“No Ideas but in Things”: Fiction, Criticism, and the New Darwinism
By Mellard, James M
In the past decade or so, a small but rapidly growing band of literary scholars, theorists, and critics has been working to integrate literary study with Darwinian social science. -Joseph Carroll, Literary Darwinism
Ian McEwan is among the most honored of today’s novelists. Three of his novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, a fourth, Amsterdam, won that award, and some of his other works have won yet other prestigious ones-the Whitbread Award by The Child in Time and the Somerset Maugham Award by his story collection First Love, Last Rites. His most recent novel, Saturday (2005), made almost every list of best books of the year and has been a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. Of his generation of novelists, he has emerged as among the most consistently productive and critically appreciated. While McEwan’s works exhibit rather traditional realist techniques, they bring something new to contemporary fiction in the author’s attaching himself to a new Darwinism, that emerging mode of philosophy and interpretation claiming roots in cognitive science associated with brain science, evolutionary psychology, and evolutionary social science. Quite overtly, McEwan has allied himself with others who work the same field either as literary scholars and critics or as scientists in disciplines associated with evolutionary biology. For instance, in a Salon interview with Dwight Garner associated with the publication of his seventh novel, Enduring Love (1998), McEwan has said that his own “particular intellectual hero” is the sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson. Moreover, in McEwan’s acknowledgments appended to that novel and intended, apparently, to contextualize it, Wilson’s name shows up, along with titles of three of his books-Biophilia, On Human Nature, and The Diversity of Life. It is not surprising, then, given McEwan’s critical prestige and his avowed thematic intentions, that he has become the face of the new Darwinism in fiction. If there were any doubt remaining regarding his ideological placement, it will be allayed by McEwan’s appearance in a new book called The Literary Animal, in an essay entitled “Literature, Science, and Human Nature.” There, McEwan addresses some of the issues the new Darwinism foregrounds in the interface of fields-literature and science-conventionally regarded as offering so radical a dualism.
Despite-or because of-McEwan’s avowed interests, that novel Enduring Love has become something of a lightning rod for interest, pro and con, in neo- or “Ultra”-Darwinism. For instance, sociologists Paul Higgs and Ian Rees Jones have noted that the “fact that a novel such as Enduring Love can deal with, and to a considerable degree, sympathize with evolutionary psychology demonstrates the impact of what Steven Jay Gould has called ‘Ultra- Darwinism.’” From the side of medical sociology, these researchers worry that “evolutionary psychology ultimately reduces the social to the biological in ways that generally preclude further analysis of the complexity of social relations” (27). From the side of literary criticism, however, there are other issues (less important, of course, in the great scheme of things) that may trouble one’s sleep about the new Darwinists if not neo-Darwinism itself. One is whether it is a simple matter to incorporate science in literary criticism. Some critics apparently believe that merely claiming to use a scientific method is sufficient to make it so. As Jean Jacques Weber wonders, in a review of cognitive poetics, if “cognitive poeticians rely upon a new terminology rooted in cognitive science, does this confer a scientific character upon their analyses?” (519). The answer is, not necessarily.
A writer as prestigious as the novelist A. S. Byatt (perhaps most famous for Possession) may well illustrate the slippage between “applying” science and simply “doing” literary criticism “invoking” science. In a recent critical essay, Byatt links a discussion of Donne to brain science as outlined in a work by Jean-Pierre Changeux entitled L ‘Homme neuronal. Byatt’ s premise is that the “pleasure Donne offers our bodies is the pleasure of extreme activity of the brain” (13). But after a lengthy explanation of Changeux’s view of how the brain works in processing perceptions, imagery, concepts, and associations among these mental objects, Byatt essentially dismisses the neuroscientist. Although, she writes, “I was convinced on reading Changeux that the neurones Donne excites are largely those of the reinforced linkages of memory, concepts, and learned formal structures like geometry, algebra and language,” she has since concluded “that we are [not] yet within reach of a neuroscientific approach to poetic intricacy.” So what does Byatt do? For the remainder of her discussion of Donne, she relies on a literary critic. Giving up on neuroscience, she writes, “I was very excited by Elaine Scarry’s dizzily ambitious Dreaming by the Book” (14), and it is to Scarry that Byatt turns for discussion of specific effects in Donne’s poetry.
But even if in some sense a critical method is “scientific,” it raises a second issue as to whether the newer critical method offers much that in itself is new or that cannot be provided by methodologies eschewed for being unscientific. Are its results overrated? This issue, exemplified in Byatt’ s reading of Donne but raised also by Weber, is articulated well in a critique of Chomsky’s cognitive linguistics by Christiane Bongartz and Tony Jackson. Commenting about how cognitive linguists write of metaphor and cognitive rhetoricians treat narrative, they argue that in neither case do scholars really need a grounding in cognitive theory. “All [their] practical examples of interpretation,” they concede, “are interesting enough, but they can be achieved simply through a very close reading and explication of the words of the text” (43). That is, an old-fashioned, nonscientific method of reading can yield results just as valid intellectually.
A third issue involves how science-oriented criticism often dismisses out of hand-favored terms are “obsolete” and “historical curiosities”-knowledge from nonscientific modes of analysis of mind, consciousness, or human nature. In Literary Darwinism, Joseph Carroll articulates this position rather bluntly. To go from social science rooted in Darwinian theory to today’s ordinary humanities, he suggests, is to enter a time warp. It “can be likened to the technological shift that takes place when traveling from the United States or Europe to a country in the Third World.” It is, he says, to travel in space but “backward in time”: “In the humanities, scholars happily confident of their own avant-garde creativity continue to repeat the formulas of Freud, Marx, Saussure, and Levi- Strauss-formulas that have now been obsolete, in their own fields, for decades. It is as if one were to visit a country in which the hosts happily believed themselves on the cutting edge of technological innovation and, in support of this belief, proudly displayed a rotary-dial phone, a manual typewriter, and a mimeograph machine” (x). Witty enough, and perhaps even true enough in some particulars, comments such as this must make those who use all that outmoded critical technology think, “Thank, God. Finally, there’s someone to bring us to our senses.” But are things really as simple as Carroll suggests? Do creative artists or hard scientists look at things quite this way?
