There are not many books where I felt relief when finishing...this is one of them. Very odd premise looking at literature for bioligical intent and support of biological theories. With the broad expanse of literature to choose from, it is easy to cherrypick stories, characters and plots to support or debunk any theory. The authors do this throughout the book often at times contradicting themselves...altruism, parenthood, evil stepparents, and relationships. Some references are from well known works while others are less well known so are a bit of a reach. I am not sure I woudl include Rebecca Wells as literature, just my thought. I find it odd also, the authors reference the movie The Godfather but do not seem to reference the book. Like I said, odd for a book on literature.
A positive note, both authors love their literature and that love does shine through at points. You may find yourself loooking to find a copy of Madame Bovary or some Faulkner after reading this.
One can only imagine the kitchen table conversations that inspired evolutionary psychologist David Barash and his daughter Nanelle (an undergraduate at Swarthmore) to collaborate on this witty and insightful book. Their explicit goal is to apply the basic principles of sociobiology (think Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene) to the study of literature. Thus, they say, we can better understand Othello as "a story about a jealous guy" if we know that males tend to be particularly afraid that their mate might have been impregnated by another, thus suckering them into expending resources on a child who doesn't carry their genes. By the same token, we can read Jane Austen's novels as detailed depictions of the cost-benefit analysis inherent in female mate selection. This conceit actually works quite nicelythe Barashes' writing is easy and ironic, as if they themselves take it with a grain of salt, and sociobiology benefits from being cast as an interpretive lens rather than the ironclad, coldly calculated truth that leaves many of its opponents feeling nervous about being nothing more than "gene machines." From its irreverent title to the last paragraph, the result is a surprisingly lighthearted romp through both literature and the animal kingdom, aimed at a casual reader who's interested in either or both.
A Darwinian look at several literary classics. Perceptive and often quite funny.