Abstract

Literature functions differently in different persons and different societies. But the performances, texts, and recordings that typically trigger literary experience display one or more of several widely shared characteristics. Of these, I discuss playful impersonation, indirect communication, fictive storytelling, so-called poetic language, and literature's power to affect behavior and motivate action. The existence of cross-cultural features suggests that the underlying mental capacities evolved over time as species-wide adaptations, and I propose numerous reasons why over-average protoliterary competence could help some early hunter-gatherers to outdo their less imaginative rivals in the evolutionary competition for becoming the ancestors of subsequent human generations.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2095
Print ISSN
0049-2426
Pages
pp. 55-71
Launched on MUSE
2001-01-01
Open Access
No
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