Biologists and evolutionary psychologists were reshaping the social sciences. The postwar consensus, the standard social- science model, was falling apart, and human nature was up for reexamination. We do not arrive in the world as blank sheets, or as all-purpose learning devices. Nor are we the “products” of our environment. . . . We evolved, like every other creature on earth.
– Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
Mainly a novelist, McEwan writes in other genres (drama, tv drama) and as a literary critic or at least as a public intellectual regarding literature. In The Literary Animal, a collection of about a dozen essays, McEwan joins such luminaries as E. O. Wilson and Frederick Crews in advocacy of new Darwinist criticism and the ideology it represents. Literature, McEwan admits, is more generally accessible than is science. “Greatness in literature,” he admits, “is more intelligible and amenable to most of us than greatness in science” (“Literature, Science, and Human Nature” 5). But it is in science, he suggests, that we discover why literature works for us. “We have,” he says, “in terms of cognitive psychology, a theory of mind, a more-or-less automatic understanding of what it means to be someone else. Without this understanding, as psychopathology shows, we would find it virtually impossible to form and sustain relationships, read expressions or intentions, or perceive how we ourselves are understood. To the particular instances that are presented to us in a novel we bring this deep and broad understanding” (5). With this understanding, based on an “unspoken agreement between writers and readers,” literature becomes intelligible to us between the poles of the specific and the general. “At its best, literature is universal, illuminating human nature at precisely the point at which it is most parochial and specific” (6). All of this McEwan connects to Darwinian theory- indeed, although somewhat beside the theoretical point, perhaps the most engaging portion of this essay is that in which he “reads” Darwin’s “life as a novel” (7). But on that theoretical point McEwan writes, “I think that the exercise of imagination and ingenuity as expressed in literature supports Darwin’s view” (1 1). This view, in the novelist’s words, is that Darwin proved why human expressions of emotion are universal, and, further, how those “expressions and the physiology [they require] are products of evolution” (10). Moreover, McEwan says, behind these expressions lies a human nature that is universal as well. Here, he contends, is the link between literature and evolutionary theory: “It would not be possible to read and enjoy literature from a time remote from our own, or from a culture that was profoundly different from our own, unless we shared some common emotional ground, some deep reservoir of assumptions, with the writer.” Indeed, McEwan further contends, literature, in dealing with the universal and the specific, encodes the genetic and the cultural. “Each of these two elements, genes and culture, have had a reciprocal shaping effect, for as primates we are intensely social creatures, and our social environment has exerted over time a powerful adaptive pressure.” Here, McEwan can shift from one favorite, Darwin, to another. “This gene-culture coevolution, elaborated by E. O. Wilson among others,” he says, “dissolves the oppositions of nature versus nurture.” We are the literary animal. But, doubt not, we are of the animal kingdom, and even our literature may be seen to derive from our evolutionary heritage. “If,” he says, “one reads accounts of the systematic nonintrusive observations of troops of bonobos-bonobos and common chimps rather than baboons are our closest relatives-one sees rehearsed all the major themes of the English nineteenthcentury novel: alliances made and broken, individuals rising while others fall, plots hatched, revenge, gratitude, injured pride, successful and unsuccessful courtship, bereavement and mourning” (11).
In the advocacy of the new Darwinism, there is also much of the nineteenthcentury novel’s social machinery. It is evident in the critical revolution in which McEwan participates. He understands no doubt that revolutionaries take sides, make alliances (know thy friends), wage war (know thy enemies). To establish a new research or critical paradigm, proponents must know what or whom to attack. Marshaling a growing army of enthusiasts for a new Darwinian naturalism, The Literary Animal quite unapologetically aims to recruit warriors in a battle against unscientific literary criticism. In it Edward Wilson writes that “[n]aturalism is a conviction, based upon the spectacular successes of science continuing to the present time, that scientific inquiry can be taken to any level of detail, including the productions of mind and culture” (x). To this philosophy, The Literary Animal recruits allies with the newest-of-the-new naturalism in the cognitivism associated with the brain sciences. Bunkered in the new Darwinism, an avant garde of these research fronts wields a naturalistic hard determinism supporting assaults in such disciplines as neuroscience, sociobiology, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary biology. As this book reveals, however, for literary criticism the enemy-as in the war on “terrorism”-is virtually everywhere. It may be ideological or political or institutional. Since all the new fronts mount essentially materialistic-mechanistic and deterministic- attacks upon knowledge in their subject domains, they each locate ideological, philosophical, and theoretical enemies in any idealism or even, as William Uttal argues in Dualism: The Original Sin of Cognitivism, in every waffling dualism. As applied in literary criticism, that means they also find their foes in formalism, contextualism, and any coalition of these that produces a specific literary-critical approach.
But while for the new Darwinist warriors there are many specific ideological enemies-feminism, cultural studies, structuralism, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis (of whatever ilk but especially Freudian and Lacanian)-the general antagonist is what they call social constructivism or the Standard Social Science Model. The SSSM, according to McEwan, “holds that there is no human nature at all beyond that which develops at a particular time and in a particular culture. By this view the mind is an all-purpose, infinitely adaptable computing machine operating a handful of wired- in rules. We are born tabula rasa, and it is our times that shape us” (14). Against this SSSM view, no less a cognitivist warrior than Wilson, the father of sociobiology, takes up arms. In his “Foreword from the Scientific Side,” Wilson-whose Sociobiology: The New Synthesis essentially founded that discipline-lays out the ideological antagonism driving the agenda of The Literary Animal and many of its specific essays. In literary study, that enmity lies in a “cleavage between naturalism and social constructivism.” In the war between these, Wilson suggests, this book’s ideological stakes are high, for its essays must do nothing less than expand “the foundation of knowledge itself.” But to do that, they must connect “the great branches of learning” found in the “natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.” Relying on “a web of verifiable causal explanation,” Wilson suggests, the connection is fundamental. Without that causal connection, we are left with nothing more than C. P. Snow’s two cultures, and never the twain-the naturalists and the constructivists-shall meet. “Either,” Wilson insists, “existence can be mapped as a continuum with the aid of science, as the naturalistic theorists suggest, or science is ‘only one way of knowing,’ as the constructivist theorists believe, with many other disjunct truths arising from cultural and personal happenstance” (vii).
