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Comeuppance

Comeuppance

Costly Signaling, Altruistic Punishment, and Other Biological Components of Fiction

William Flesch

ISBN 9780674032286

Publication date: 03/31/2009

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With Comeuppance, William Flesch delivers the freshest, most generous thinking about the novel since Walter Benjamin wrote on the storyteller and Wayne C. Booth on the rhetoric of fiction. In clear and engaging prose, Flesch integrates evolutionary psychology into literary studies, creating a new theory of fiction in which form and content flawlessly intermesh.

Fiction, Flesch contends, gives us our most powerful way of making sense of the social world. Comeuppance begins with an exploration of the appeal of gossip and ends with an account of how we can think about characters and care about them as much as about persons we know to be real. We praise a storyteller who contrives a happy or at least an appropriate ending, and fault the writer who refuses us one. Flesch uses Darwinian theory to show how fiction satisfies our desire to see the good vindicated and the wicked get their comeuppance. He conveys the danger and excitement of reading fiction with nimble intelligence and provides wide reference to stories both familiar and little known.

Flesch has given us a book that is sure to claim a central place in the discussion of literature and the humanities.

Praise

  • I admired William Flesch’s examination of fiction and evolutionary biology, in Comeuppance: Costly Signalling, Altruistic Punishment, and Other Biological Components of Fiction, not least because Flesch, a young professor at Brandeis, is aware of the limits of the application of biology to aesthetics.

    —James Wood, New Yorker blog

Author

  • William Flesch is Professor of English Literature at Brandeis University and author of Generosity and the Limits of Authority.

Book Details

  • 264 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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