Title page for ETD etd-01152004-152014

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Bankston, Bradley
URN etd-01152004-152014
Title Against Biopoetics: On the Use and Misuse of the Concept of Evolution in Contemporary Literary Theory
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Carl Freedman Committee Chair
Ed White Committee Member
Elsie Michie Committee Member
John Protevi Committee Member
William Demastes Committee Member
Kate Jensen Dean's Representative
  • biopoetics
  • literary theory
  • evolution
  • complexity
Date of Defense 2003-11-03
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation is a critical assessment of "biopoetics:" a new literary theory that attempts to import ideas from evolutionary science to the study of literature. Borrowing from the field of evolutionary psychology, the biopoeticists argue that some literary forms and themes are particularly valuable because they result from our innate and evolved cognitive structure; they also attempt to create a normative aesthetic from the idea that evolution is progressive. In its first half, this study examines the claims of evolutionary psychology and their application by the biopoeticists; in the second half, it examines the idea that evolution is progressive, and considers the implications this may have for literary theory. In its conclusion, this work argues that biopoetics, conceived from a dissatisfaction with other contemporary literary theories--and in particular with such theories-- politicization of literature--is more dubious in its assumptions and reasoning, and more programmatically political, than the approaches that it seeks to replace.
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