Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brian Boyd, in an interesting article, argues that scholars of literature need to retreat from the shopworn 'deconstructionist' approach to texts, and consider anew what science has to offer the discipline:
Patterns in fiction, as in life, may proliferate and obscure other patterns. They can yield rich but sometimes far-from-evident implications. They may be open-ended: they and their implications often do not come preannounced and predigested. Sometimes they feed into efficient, evolved pattern-detection systems, but often they have to be discovered through attention and curiosity, and sometimes in ways that neither audiences nor authors fully anticipate.

At a more general level, humans are extraordinary open-ended pattern detectors, because we so compulsively inhabit the cognitive niche. Art plays with cognitive patterns at high intensity. The pleasure this generates is an essential part of what it is to be human and matters both at the individual level, for audiences and artists, and at the social level, for the patterns we share (in design, music, dance, and story). The pleasure art’s intense play with patterns affords compels our engagement again and again and helps shape our capacity to create and process pattern more swiftly. Perhaps it even helps explain the so-called Flynn effect, the fact—and it seems to be one—that IQs have risen with each of the last few generations: perhaps as a consequence of the modern bombardment of the high-density patterns of art through television, dvds, music and iPods, computer games, YouTube and the like.

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