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  • 1 University of New Orleans New Orleans
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This essay argues that the new field of Darwinian (or biocultural) literary criticism must attend to sociocultural change as well as evolved predispositions in the assessment of literary merit (aesthetic value). Because contemporaneous sociocultural factors constitute a major part of the environment of literary production, they have significant bearing on the perceived aesthetic value of any given work of literature. In particular, the development of a complex literary culture since the industrial revolution enables manipulations of literary forms not possible in oral culture. Focusing specifically on the example of postmodern antinarrative and the Peter Carey (1997) novel Jack Maggs, a retelling of Charles Dickens' (1860/1999) Great Expectations, the author suggests that subversion of linear story may have culturally contingent epistemic, and therefore perhaps aesthetic, value.

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