In this TED video, Denis Dutton explains how our shared sense of what is beautiful may have its origin in human evolution. The theory connects to another idea I ran across recently: that we humans acquired our species-wide instinct for storytelling as a biological adaptation. Telling one another stories conferred on our ancient ancestors an advantage, i.e. storytelling animals were more likely to survive than non-storytelling ones. Brian Boyd seems to be the leading exponent of this theory with his book, On the Origin of Stories. (Boyd summarizes the theory here. An interesting review of the book by Michael Bérubé is here.) If all this is true — if we are hardwired to find certain art forms beautiful and to enjoy certain kinds of stories — then maybe we should not worry so much about the death of the novel after all.
Bill Landay says
Sadly, Denis Dutton has passed away. An appreciation is here.