Some quotes from the Introduction to Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader (2010) – that illuminate the StoryAlity Theory.

First if all, Creativity is problem-solving. (I am not making this up.)

Right before your very eyes

And – the trouble with most academic `theoretical frameworks’ (like say, Critical Theory, Marxism, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Deconstructionism, Cultural Studies, or Foucauldianism, etc) is that: they are Ideology, not Science.

…They don’t solve problems.

(e.g.: Say – How to create a movie, that people will like.)

Here is a large part of `the problem’, there:

‘Poststructuralism swept through departments of literature and film in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but its once fresh questions have hardened into habit or dogma. Women’s studies, queer theory, ethnic literatures, cultural studies, postcolonialism and ecocriticism opened up new subject areas, but they have been thoroughly explored through now-familiar research modes.

Science studies, under the aegis of Foucauldian discourse theory, have offered another new field but suffer from the same malaise that afflicts poststructuralism in general.’

(Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, pp. 1-2)

The malaise includes that they ignore biology, and also evolution – both biological and cultural.

And `postmodernism’ is verbal ballet, and a waste of time. See: StoryAlity#129 – Post-Modernist `Theory’ is dead as disco

But – thankfully – there is Literary Darwinism – and thus, consilience, which does actually solve problems… Using Science!

`For more than three decades, many observers inside and outside academia have been fascinated to see how evolutionary studies can illuminate human lives, feelings, thoughts, and behaviour.

Over the past fifteen years or so, evolutionary study in literature and film has emerged as a distinct movement. In the past few years, it has gained rapidly in visibility and impact, with many articles and books, and with much attention from the popular and scholarly press, from Nature to the New York Times.’

(Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, p. 2)

A good `in a nutshell / summary’ of what Literary Darwinism is, is here.

Also, this explains the consilient, evolutionary systems perspective, very well:

`Evolutionists seek to investigate how evolution has shaped human bodies, minds and behaviour; how culture has emerged out of nature; and how culture has equipped us to modify our behaviour. Virtually all evolutionary theorists of the arts formulate biocultural ideas.

That is, we believe that works of art are shaped by our evolved human nature, by culture, and by individual experience.

We therefore distinguish ourselves from “cultural constructivists”, who effectively attribute exclusive shaping power to culture. We give close attention to “human universals” or cross-cultural regularities that derive from regularities in human nature, but we also recognize the uniquely intense human capacity for culture. We welcome thick descriptions of local context but argue that a true understanding of culture must be rooted in the biological characteristics from which all human cultures grow.’

(Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, p. 3 – emphasis mine)


Bioculturalism - 2 ways to view it (Velikovsky 2013)

Bioculturalism – 2 ways to view it (Velikovsky 2013)

Of course the next (incorrect) assumption many people make is that: since a Biological aspect is included in Culture (namely that Biology both constrains and enables Culture, due to: agency and structure). Some people think Literary Darwinism is deterministic. – Wrong! That means you don’t understand: probability.

`Biological or genetic determinism. All modern evolutionists recognize that phenotypes (the observable properties of organisms) are not determined solely by genotypes (the genetic recipes in DNA). Behaviour is always co-determined by the interaction of genes and environments. Environments shape, constrain and elicit the behaviours of organisms. Failing to account for complex interactions between genes and environments is, in fact, profoundly unbiological.

Nature versus Culture. Biology is not an alternative to society or culture. Sociality occurs only within living species, and culture exists only within the social and therefore the biological realm. Moreover, culture is far from being uniquely human. Culture – the nongenetic transmission of behaviour, including local customs and even fashions – has been discovered over the past few decades in many social species, among birds as well as mammals… 

Genetic Selfishness. Genes are “selfish” in the sense that they prosper according to what benefits them in successive reproductive rounds, but most genes benefit from the health of a whole organism or even from the success of a whole group of individuals. Richard Dawkins points out that he could just as aptly have called his famous first book not The Selfish Gene but The Cooperative Gene… Evolutionary psychology and evolutionary economics concern themselves with the complex mix of cooperation and competition in social life. Indeed, they have placed far more emphasis on generosity, trust and fairness than nonevolutionary psychology or economics ever had.’

(Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, pp. 4-5 – emphasis mine)

We need to get away from this `cultural constructivism’ idea.

`For the past several decades, studies in literature and film have taken a “theoretical” turn. Without abandoning the ideal of cultivating minds through art, poststructuralist scholars and critics have often rejected the perspective of cultivated common sense.

In its place they have looked for theories that open up deeper explanations of the forces shaping human experience and products of the human imagination. Semiotics and deconstructive linguistic philosophy stressed the central role language plays in human consciousness. Freudian psychoanalysis opened up psychosexual symbolism emerging from the most intimate family relationships and the phases of childhood development. Gender theory foregrounded the power conflicts built into human sexual relations. Marxist social theory has inquired into the way works of imagination articulate socioeconomic conditions.

Is an evolutionary perspective unable to deal effectively with issues that arise out of linguistic philosophy, depth psychology, gender theory and socioeconomic theory? No.

Evolutionary human science embraces cognitive neuroscience and cognitive linguistics.

Evolutionary psychology concentrates heavily on the often-conflicted relations in the core reproductive relations of families – mothers, fathers and children – and offers new and penetrating insights into gendered social roles.

Evolutionary social theory identifies affiliation and dominance as elemental forces in human social interaction. The way those forces ramify into the complexities of specific social economies provides a rich field of exploration for scholars and scientists.

Culture is part of human nature, and all the forces we have been describing – linguistic, psychological and social – manifest themselves in imaginative culture.’

(Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, p. 6)

For example: narrative fiction feature films…

The Feature Film Domain as a System (derived from Csikszentmihalyi 1996)

The Feature Film Domain as a System (derived from Csikszentmihalyi 1996)

Also for the evolutionary systems view of narrative, see this chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

Thoughts and Comments, always most welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Boyd, B, Carroll, J & Gottschall, J (2010) Evolution, Literature, and Film: a Reader, Columbia University Press, New York.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.


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