November 2, 2018
The inaugural book in ASP’s new Evolution, Cognition, and the Arts series, American Classics: Evolutionary Perspectives examines selected works in the American literary tradition from an evolutionary perspective. Using an interdisciplinary framework to pose new questions about long admired, much discussed texts, the collection as a whole provides an introduction to Darwinian literary critical methodology. Individual essays feature a variety of figures—Benjamin Franklin to Billy Collins—targeting fitness-related issues ranging from sexual strategies and parental investment to cheating and deception. Attention is paid to the physical and social environments in which fictional characters are placed, including the influence of cultural–historical conditions on resource acquisition, status-building, competition, and reciprocity. Discussion throughout the volume makes connections to existing secondary comment, suggesting how Darwinian scrutiny can generate unexpected insights into long familiar works.