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Christina Cunnane's picture

Literature Isn't Random

I think that one must consider at least a few road blocks when thinking about the evolution of literature. Stories or genres or whatever evolve as people change them. But the fact that literature is a creation of humans means that we must, even if it is just a little, put some thought into the process of changing it. If you take the evolution of a single work, such as "Howard's End" evolving into "On Beauty" as we're doing in class, the later is a product of human thought. Smith molded her book into the story that she saw worked the best. She provided the motive for the literature transformation. Biological evolution, however, is not supposed to have a motive. It is random. Although the transformation of the stories may seem random because there is a lot of diversity to choose between, it can't truly be random because a person selects for it.

I was thinking about this example: an author changing a story to make it uniquely his own by removing all punctuation and grammar. Thus, the story evolves into a grammarless one because the author wanted it that way. Maybe he thought it sounded better or was more creative. It doesn't matter. It just matters that he changed it. He took the original story and changed it to how he saw fit. Now let's apply the same thinking to biological evolution. I could take an original four-legged mammal and decide that I would like them to only be three-legged because they look cooler. If all the subsequent mammals are three-legged because I said so, does that mean they evolved? I don't think so. Biological evolution is lacking that third-person intervening that literary evolution has.

Wouldn't literary evolution more closely related to biological evolution if the literary change was random? Like if we took the original story and put it into a random word mixer and it spit out a new story with the words rearranged randomly? Then the stories produced would either make no sense at all and be thrown out (like deleterious mutations or evolutionary dead-ends) or highly unlikely- make a new story where the words made absolute sense (like a more successful new species).

This thinking just makes more sense to me. I hope in the upcoming weeks, I will come to understand just how closely the two are and to evolve my thinking to be able to look at these topics in different perspectives.


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