But if that goal of connection is to be achieved, there are also political and institutional enemies to be vanquished. Others in The Literary Animal besides Wilson and McEwan recognize that those antagonistic ideologies associated with constructivism hold the fort. In his “Foreword from the Literary Side,” Frederick Crews (one of the great acerb critics and satirists of the whole endeavor of literary criticism), while not so sweeping in his declaration of war as Wilson, does address the political side of the conflict. As he concedes that the enemy is not really “constructivism tout court but its most brittle branch, a sociopolitical determinism so thoroughgoing as to rule out any allowance for biological commonalities” (xiv), Crews nonetheless argues there are sociopolitical battles to be fought. “Our common aim,” he says hopefully, “is not to render literary criticism drier and more technical but to reclaim governance of the field-its appointments and promotions, its curricula, its standards of publication, its manner of debate-from the fast-talking superstars who have prostituted it to crank theory, political conformism, and cliquishness” (xv). Even so, in a bit of irony Crews misses, it seems the objective of the new naturalism in literary criticism is to replace “their”slick superstars with “ours”-it’s just that ours are bona fide heroes. Just how heroic? To make his point, Wilson offers-I’m not making this up-an analogy to such New World explorers as Columbus. To Wilson’s mind, “naturalistic literary theorists are would be Columbians. Embattled, even scorned, by tenured constructivists, they have launched their frail caravels on an uncertain sea.” Make no mistake: what these brave-new-world discoverers seek, Wilson suggests, is something real. It is nothing so insignificant or insubstantial as mere mental confabulations. Indeed, anyone with half a brain must choose to voyage with them. Rhetorically, Wilson asks, “Who will gamble against them? If there is any chance of success, who with any courage and ambition would not want to join them-or at least lend support?” (vii). Who indeed? And given confidence such as Wilson’s, one supposes that there may be grounds for arrogance among the new Darwinian critics.
It seems likely that within two decades the sheer force of progressive empirical knowledge will almost inevitably bring about a fundamental transformation in the social sciences. In all likelihood, the humanities will eventually follow in the train of this movement, but they will probably be slow and late in catching up.
– Joseph Carroll, Literary Darwinism
Clearly, there is much that is messianic in the aims of the new evolutionary critical theorists. In their messianism, they are not much different from apostles of any previous new methodology (just recall new criticism, myth criticism, structuralism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, and the like). But what one does not recall as a feature of those other apostles is such an arrogant intolerance of divergent intellectual perspectives. One does, however, frequently find it among the new evolutionist critics. While it seems not particularly obnoxious in isolated journal articles, it can acidify in a book collection. There, a book replete with selfavowed cognoscenti seems less Wilson’s frail caravel than a warship armed with crusaders bent upon conquering and converting nonbelieving infidels. In The Literary Animal, in the overt message of several essays and in the tone of many, there is the fervor of the converted, the righteousness of the believer, the self- satisfaction of the possessor of universal truths. In other words, beware. There are fundamentalists here. Perfervid testimony may irrupt at any moment, tales of how once I was lost and now am saved. Even in the title of the jointly authored “Introduction: Literature- a Last Frontier in Human Evolutionary Studies,” we find editors Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson suggesting a bit of Edward Wilson’s metaphor of adventurous conquest upon which authors in the book have embarked. The “known” world from which these adventurers set out is science, especially those sciences depending upon evolutionary theory. The dark unknown, the last frontier, into which they sally forth is the world of literature and literary criticism. To the natives there, they hope to bring enlightenment, an understanding of “the nature of literature from an evolutionary perspective” (xvii). While in the enlightened world of proper science “the evolutionary perspective” not only is commonplace and provides “specific insights that turn out to be correct,” it also offers “a single conceptual framework for unifying disparate bodies of knowledge.” If vertical integration from the bottom up in the life and human sciences is the aim, then Darwinian theory is the only answer. It can “reverse the trend of extreme specialization of knowledge that has taken place in the absence of a unifying conceptual framework.” While, historically, literary study typically has embraced many critical perspectives, one that for nigh on to a century it has not embraced has been evolutionary theory. Indeed, “serving as a microcosm of why the human sciences as a whole initially lagged behind biology in embracing Darwin’s theory,” suggest Gottschall and David Wilson, it has as a consequence fallen behind biology. “The best way that we can explain this” failure, they believe, “is by relating our own stories” (xvii). What sort of stories? As the new Darwinism has become the new fundamentalism, with all the features of a new religion, the stories told are ones of conversion. Carroll’s story is typical. He has published two books devoted to the new field-Evolution and Literary Theory (1995) and Literary Darwinism (2004). In a statement in the latter, his conversion is clear, albeit implicit. In the early 1990s, he says, “I was profoundly dissatisfied with the irrationalism and textualism of the prevailing literary doctrines, and in adaptationist research found a solid basis for developing alternative views about such matters as personal identity, sexuality, gender, the family, social motives, and the relation between the mind and the world” (Literary Darwinism xvi). In The Literary Animal, there are two stories-by Gottschall and Dylan Evans-that offer examples of conversion narrative more explicit than Carroll’s. While the bulk of Evans’s “From Lacan to Darwin” deals with those features of Lacanian theory that prompt Evans to reject it, he does offer at the outset a rather sharp precis of his story. He calls it a tale “of an intellectual journey. It starts with [his] enthusiastic embrace of the ideas of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and ends with [his] eventual rejection of those ideas some five years later.” Among Lacanians (full disclaimer: I am a published member of that strange cult), Evans is actually rather admired for his extremely useful Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (1996), but according to his story Evans gave up Lacanian theory “as the result of an honest and sincere search for truth” – though no doubt had it been dishonest and insincere it would have been just as interesting. While those who contacted him after he had begun publishing new items with such titles as Introducing Evolutionary Psychology regarded him, he says, as “a former disciple” who had “betrayed the faith,” he says that his conversion to evolutionary psychology from Lacanian psychoanalysis was neither “betrayal” nor “apostasy” nor “a fall from grace” (38).
