Joseph Carroll (scholar)

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Joseph Carroll (born 1949) is a scholar in the field of literature and evolution.[1] He is currently Curators’ Professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where he has taught since 1985.

Carroll's Evolution and Literary Theory was one of the first literary studies to "take the cue from important developments in disciplines such as evolutionary psychology, evolutionary anthropology, and sociobiology,"[2] seeing evolutionary biology as an alternative to poststructuralism and rejecting poststructuralism's textualism (the notion that world is made of words) and indeterminancy (the self-subverting character of "discourse").

In the essays collected in Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature and Literature, Carroll has explored the emerging field of literary Darwinism, worked toward building a comprehensive model of human nature, critiqued poststructuralism, traditional humanism, ecocriticism, cognitive rhetoric, and narrow-school evolutionary psychology, and offered examples of practical Darwinist criticism.

In a volume of essays entitled Reading Human Nature, Carroll examined the adaptive function of literature and the other arts, offered Darwinist interpretations of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wuthering Heights, and Hamlet, gave examples of quantitative literary analysis, and reflected on the course of intellectual history from Darwin to the present. In Graphing Jane Austen, Carroll and colleagues has applied empirical methods like an Internet survey of reader responses to an evolutionary analysis of British nineteenth century fiction.

Joseph Carroll has also produced an edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, co-edited volumes 1 and 2 of The Evolutionary Review, and co-edited Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader.

Major works[edit]

  • The Cultural Theory of Matthew Arnold (1982).
  • Wallace Stevens’ Supreme Fiction: A New Romanticism (1987).
  • Evolution and Literary Theory (1995).
  • Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection (2003) - Editor.
  • Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature (2004).
  • Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader (2010) – co-edited with Brian Boyd and Jonathan Gottschall.
  • Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice (2011).
  • Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis of Literary Meaning (2012), co-authored with Jonathan Gottschall, John A. Johnson, and Daniel J. Kruger.


  1. ^ Carroll is prominently mentioned in David Fishelov's review of "a new wave of studies [that] has emerged advocating and evolutionary approach to literature (EAL)," "Evolution and Literary Studies: Time to Evolve," Philosophy and Literature, vol. 41, No. 2 (October 2017): 272-89, where his pioneering status is recognized (cf. p. 287 n.1); Carroll was also chosen to write a piece on "Evolutionary Approaches to Literature and Drama" in the Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, ed. R.I.M. Dunbar & L. Barrett (Oxford University Press, 2007).
  2. ^ Fishelov, "Evolution and Literary Studies: Time to Evolve," Philosophy and Literature, Vol. 41, No. 2, p. 273.

External links[edit]