A modest proposal for a reorientation in literary studies

Norbert Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This essay offers a review of Literature, Science and a New Humanities by Jonathan Gottschall. The author challenges the field of literary studies to rethink long-held assumptions about the nature of knowledge and human nature. In particular, what appear to be dominant tendencies in the field have strongly resisted the inclusion of findings from biology and genetics specifically. This resistance is tied to a view that scientific methods do not apply to the study of literature, and that radical social-constructivist theory presents a general alternative to the traditional methods of scientific inquiry. A proposal is made to incorporate recent advances in the cognitive sciences into the analysis of literature. Specifically, concepts drawn from evolutionary psychology might be especially useful in the analysis of narrative themes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-317
Number of pages13
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • cognitive semantics
  • cross-cultural universals
  • evolutionary psychology
  • narrative
  • social constructivism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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