So what was it? It was a salvation of sorts. After having become a Lacanian analyst, he felt that in his practice those ideas did not work. In his view, “Whether used in the clinic or the seminar room, Lacan’s ideas are hopelessly inadequate because they are predicated on a false theory of human nature. I came to realize this when I started to treat patients-the clinical reality did not fit with Lacan’s theory” (38). While Evans does not particularize any clinical failings, he does recount a variety of dissatisfactions with Lacanian theory. These include its not being based on Chomsky’s linguistics and Lacan’s failure to pursue two scientific interests- one in ethology, the other in cognitive science-evident in his early work but eventually abandoned. Regarding those sciences, which had potentially promising empirical approaches, Lacan, in Evans’s view, made an egregious mistake when he turned from them to something else that Evans regards as merely a misguided Romanticism. The upshot of Evan’s tale, in any case, is a conversion to evolutionary psychology and abandonment of the clinic entirely. These days, he takes his evolutionary psychology not into psychotherapeutic practice but into research in artificial intelligence. Still, like any convert, he retains a messianic zeal: “It is my hope that, by sharing my intellectual journey with those literary scholars who still use Lacanian theory, they may also come to realize the inadequacy of Lacan’s conceptual edifice” (39). Indeed, as he says in his conclusion, “Although … I have rather lost touch with the world of literary criticism, I know there remain lots of literary scholars who still rely on Lacanian theory in their work. This strikes me as very sad,” especially since Lacan “really was . . . sadly mistaken and perhaps even tragically deluded” (54). Happens to the best of them.
Gottschall’s story offers several features similar to Evans’s. For one, each writer emphasizes political elements (that is, academic politics). In 1996, as a naive youth, enrolled in a doctoral program in darkest academe, Gottschall happened upon a bestseller by Desmond Morris about the evolutionary background of human behavior. Writes Gottschall, “While the specifics of The Naked Ape  were outdated by this time, its general attitude toward exploring human behavior was not: humans have complicated culture and stunning capacity to learn, yes, but this does not change the fact that we are also animals, vertebrates, mammals, primates, hominids, and great apes.” While he concedes that human “culture, intelligence, and symbolic behavior make us different from the other apes,” he agrees with Morris that “they do not emancipate us from our evolved biology or lift us above other animals onto an exalted link of the chain of being.” Thus, Gottschall concludes, “zoologists can apply basically the same theoretical and methodological concepts to the study of human behavior that they apply to the behavior of other animals” (x viii). He decides he wants to do the same in a literary study.
At this time, Gottschall was taking a required course in which he was reading Homer’s Iliad. Immediately, he found the central ideas of Morris’s book influencing his reading of it. He says he “experienced the Iliad as a drama of naked apes-strutting, preening, fighting, tattooing their chests, and bellowing their power in fierce competition for social dominance, desirable mates, and material resources” (xvii). Fully aware that two and a half millennia of readings of the epic had yielded just about every conceivable interpretation, he came to believe that Morris’s view of human life could offer a fresh approach, one, moreover, that “could do the same for literary analysis generally by providing it with its first truly scientific theory of human psychology and behavior.” For the aspirant graduate student, this approach was not based on some merely speculative notion but built upon “the bedrock of evolutionary theory and scientific method.” Inspired by possibilities of this approach, and in his innocence unaware of academia’ s dark side, Gottschall went to his professor with a plan to write a paper from the evolutionary perspective. Alas, the professor-”on the grounds of absurdity and irrelevance” (xix)- turned him down. Instead, the professor recommended a Freudian or- gasp- a Lacanian approach. Already converted to the truth of evolutionary theory-”I believed that the hard social constructivism that dominated the humanities had been definitively exposed by numerous and redundant studies as a failed theory. And I felt that fears about the baleful political and ideological ramifications of an evolutionary perspective were misplaced and misguided” (xx)- Gottschall goes outside the English department to write hisdissertation on Homer. In effect, he says, he chose “de facto exile” in the service of his new calling.
Vulgar materialism and idealism join forces against [the radical] plasticity [of the human brain]: idealism, to prove that the brain is just matter, a relay machine which has to be animated from the outside … ; materialism, to sustain its mechanical determinisi vision of reality.
– Slavoj Zizek, The Parallax View
And behind this calling what is sought by the new Darwinists? Depending on whether one is a brain scientist, a cognitive psychologist, or a cognitive social scientist, there are really three things-mind, consciousness, and human nature. It is with the mind that Edward O. Wilson starts. For the new evolutionary literary critics, the “ultimate key” lies in how the new sciences understand the mind. “Nowadays,” writes Wilson, “neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and evolutionary biologists appear to have gained an entree in the assault.” Their strategy is found in a “painstaking, bottom-up approach-process by process, circuit by circuit-[that] is at last disclosing the multiple workings of the brain.” Moreover, he predicts that within a few years they probably will find “at least a rough answer to the question universally regarded as premier in the natural sciences: What is the mind?” (viii). Understanding the mind (and what for many-in a bloody battlefield of contestation-is its corollary, consciousness) leads to the citadel: human nature. “As the properties of mind are clarified empirically,” Wilson suggests, “it will also be possible to define human nature with greater precision.” But since it is ‘human nature’ that links these hard sciences of mind to literature and literary criticism, they find themselves, paradoxically, forced to fraternize with the enemy. Wilson points out that, on the one hand, human nature “is not the genes,” but, on the other, neither “is it just the universal traits of culture, such as the creation myths, incest taboos, and rites of passage, possessed by all societies.” So what is it? It is something in the middle, somewhere between genes and culture, lying in “the inherited regularities of sensory and mental development that animate and channel the acquisition of culture” (viii). Thus it is incumbent upon both the hard sciences and the social sciences to study culture to find interfaces of one with the other. While hard scientific knowledge provides a base, a softer knowledge from social science provides a superstructure built upon it. For mind and consciousness, evolutionary biologists favor a metaphor of computer hardware and software. While it is easy to think the relationship of hardware to software sounds more than vaguely Marxian (see Zizek, Parallax View 209), evolutionists must start with genetic hardware and work toward cultural software. In human evolution, Wilson tells us, “The long-term interaction of genes and culture appears to form a cycle, or more precisely a forward traveling evolutionary spiral.” This spiral, he says, follows a sequence that we must almost inevitably associate with that of DNA. In a first step (Wilson’ s italics removed), we find that it is genes that “prescribe [the] epigenetic rules” determining “the regularities of sensory perception and mental development that animate and channel the growth of culture.” But Wilson says that in a second step it is culture that “helps to determine which of the prescribing genes survive and multiply from one generation to the next.” Thus, the human brain, in a third step, “develops its activity and thence mind and culture by epigenetic rules of thumb that channel learning” (ix). These three steps are “evolutionary” because they change human nature. “Successful new genes or gene combinations alter the epigenetic rules of the populations. The altered epigenetic rules change the direction and effectiveness of the channels of cultural acquisition.” But however evolutionary the spiral, it is not one that can be understood from the perspectives of hard science or of the Darwinians alone. If repeatability and predictability are necessary features of hard science, then understanding the relation between genes and culture cannot emanate from just one discipline. While, as Wilson says, “Scientists and other scholars have begun to map a few of the connections between genes and culture,” it is also the case that “details of the coevolutionary spiral cannot be predicted from knowledge of the genes or even the circuitry of the brain alone. It [the coevolutionary spiral] can only be adduced by joining the relevant data of cognitive psychology, the social sciences, and the humanities with those of biology” (x).
