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Brian Boyd

Department of English
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Telling Advantages: Storytelling as Adaptation?

Friday, December 5, 2008
Lecture Hall 8, 4:00 PM

Abstract

Are there grounds for thinking that art in general and fictional storytelling in particular, are biological adaptations? Brian Boyd proposes art as an adaptation derived from play, with functional benefits in terms of individual cognition (for storytelling, social cognition) and social cooperation (both directly, and via religion), and, eventually, creativity. Brian’s seminar will be based on his forthcoming book, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, Art and Fiction (Harvard, 2009) which earned the following praise from psychologist Steven Pinker: “This is an insightful, erudite, and thoroughly original work. Aside from illuminating the human love of fiction, it proves that consilience between the humanities and sciences can enrich both fields of knowledge.”

Biography

Brian Boyd is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of English, where he has been since 1979. His work, on American, English, Greek, Irish, New Zealand and Russian literature, on fiction, drama, verse, translation, from epics to comics, has appeared in twelve languages and has won awards in America, Asia, Australasia and Europe. He is best known for his books on and editions of work by Vladimir Nabokov, including his two-volume biography, Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years and Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years and his books on Pale Fire and Ada. His largest ongoing project, his annotations to Ada, Nabokov’s longest and richest novel, can be found on AdaOnline. His latest books include an edition of Nabokov’s verse translations, Verse and Versions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 2008), a book on evolution and fiction, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, Art and Fiction (Harvard, northern spring 2009) and an edition of Nabokov’s Pale Fire (Ginkgo, spring 2009). He is currently researching a biography of philosopher of science Karl Popper and will be editor or general editor of the remaining twelve volumes of Nabokov’s uncollected or unpublished work. He has just taught his first course in Literature and Science.

Readings

  1. Getting It All Wrong: Bioculture Critiques Cultural Critique
  2. Art and Evolution: Spiegelman’s The Narrative Corpse

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Poster

Boyd