of writing. . . . In recollection of Darwin's description of The Origin of Species, Carroll's book is one long argument against poststructuralism in the light of what is now known about Darwinian naturalism. For, contrary to other criticisms that might be made about poststructuralism, Carroll has an alternative for those literary critics who find poststructuralism inadequate or simply wrong-headed. . . . It is the Darwinian naturalism that is the central contribution of Carroll."—Carl N. Degler

Carroll (English, U. of Missouri) attacks the principles of poststructuralism and offers a new theory that situates literary criticism within the matrix of evolutionary theory. He affiliates himself with a realist and naturalist tradition of thought that runs from Darwin and Huxley through Konrad Lorenz and Karl Popper. He offers a synthesis of current evolutionary theory in the human sciences, and illustrates his arguments with references to writers of various periods. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826209795
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 536
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Carroll is the author of The Cultural Theory of Matthew Arnold and Wallace Stevens' Supreme Fiction.  He is Professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Doctrinal Orientation 1
2 Plan of the Book 12
3 The Historical Position of a Darwinian Critical Paradigm 16
4 Historicism Old and New 32
5 Systemic Totalization and Pluralistic Compromise 40
Ch. 1 Poststructuralism, Traditional Criticism, and Evolutionary Theory 49
1 The Elimination of World and Person 50
2 The Truistic/Radical Shuffle 56
3 Semiotic Transcendentalism and Biological Naturalism 68
4 The Institutional Purposes of Poststructuralism 84
5 A Naturalistic Critical Ethos 92
Ch. 2 Literature as a Form of Knowledge 96
1 Body, Mind, and Representation 96
2 Literature as a Subject of Study 103
3 Criticism as an Empirical Discipline 112
Ch. 3 The Elementary Principles of Literary Figuration 129
1 Realism and Symbolism 130
2 Human Nature, Culture, and Individual Identity 148
Ch. 4 A Model of Literary Development 176
1 Causal Reductions 177
2 Systemic Change 184
3 Fictional Instances 191
4 Formal Reductions 200
5 Browning's Model 211
6 An Instance from Stevens 217
Ch. 5 A Model of Possible Thematic Models 222
1 A Table of Thematic Categories 223
2 The Psyche 228
3 Synthetic Critical Concepts 236
4 The Problem of Categorical Limitation 238
5 Interpretive Applications of the Categories 249
Ch. 6 The Sexual Dyad 268
1 Social Causation and Biocultural Interaction 268
2 Gendered Categories 272
3 Eliot's Revision of the Patriarchal Paradigm 279
Ch. 7 The Thematic Structure of the Darwinian Paradigm 291
1 A Darwinian Conception of the Specifically Human 291
2 The Metaphysical Structure of Darwinian Thought 310
Ch. 8 Pater's Figures of Perplexity 323
1 The Critical Situation 323
2 The Thematic Structure of Marius 328
3 The Psychosexual Matrix 330
4 The Three Epiphanies 334
5 Burying the Dead 341
6 Fading Echoes 343
7 Pater's Canonical Status 345
Ch. 9 Sex and Disinterested Social Sentiment 351
1 Sex and Utopia in Darwin's Descent 351
2 Symons on Sex Differences 373
3 The Larger Sexual Logic 380
Ch. 10 Archetypalism Positive and Negative 382
1 Frye: Anatomy of the Red Cross Critic 383
2 Derrida among the Archetypes 390
Ch. 11 Discursive Practices and Scientific Revision 410
1 Foucault and Verbal Ballet 411
2 Bowlby's Revision of Freud 435
3 Style and the Men 445
Ch. 12 Biologistic Affiliates of Poststructuralism 449
1 Lewontin and the Human Gap in the Natural Order 449
2 Rorty on Organismic Noises 452
3 Kuhn on Disciplinary Speciation 454
4 Rational Debate over Competing Paradigms 462
Conclusion 466
References 471
Index 497
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