It is another of the scientists, the other Wilson-David Sloan Wilson-who articulates the linkage Edward O. proposes. In the very title of his essay, “Evolutionary Social Constructivism,” David Wilson suggests how the two domains may be integrated. He admits that those enemy “isms” associated with postmodernism’s SSSM are both different from and the most distinct opponents of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. But, he points out, “in contrast to the inflexibility and determinism attributed to evolutionary approaches to human behavior,” those domains are nonetheless “united in their commitment to the idea that individuals and societies have enormous flexibility in what they can become.” It is this “middle ground,” where “the heart of social constructivism can be given an evolutionary formulation,” that in his essay David Wilson means to map. If it is the case that the lesser of the two, social constructivism, will gain the more from the conjunction, it is also the case, Wilson believes, that “sociobiologists need to incorporate large elements of social constructivism into their own framework” (20). Indeed, Wilson suggests, those two fields especially need to incorporate knowledge about “adaptive behavioral flexibility,” for otherwise it may appear to moot the laws of genetic determinism. “Numerous self-described sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists,” writes Wilson, “have made the same points and justly feel misunderstood by their social constructivist critics who continue to associate evolution with inflexibility. Here, then, is an important meeting ground in which social constructivism can be placed on an evolutionary foundation” (25).
It is on the grounds of survival and reproduction that the armies of evolutionary theory and those from the social sciences might call a truce. Just as they are in any other species, these are the goals of human cognitive and social behavior. Thus, Wilson says, “the study of humans should be centered upon survival and reproduction- and indeed survival only to the extent that it leads to reproduction.” In one formulation, he says that humans “might be playing the reproduction game differently than other species [play it] in some respects, but we are playing the same game” (28). More than in other species, in humans genes change rapidly because of the future-changing, goal-directed activities of their brains. Here, adaptation, perpetuated by natural selection in behaviors directed toward survival and reproduction, provides the key to evolutionary social constructivism. If on the biological evolutionary side, the mechanism of change is the gene, on the social evolutionary it appears the change mechanism is narrative, the story. (Are we back in the land of the archetype? Was Jung more right than we have imagined?) “Genes,” Wilson says of the biological side, “contain the information about adaptations that have been hard-won by the process of natural selection” (29), and it is their purpose to communicate that information faithfully from one generation to the next. On the social side, if there is to be a nongenetic evolutionary process, it must have a means to transmit new data as faithfully as do genes. It is, says Wilson, our stories that possess this genelike nature. Better yet, as Edward Wilson tells us, “The mind is a narrative machine, guided unconsciously by the epigenetic rules in creating scenarios and creating options. The narratives and artifacts that prove most innately satisfying spread and become culture” (ix). Given that evolved mind, human beings are nothing if not well equipped for creating in the cultural domain those genelike structures that help them evolve.
It seems here, perhaps, in human evolutionary development, that materialism meets idealism in the dualism dreaded by the hard-core cognitivists. For whereas genes convey information materially, through chemical encoding, in symbolism stories offer encoding constructed upon a nonmaterial basis. “What made humans unique,” David Wilson writes, “was a natural environmental context that made symbolic thought adaptive in its initial stages, allowing us, and us alone, to cross over to the new adaptive peak.” If it is nothing else, Wilson insists, “Symbolic thought is … a system for the generation and selection of mental representations” that permit “a form of virtual evolution to take place inside the head” (31). In interaction of brain “hardware” and mind “software,” we find why many cognitivists, as McEwan has noted, make the computer a favored metaphor of the brain. Typically of the hard-determinist variety, they deny free will and make consciousness, regarded as being as precisely determined as one’s taxes done on a tax-preparation software program, strictly a material function dependent entirely on its programming. But the brain is not a computer, for, both dynamic and plastic, it does not function through digital logic. Thus, for his part, Wilson, sounding more humanistic than some of the new Darwinist literary critics, does not embrace the computer metaphor. In his view, “people are more than tax-preparation software writ large, responding to specific environmental stimuli with preevolved behavioral responses.” Rather, acting both individually and collectively, humans-in a process begun when the earliest hominids descended from the trees and adapted to the veldt-find “new solutions” to problems their lives throw before them. Calling this process “evolutionary voyages,” Wilson says that humans “rely fundamentally upon stories in the creation of new and untested guides to action, the retention of proven guides to action, and the all-important transmission of guides to action from one person to another. In short, stories play the role of genes in nongenetic evolutionary processes” (35). By accepting on the scientific side that stories act like genes in evolutionary processes, Wilson insists that there is no compelling reason any longer to deny to literary study and the social sciences a place in the halls of evolutionary knowledge.
