restricted access The Role of the Arts in Male Courtship Display: Billy Collins’s “Serenade”


The importance of masculine display in courtship and mate selection has been well established by research in the fields of evolutionary psychology and anthropology. Men advertise qualities women find desirable: ambition, intelligence, or strength, for example, including specialized talents fueling accomplishment in music, literature, or graphic design. The role played by artistic virtuosity in sexual selection provides incontrovertible evidence for the adaptive value of the arts, a topic currently inspiring cross-disciplinary research and theoretical debate. The poem “Serenade” by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins speaks to this issue, introducing an ardent male whose courtship tactics emphasize aesthetic excellence and novelty.