Unnatural Selection: Or, How I could have told you why people like Emma

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

MorganThe latest public discussion about the fate of literary criticism features The Literary Darwinists. With articles appearing in The Boston Globe, The Chronicle, The Nation and elsewhere, there’s a certain buzz. Literary Darwinists are reacting to the rather pitiful — and undisputed — state in which literary criticism finds itself. Particularly within the academy, literary studies is floundering as a discipline without a clear sense of how to move forward. A good deal of what’s written is such convoluted nonsense that reading it amounts to self punishment. The critic William Deresiewicz recently wrote an article in which he concluded: “The real story of academic literary criticism today is that the profession is, however slowly, dying.”

Enter the Literary Darwinists, ready to get serious. People who call themselves Darwinists can always, if nothing else, be counted on for their seriousness. They’ve whipped out the scientific method (always intimidating to your everyday literary types) and begun hammering away on the relationship between biology and literature. One-upping the New Critics, who wanted a rigorous method without all the icky scientific procedures and techniques, the Darwinists promise to clean up the nonsense and give us some verifiable facts about what literature does and how it operates. Not such a bad proposition on the face of it. A big part of literature is constituted by people talking about literature, and one of the more enjoyable things on this planet, in my humble opinion, is that ongoing conversation. For that reason alone, the Literary Darwinists are welcome to the party.

More here.