In contemporary thought, to meet any demand for syncretism, however, all intellectual domains seek help going in one direction or another. On a continuum between materialism and idealism, they look for integration by moving either upward or downward. Situated in an empirical middle ground, both literature and social science fit somewhere between hard (empirical, materialist) science and soft (speculative, realist, or idealist) philosophy. As brain science pulls social science downward toward hard empirical knowledge, social science pulls brain science upward toward integration with philosophy. Whereas to literature and social science brain science offers bottom-up integration of evolutionary knowledge of human nature, brain science needs help toward integration upward from a branch of philosophy of science that attempts from the philosophic top down to integrate the new evolutionary knowledge with traditional philosophy, whether materialist (as in Daniel C. Dennett’s Freedom Evolves) or idealist (as, perhaps, in Zizek).1 Based mainly on an explosion of hard new empirical findings in cognitive brain science but also on recent ones in archeology and anthropology, writings of this sort feed an apparently insatiable appetite for the new knowledge. Indeed, represented recently and variously by such as Sean Carroll’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Nicholas Wade’s Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, Michael S. Gazzaniga’s The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas, Michael Wheeler’s Reconstructing the Cognitive World, Nicholas Humphrey’s Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness, Gregg Rosenberg’s A Place for Consciousness, and Dennett’s Sweet Dreams, they suggest a growth industry in scholarly and popular publishing-in McEwan’s words, “a golden age.” As McEwan notes in that Salon interview, regarding such a moment, and referring to other such writers and researchers as Antonio Damasio, Thomas Metzinger, Francisco Varela, and Steven Pinker, it is “a kind of science writing that seems to bridge the gap between informing laymen but also informing other sciences” (Garner). But any gap these writings close is one of information. Between brain and consciousness, it is philosophers and philosophically minded biologists who recognize the breadth of the gap and try to find ways across it. But that gap remains. In a parallel almost too pat to be believed, in competing explanations of nature’s phenomena operating on two vastly different scales, physics-in general relativity and quantum mechanics-recognizes a similar gap. On the quantum side, the so-called standard model describes nature at the level of molecules, atoms, electrons, and downward; on its side, general relativity describes how nature operates on a scale ranging upward from ordinary objects to planets, galaxies, and the whole shebang. Between the two theories, for twenty years or so, in physics it has been string theory that has been expected to close the gap between them and to give us a unified theory of everything. But, so far, string theory has not done so, and physicists themselves are becoming skeptical that it will (see, for example, books by Lee Smolin and Peter Woit). Thus, even into physics a sort of humanism has been introduced. Given that physics is typically regarded as a science as ‘hard’ as anything in cognitive brain science, more peculiar than that gap between quantum and relativity models is a notion called the “anthropic principle” that puts “man” back into the center of things. Not universally accepted by physicists, of course, the anthropic principle puts, as it were, a homunculus into the universe in precisely the same way that, say, Descartes, in a standard philosophic view of consciousness, seemingly puts one into the human brain. That view is one Damasio’s Descartes’ Error is famous for critiquing. But between brain and mind, mind and consciousness, wave and particle, idealism and materialism, as the huge volume of studies in philosophy and philosophy of science suggest, neither science nor social science has eliminated what Zizek calls a parallax gap-”the confrontation of two closely linked perspectives between which no neutral common ground is possible” (4).
[C]onfronted with an antinomic stance in the precise Kantian sense of the term, we should renounce all attempts to reduce one aspect to the other . . . ; on the contrary, we should assert antinomy as irreducible, and conceive the point of radical critique not as a certain determinate position as opposed to another position, but as the irreducible gap between the positions.
– Slavoj Zizek, The Parallax View
In closing that gap, how can mere storytellers do any better than the scientists and philosophers? Novelists such as McEwan and David Lodge, whose recent novel Thinks works this territory, are pretty much in the same intellectual situation, for like their cohorts they tell stories that go downward toward concrete human existence but at the same time go upward toward those abstractions associated with ethics, moral values, and aesthetic concepts such as form and beauty. Different from Lodge, who is ultimately a Christian storyteller, McEwan locates himself and his recent fiction on the scientist’s ground. While in acknowledgments in Enduring Love he professes that admiration we have noted of the pioneering work of Edward O. Wilson, there he also identifies the work of several others who write in this middle world between brain science, on the one hand, and social science, philosophy, or philosophy of science, on the other. There where McEwan mentions Wilson’s name and three of his books, he also offers names and titles-Steven Weinberg’s Dreams of a Final Theory, Pinker’ s Language of Instinct, Damasio’s Descartes’ Error, Robert Wright’s Moral Animal, and Walter Bodmer and Robin McKie’s Book of Man-that strongly suggest he intends to explore themes foregrounding evolutionary science and eschewing philosophical interest in human nature. But no more than A. S. Byatt in her discussion of Donne does McEwan stick to brain science and ignore traditional humanistic studies. As Byatt invokes brain science but ends up relying on nonscientific literary criticism, so McEwan invokes new Darwinian science but in psychiatry and psychoanalysis crucially relies also upon nonscientific research. Ultimately, it appears that McEwan must fail to close that parallax gap but in the failure succeeds in doing what novelists do: exploiting the potential of human consciousness in its ideal and material expressions.
Though not a modernist novel of stream of consciousness, Enduring Love does show how one’s consciousness interacts with an unconscious and a preconscious. McEwan’s novel, we may say, is a tale in which the mind of a narrator very consciously works toward a knowledge lying in his unconscious not in order to resolve a neurosis but to solve two mysteries. A novel of detection, then, in much the same way as Freud’s case histories may so be regarded, Enduring Love frames one mystery within another. Its initiating event is a horrible accident outside Oxford, in the Chilterns, in which a hot- air balloon comes unmoored with a grandfather on the ground and his young grandson its only occupant. Diverse onlookers-passers by, picnickers, workers-note the boy’s danger, and several men attempt to anchor the balloon by grabbing hold of its trailing tethers. But when a hard gust of wind takes it rapidly upward, all but one of the men elect to let go in time to save themselves. Overcoming his initial panic, the boy uses enough ballooning technique eventually to help save himself, but that comes too late to prevent the one would-be rescuer’s falling to his death. One of the men who let go the balloon’s tethers is Joe Rose, McEwan’s first-person narrator and protagonist. Feeling humane concern for the man’s widow and two children but also guilt for having saved himself, Rose becomes involved with the man’s family. He hopes not only to explain himself to himself but also to attest to the family (a widow, daughter, and son) the dead man’s courage. In this plot element, it is with the widow that a mystery develops rather unexpectedly and calls upon Rose’s mnemonic skills. No, Joe and the woman do not fall in love. Rather, Rose rescues her love for her dead husband. The widow, on seemingly irrefutable evidence, comes to believe her husband was cheating on her and was in the Chilterns only because he was picnicking with a young lover. But Rose, searching deep into his memories of the incident of the balloon and interviewing others who were present at the time, eventually discredits the evidence for her conclusion and solves that mystery. By restoring to the grieving widow a good memory of the dead husband, he brings this story to a resolution characteristic of mystery and romance.
