The evolution of literary theory: towards a bio-cultural approach to literature through Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
This thesis attempts to develop a synthesis of two traditionally conflicting epistemological approaches to literary theory and criticism. Over the past ten years, poststructuralist theory and the developing branch of cognitive and evolutionary literary theory have been at odds with one another. The overall purpose of this thesis strives to find a common ground between the two epistemological approaches to literature. In recent years, the emergence of a third epistemological position, situated between the two binary dichotomies, has sought to resolve the realist/relativist polemic through biocultural approaches to literature. This thesis will attempt to apply the bio-cultural approach to literature. The thesis first evaluates an existing poststructuralist argument, Jacqueline Howard’s Bakhtinian analysis of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Following this evaluation, an overview of cognitive and evolutionary theories’ connection to the Romantic period’s development of a brain-science will establish a biocultural approach to Austen’s Northanger Abbey and will situate cognitive and evolutionary theory within a cultural context. Finally, an analysis of Northanger Abbey from a cognitive and evolutionary standpoint will provide a synthesis of Howard’s basic premise and achieve a bio-cultural deconstruction of the realist/relativist polemic.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Dept. of English.
Includes bibliographic references (leaves 36-39)