The Scientific Indian

Applying Evolution to Literature

Jonathan Gottschall writes in The Age:

At exactly the same time I was reading The Naked Ape I was re-reading Homer’s Iliad for a graduate seminar on the great epics. As always, Homer made my bones flex and ache with the terror and beauty of the human condition. But this time around I also experienced the Iliad as a drama of naked apes – strutting, preening, fighting and bellowing their power in fierce competition for social dominance, beautiful women and material resources. Darwin’s powerful lens brought sudden coherence to my experience of the story, inspiring me to abandon my half-drafted PhD dissertation and instead undertake a Darwinian analysis of the Iliad.

The study began with a simple observation. Intense competition between great apes, as described both by Homer and by primatologists, frequently boils down to precisely the same thing: access to females. In Homer, conflicts over Helen, Penelope and the slave girl Briseis are just the tip of the iceberg. The Trojan war is not only fought over Helen, it is fought over Hector’s Andromache and all the nameless women of ordinary Trojan men.

[via aldaily]