Dramatic as is the opening episode of the runaway balloon and the aftermath it brings, it exists largely to frame a narrative more significant. This narrative begins at the time of the balloon accident but strictly speaking has no logical connection to it.2 As with what one might call the widow’s plot, in this plot, the “love” plot alluded to in the book’s title, Joe Rose again solves a central mystery by probing his unconscious memory bank. During the moments of the balloon accident, one of the other men who grabbed the tethers but let go in time to save himself inexplicably seizes upon Joe Rose as a love object. The man eventually tells Rose that when their eyes had locked momentarily, before the two joined in the effort to save that boy in the balloon, he “knew” that Rose loved him and must be loved back. In research and probes into memories in his unconscious that surface as if through psychoanalytic free association, Rose eventually identifies the man’s sudden onset of psychosis as a form of psychotic passion. Motivated by his passion, this man-Jed-Parry-stalks Rose, threatens his sanity, endangers the woman he loves, turns him into an obsessive figure driven to understand what drives the man who stalks him, almost irretrievably sunders his domestic relationship, and makes him something of a persona non grata to the police to whom he repeatedly reports his stalker’s behavior. Given little help by the police or his domestic companion, however, Rose is left to help himself as best he can.
At some unconscious level, Rose knows that he knows about this man’s condition. But memory of it merely tantalizes him until a chance remark, by the widow’s son, concatenating the words palace, king, and signal, flashes it all before him. “It all came at once, and it seemed impossible that I could have forgotten,” we are told. “The palace was Buckingham Palace, the king was King George the Fifth, the woman outside the palace was French, and the time was shortly after the Great War.” Further, we are told, “She has traveled to England on a number of occasions and wanted nothing more than to stand outside the palace gates in the hope of catching sight of the king, with whom she was in love. She had never met him and never would, but her every waking thought was of him” (133). Moreover, before this narrative moment passes, Rose identifies the woman’s condition as “de Clerambault’s syndrome.” Indeed, before the novel ends, we learn that there is a massive literature on the syndrome and its various medical and legal consequences. Also called erotomania, the syndrome has several identifying nosological features and may take several specific forms. Its one constant is that, initially, the subject seizes upon another person as the one who loves. That is, the erotomanie begins with the notion that the other person loves him or her, not the reverse. That French woman had begun with the notion that the king loved her. In McEwan’s novel, Parry suffers the delusion that Rose, for no rational reason- indeed, before that moment at the balloon accident they had never laid eyes on each other-loves him. As regards the love-object, gender is not a deciding factor, for erotomania may manifest as heterosexual passion or-as with Parry-homosexual. Further, as the French woman fastened upon a king, the delusional subject often fastens upon a person of a higher class or caste. Regarding Rose, this feature seems not immediately to have been present, but Jed Parry makes it clear that after their first encounter he had done research on Rose, found he was a highly respected science writer, got copies of his writings, and spent hours obsessively pouring over them so he would “know” Rose. After the apparent initiating moment of the passion, then, it appears that, retroactively, Parry reified the syndrome through determining Rose’s status as a social and intellectual superior.
In working out this plot, McEwan makes central Rose’s solving the mystery of Jed Parry ‘ s psychosis. But, ironically, if not oddly, McEwan does not really turn to brain or evolutionary science for Rose’s solution. Despite his affirmation of new Darwinian cognitivism, McEwan does not demonstrate that even the most ancient knowledge of the human psyche is either a historical oddity or, worse, quite obsolete. In the novel’s most interesting formal feature, in “documentation” regarding the syndrome named for Gaetan Gatian de Clerambault, McEwan lends credence to the novel by pointing to its background in clinical descriptions and psychoanalysis as well. In a kind of scaffolding, the documentation appears in two appendices-an article and a letter-McEwan attaches to the main narrative text. The shorter of the two, the second item (26 1 -62) seems of a piece with the novel’ s fictional discourse: it is a letter written to McEwan’s narrator-Joe-Rose-from a mental institution by the very man-Jed-Parry-who in the narrative Rose recounts has made Rose’s life miserable but who in the letter expresses his enduring love for him. The longer of the two, the first item, however, seems well outside McEwan’s fictional discourse: it is an article entitled “A homoerotic obsession, with religious overtones: a clinical variant of de Clerambault’s syndrome” (249-60). It appears to be a genuine reprinting of a scholarly article, and, indeed, several early reviewers took it as such. Its authors are identified as “Robert Wenn” and “Antonio Camia,” and the source of its original publication as “The British Review of Psychiatry.”
While in McEwan’s novel the phenomenon addressed is real enough and clinically validated, in the two appendices all these-letter, article, its authors, and the journal-are faux. Though by their placement as appendices they appear as real documents outside the fictive discourse, they are in fact fictive fabrications of the sort familiar in the history of the novel. As Laura Miller reported in Salon, many readers and early reviewers (including psychiatrists) in major venues failed to recognize the fictive status of these items. Especially confusing was the purported article because McEwan does so well the “voice” of such research publications and because most of the items listed among its works cited, including de Clerambault’s essay, are quite real. There is, in fact, a British Journal of Psychiatry, and likewise real is the journal-Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica-in which “Wenn” and “Camia” publish another article (“Homosexual erotomania”) listed in the references appended to the bogus article. Regarding the faux article, it has been revealed that McEwan went so far as to submit it to a psychiatric journal. But while it was apparently considered seriously enough, the journal’s editor rejected it, so it never achieved the level of the so-called Sokal’s hoax.3 All that aside, once we understand that McEwan-like a good Joe Rose-did the research, wrote the case study, and made it part of the novel’s fictional discourse, we are not surprised by how closely the novel’s main conflict adheres to the details of the case history outlined there. Nor, indeed, should we be surprised that, as part of the fiction’s discourse, it even reveals elements of plot resolution (we learn in the article, for instance, that Rose and Clarissa-his significant other-patch up differences precipitated by Parry’s behavior and even adopt a child in place of ones Clarrisa is unable to conceive) otherwise not resolved within the previous narrative text.
