Joseph Carroll (born 1949) is a scholar in the field of literature and evolution. He received his PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley and is now Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Publications and research

After monographs on Matthew Arnold (1982)[1] and Wallace Stevens (1987),[2] Carroll's publications have centered on situating literary study within the evolutionary human sciences. His Evolution and Literary Theory (1995)[3] was the first book in literary theory that assimilated ideas from evolutionary psychology, evolutionary anthropology, sociobiology, human ethology, and evolutionary epistemology. He argued that evolutionary literary theory offered a viable alternative both to post-structuralism and to traditional humanism.

In the essays collected in Literary Darwinism (2004),[4] Carroll worked toward building a comprehensive model of human nature, gave examples of evolutionary literary criticism, and criticized post-structuralism, traditional humanism, ecocriticism, cognitive poetics, and a narrow form of evolutionary psychology.

In the essays collected in Reading Human Nature (2011),[5] Carroll examined the adaptive function of literature and the other arts, offered Darwinian 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 Charles Darwin to the present.

In the research described in Graphing Jane Austen (2012),[6] Carroll and colleagues conducted an Internet survey of reader responses to characters in British novels of the nineteenth century. The survey used categories from a model of human nature that included basic motives, emotions, personality characteristics, and criteria for selecting mates. The focus of the study was "agonistic structure," that is, the organization of characters into protagonists, antagonists, and minor characters. A later (2017) exercise in quantitative analysis examined attitudes toward evolution among scholars in many different academic disciplines.[7]

Carroll’s publications since Reading Human Nature (2011) include essays that are mainly theoretical,[8][9] essays that are mainly exercises in interpretive literary criticism,[10][11] and essays that combine theoretical exposition with interpretive criticism.[12][13]

Carroll has handbook chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology,[14] the Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology,[15] A Companion to Literary Theory,[16] and Literature and Other Knowledge.[17] He also has chapters in edited volumes on specific topics in the evolutionary human sciences: violence,[18][19] sociality,[20] death,[21] and emotion.[22] He produced an annotated edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species[23] and has coedited four volumes of essays by divers hands.[24][25][26][27] He was editor-in-chief for the first 12 issues of the journal Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture.

Major works


  1. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 1982. The Cultural Theory of Matthew Arnold. Berkeley. University of California Press.
  2. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 1987. Wallace Stevens' Supreme Fiction: A New Romanticism. Baton Rouge. Louisiana State University Press.
  3. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 1995. Evolution and Literary Theory. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.
  4. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2004. Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature. London: Routledge.
  5. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2011. Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice. Albany: SUNY Press.
  6. ^ Carroll, Joseph, Jonathan Gottschall, John A.Johnson, and Daniel Kruger. 2012. Graphing Jane Austen: The Evolutionary Basis of Literary Meaning.New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
  7. ^ Carroll, Joseph, John A. Johnson, Catherine Salmon, Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Mathias Clasen, and Emelie Jonsson. 2017. "A Cross-Disciplinary Survey of Beliefs About Human Nature, Culture, and Science." Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture 1 (1): 1-32. doi: 10.26613/esic/1.1.2.
  8. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2012. "The Truth About Fiction: Biological Reality and Imaginary Lives." Style 46 (2): 129-60.
  9. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2018. "Minds and Meaning in Fictional Narratives: An Evolutionary Perspective." Review of General Psychology 22 (2): 135-46. doi: 10.1037/gpr0000104.
  10. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2012. "An Evolutionary Approach to Shakespeare's King Lear." In Critical Insights: The Family, edited by John Knapp, 83-103. Ipswitch, MA: EBSCO.
  11. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2013. "Correcting for The Corrections: A Darwinian Critique of a Foucauldian Novel." Style 47 (1): 87-118.
  12. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2012. "Meaning and Effect in Fiction: An Evolutionary Model of Interpretation Illustrated with a Reading of 'Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'." Style 26 (3): 297-316.
  13. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2020. "Imagination, the Brain’s Default Mode Network, and Imaginative Verbal Artifacts." In Evolutionary Perspectives on Imaginative Culture, edited by Joseph Carroll, Mathias Clasen and Emelie Jonsson, 31-52. Cham: Springer. Doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-46190-4_2.
  14. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2007. "Evolutionary Approaches to Literature and Drama," in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, edited by R.I.M. Dunbar & L. Barrett, 637-48. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  15. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2016. "Evolutionary Literary Study," in Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, edited by David M. Buss, 2nd ed., 1103-19. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  16. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2018. "Evolutionary Literary Theory," in A Companion to Literary Theory, edited by David Richter, 425-38. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell
  17. ^ Carroll, Joseph. Forthcoming. “Evolutionary Biology and Literature,” in Literature and Other Knowledge, edited by Ana Ribeiro and Sérgio Sousa.
  18. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2012. “The Extremes of Conflict in Literature: Violence, Homicide, and War,” in The Oxford Handbook of Violence, Homicide, and War, edited by Todd Shackelford and Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford, 413-34. New York: Oxford University Press.
  19. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2013. “Violence in Literature: An Evolutionary Perspective,” in Evolution of Violence, edited by Todd K. Shackelford and Ranald D. Hansen, 33-52. New York: Springer.
  20. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2015. "Evolved Human Sociality and Literature” in Handbook on Evolution and Society: Toward an Evolutionary Social Science, edited by Jonathan H. Turner, Richard Machalek, and Alexandra Maryanski, 572-608. Boulder, CO: Paradigm
  21. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2019. “Death in Literature,” in Evolutionary Perspectives on Death, edited by Todd Shackelford and Virgil Ziegler, 137-59. New York: Springer.
  22. ^ Carroll, Joseph. 2022. “Evolution: How Evolved Emotions Work in Literary Meaning,” in The Routledge Companion to Emotion in Literature, edited by Patrick Colm Hogan, Bradley J. Irish, and Lalita Pandit Hogan, 85-97. New York: Routledge.
  23. ^ Darwin, Charles. 2003. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, edited by Joseph Carroll. Peterborough, Ontario. Broadview Press.
  24. ^ Boyd, Brian, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall, editors. 2010. Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader. New York: Columbia University Press.
  25. ^ Carroll, Joseph, Dan P. McAdams, and Edward O. Wilson, editors. 2016. Darwin’s Bridge: Uniting the Humanities and Sciences. New York: Oxford University Press.
  26. ^ Carroll, Joseph, Mathias Clasen, and Emelie Jonsson, editors. 2020. Evolutionary Perspectives on Imaginative Culture. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
  27. ^ Carroll, Joseph, John Johnson, Emelie Jonsson, Rex Jung, and Valerie van Mulukom, editors. 2022. Imaginative Culture and Human Nature: Evolutionary Perspectives on the Arts, Religion, and Ideology. Frontiers in Psychology. eBook.