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Why Humans Like to Cry: The Evolutionary Origins of Tragedy
     

Why Humans Like to Cry: The Evolutionary Origins of Tragedy

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by Michael Trimble
 

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Human beings are the only species to have evolved the trait of emotional crying. We weep at tragedies in our lives and in those of others - remarkably even when they are fictional characters in film, opera, music, novels, and theatre. Why have we developed art forms - most powerfully, music - which move us to sadness and tears? This question forms the backdrop to

Overview

Human beings are the only species to have evolved the trait of emotional crying. We weep at tragedies in our lives and in those of others - remarkably even when they are fictional characters in film, opera, music, novels, and theatre. Why have we developed art forms - most powerfully, music - which move us to sadness and tears? This question forms the backdrop to Michael Trimble's discussion of emotional crying, its physiology, and its evolutionary implications.

His exploration examines the connections with other distinctively human features: the development of language, self-consciousness, religious practices, and empathy. Neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the brain have uncovered unique human characteristics; mirror neurones, for example, explain why we unconsciously imitate actions and behaviour. Whereas Nietzsche argued that artistic tragedy was born with the ancient Greeks, Trimble places its origins far earlier. His neurophysiological and evolutionary insights shed fascinating light onto this enigmatic part of our humanity.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this multidisciplinary investigation of emotional crying, Trimble (The Soul in the Brain), emeritus professor of behavioral neurology, explores the evolutionary and physiological roots of human tears with special reference to Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. Trimble's insights about lachrymal glands and dacrystic seizures are smart and thorough, although his facility with neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and evolutionary theory tends to highlight the defects in his knowledge of literary genres. In application to tragedy, the scientific perspectives that Trimble brings to bear are apt to seem essentializing, ahistorical, or simplistic. One does not necessarily need to turn to neurobiological perspectives in order to conclude, for example, that "Tears are an accompaniment to Tragedy as art form, and they reflect the tears of everyday human tragedy, which is linked to loss and mourning." To his credit, Trimble acknowledges the discomfort of certain scholars with the idea of music or tragedy as "universal language", but these acknowledgments rarely inflect his arguments about humanistic pursuits. On the whole, Trimble's lucid, appealing prose is at its best when occupied with tears rather than tragedy. 15 b&w illus.
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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199693184
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
12/12/2012
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Michael Trimble, Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Neurology, Institute of Neurology, London

Michael Trimble is emeritus professor of Behavioural Neurology at the Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London. His research for many years has been on the behavioural consequences of neurological disorders, especially epilepsy and movement disorders. He has a lifelong research interest in neuroanatomy, hence his ability to explore the neuroanatomical basis of crying. However, he is also a psychiatrist with much clinical experience of mood disorders, and had investigated the latter in patients using neurological techniques, such as brain imaging. He is the author of The Soul in the Brain (Johns Hopkins, 2007).

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Why Humans Like to Cry: The Evolutionary Origins of Tragedy 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
CindyDorf More than 1 year ago
  In his new book, Why humans like to cry: Tragedy, Evolution and the Brain, Michael Trimble beautifully illuminates the links between neuroanatomical pathways, evolutionary biology, empathy, tragedy, and  music that give rise to the “uniquely human ability” to cry emotionally.  Trimble addresses why we cry drawing on his deep knowledge of neuro anatomy and human behavior to show us that it is our  compassion, originating perhaps as far back as the early hominid communities, from which swell our tears in  response to the tragedies of life that echo in Tragic drama and the language of music. This insightful book is highly recommended. The style is clear and the topic universal.