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Emelie Jonsson

  • Subject: English, literature
  • Office: H729


Dissertation project

I focus on Darwinian influences on British and American literature from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. My aim is to use modern evolutionary science in combination with traditional humanistic methods to chart and explain literary images of human nature. How do we differ from other animals? What are our possibilities and constraints as a species—and thus our possible and impossible societal forms? The imaginative exploration of such questions is an ancient phenomenon, but the Darwinian revolution gave it a unique culture-specific boost.

My subject matter has been widely written about in literary study. I differ from previous scholars by seeing the culture-specific boost in interaction with biological dispositions. My premises are (1) that there is no qualitative difference between bodily and mental experience, (2) that cultural-historical forces are constrained by material reality, and (3) that our best chance at understanding reality is the scientific method. I also assume that culture—meaning science and technology, but also art, music, myths and literature—has shaped and continues to shape humanity from the species level to that of individual identity.

My dissertation will be based on modern evolutionary science, including evolutionary psychology and evolutionary literary study, which includes hypotheses about the adaptive function of the arts. I argue that there is a universal impulse towards self-definition underlying the culture-specific search for man's place in nature after Darwin. My view is that understanding basic biological dispositions and the role of imagination in the human life cycle can increase our understanding of individual literary works. Literary scholarship based on such an understanding contributes to the interdisciplinary process of understanding ourselves.

Contact Information

Emelie Jonsson

Box 200, 405 30 Göteborg

Visiting Address:
Lundgrensgatan 6

031-786 1921

Page Manager: Annika Andersson|Last update: 2/26/2014

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