Cognitive science and evolutionary psychology show great potential as explanatory paradigms for a wide array of cultural products and activities,including literature. In some scholars' minds these two fields are emerging as the cornerstones of a major “new interdisciplinarity” that may well displace the relativistic interpretive paradigms that have dominated the humanities for the last few decades. Through a review of a number of recently published works, I assess the situation of these two fields in relation to the specific, currently reigning approaches to literary study as well as in relation to more general issues of academic literary interpretation. What do we have so far, and what can we possibly expect these essentially empirical-scientific disciplines to add to literary criticism? If cognitive science and evolutionary psychology are to become important in a truly interdisciplinary sense, then what kinds of claims will they need to make?Most important, how will the problematic but unavoidable distinction between nature and nurture be dealt with? Though the kinds of explanations offered in both fields can obviously enough be relevant to defining whatliterature is in relation to the human organism, how will the same kinds of explanations be involved in the actual interpretation of specific literary texts? For only an approach that provides new interpretive possibilities of actual texts can succeed on any broad level. After considering examples of current interdisciplinary work that, regardless of their other strengths, do not turn out to be significantly new and differ-ent from previous paradigms, I consider an example that, to my mind, most strongly illustrates in a general way what the new interdisciplinarity will have to look like if it is going to succeed.
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Research Article| June 01 2000
Questioning Interdisciplinarity: Cognitive Science, Evolutionary Psychology, and Literary Criticism
Poetics Today (2000) 21 (2): 319–347.
Tony Jackson; Questioning Interdisciplinarity: Cognitive Science, Evolutionary Psychology, and Literary Criticism. Poetics Today 1 June 2000; 21 (2): 319–347. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-21-2-319
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