Posted by: Lisa Maruca | February 11, 2010

DeRoy Lecture at Wayne State

The 2009-2010 DeRoy Lectures and the Working Group on Science and Society present:

What’s Wrong with Literary Darwinism
and How to Fix It


William Flesch
(Professor of English, Brandeis University)

Friday, February 12, 2010, 3:30 pm
Wayne State Humanities Center
2339 Faculty/Administration Building

In Comeuppance: A Natural History of Our Interest in Narrative (2007), Flesch uses game theory and evolutionary psychology to explain why people find pleasure in both the happy and tragic lives of fictional characters. Evolutionary biologists have failed to explain why people have powerful emotional reactions to imaginary tales, he believes, because they don’t understand how narrative works. “We evolved so that we punish cheaters, take pleasure in punishing cheaters, and take pleasure in watching others punish cheaters. It is that kind of pleasurable interest that we also take in literature.”

William Flesch is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Brandeis University, where he also teaches film and sometimes philosophy. He is the author of Generosity and the Limits of Authority: Shakespeare, Herbert, Milton; of Comeuppance; and of The Facts on File Companion to 19th Century British Poetry. He has published articles in ELH, Critical Inquiry, and elsewhere. He is now working on a sequel to Comeuppance, about Decision Theory and Narrative, as well as a History of English Poetic Form from Beowulf through the First World War.

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