For those interested in reading Enduring Love as itself a document demonstrating McEwan’s new Darwinian cognitivism, odder or more ironic still than the “article” is that the novel’s central “fact”-de Clerambault’s syndrome-comes from the history of psychoanalysis, not brain studies as such. More ironic still, it even touches Jacques Lacan. Focusing on that French woman, de Clerambault’s original case study was published in 1932. From the research McEwan does, he surely knows that in that same year, as professor of psychiatry at Sainte-Anne’ s hospital in Paris, de Clerambault was master to a young Lacan. Under the influence of de Clerambault but also revealing his differences from him, in his psychiatric thesis, defended in 1932, Lacan also wrote on a case of erotomania, that of the woman named Marguerite Pantaine (called “Aimee” in the thesis) who with a kitchen knife tried to kill a then- famous French stage and film actress. At this time, de Clerambault was a commanding (albeit not beloved) figure in French psychoanalytic circles, and his concept of ‘automatism’ in psychosis influenced many psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, including Lacan, who with de Clerambault, as Elizabeth Roudinesco recounts, “had a conflictual love-hate relationship” (23). Burdened by various psychological problems of his own, de Clerambault committed suicide in 1934, and in time became a figure known, as Roudinesco also recounts, for two things (or three if we count his influence on Lacan)-his obsessive interest in costumes worn by Algerian men and women and the syndrome named for him. His collected works appeared in 1942, and it is to this edition that citations (including that in McEwan’s faux article) most frequently refer.
It is indeed this work, “Les psychoses passionelles,” that Joe Rose remembers he once had read. In that moment of revelatory recall, Rose realizes how that French woman-expressing another common feature of the syndrome exhibited by Parry-believes the king sends her secret messages she finds encoded in such phenomena as cloud formations and arrangements of palace drapery. Accounting for his worries about his own and Clarissa’s safety, Rose learns from de Clerambault (and other researchers listed in that faux article) that violence is a frequent, albeit not defining, feature of erotomania. Rose learns too that the erotomanie subject’s passion typically emanates in the social and legal phenomenon familiar today as stalking, and may (as in Mark David Chapman’s murder of John Lennon) devolve to lethal violence. In his experience with the police, and to his chagrin, Rose learns as well that victims of stalkers are not always protected or even believed. Because erotomania only sometimes leads to violence upon the objects of its obsessional passion, the stalking behavior (looking, hanging around, collecting memorabilia) may to others appear relatively benign. Thus, as Rose learns, victims of erotomania may have difficulty persuading others, including authorities and even loved ones, of the danger to which they may be subjected.
In Enduring Love, as noted, Jed Parry does indeed stalk Rose. He begins by phoning him late at night and later repeatedly leaves phone messages once Rose refuses to answer calls. Then he shows up at Rose’s residence, offers protestations of their “mutual” love, and otherwise makes Rose’s life miserable. But because Parry is very canny in his behavior and Rose makes some stupid mistakes (ones- such as erasing dozens of answering-machine messages before anyone else hears them-that prompt a reader to scream, “Don’t do it, Joe”), Rose can persuade neither Clarissa that Parry in fact is a stalker nor a police caseworker that Parry, even if a stalker, might actually be dangerous. For her part, Clarissa, deciding after several arguments that Rose is more obsessed with Parry than is Parry with him, packs up and leaves Rose. Even when Parry’s threats escalate into violence, it is so well cloaked-Jed hires a couple of goons to attempt a hit on Rose that goes awry (the goons shoot another man) and seems not even directed at Rose-that the writer is left still unable to persuade the police that he is in danger. Taking it as a duty to protect himself and Clarissa, who also comes under threat, Rose illegally buys a handgun that he ultimately must use to save Clarissa from Parry and, it turns out, the suicidal Parry from himself. It all sounds pretty melodramatic (and it is), but, as a novelist of the realist persuasion, McEwan so skillfully envelops every element-plot, scene, characterization-in metonymic detail that only at the end (in what amounts to a shootout between victim and stalker-cum-kidnapper) does the melodrama seem a bit over the top. All this said, of Enduring Love-which I find a fine, serious, and entertaining novel-the question one ultimately must ask is what, apart from the machinery of the book, would make it exemplary for new Darwinist evolutionary critics? In what sense is the world of Enduring Love “evolutionary”? Joe Rose talks the Darwinian talk often enough. Perhaps most intrusively, he does so in his account of the failure of those several men, himself included, to cooperate well enough to anchor that runaway balloon and thereby to save the life of the man who fell. “Cooperation,” he says, is
the basis of our earliest hunting successes, the force behind our evolving capacity for language, the glue of our social cohesion. Our misery in the aftermath was proof that we knew we had failed ourselves. But letting go was in our nature too. Selfishness is also written on our hearts. This is our mammalian conflict: what to give to the others and what to keep for yourself. (15)
But, in the larger plot of this novel, it seems that McEwan gives about as much credence to Clarissa’s views as to Joe’s. And Clarissa, in their arguments about Darwinian reductionism, calls “the whole project” of genetics, neo-Darwinism, and evolutionary psychology “rationalism gone berserk.” It is, she says, “the new fundamentalism.” Indeed, she adds, “Twenty years ago you and your friends were all socialists and you blamed the environment for everyone’s hard luck. Now you’ve got us trapped in our genes, and there’s a reason for everything!” (74-75). In her view, “Everything was being stripped down, . . . and in the process some larger meaning was lost” (75).
If in a Darwinian sense, the “larger meaning” Joe, if not Clarissa, would attribute to everything devolves to survival and reproduction, in what way does this novel suggest that? Are Joe Rose’s and Jed Parry’s actions so driven? As for Rose, nothing apart from ordinary human failings affects his ability to act ethically in the face of situations where survival and reproduction might have justified more extreme behaviors. As for Parry, he emerges as antagonist for Rose because of a type of impairment that eliminates as motives both survival and reproduction. As the nature of the antagonist in McEwan’s more recent Saturday emanates from a genetic physiological disease that progressively impairs cognition and emotional control,4 so also does Parry suffer from a psychological condition. But Parry’s psychose passioneile seems to have neither a genetic nor a physiological origin (although research more recent than McEwan’s novel, by Anderson et al., suggests that a physiological origin is possible). While evolutionary psychology devalues psychoanalysis, Parry’s syndrome seems clearly to model psychoanalytic issues. It can be corrected neither by drugs, surgery, nor gene therapy. Would psychotherapy do it? Probably not, since psychosis as such rarely ever is cured by anything, and the novel-in the faux article-indicates that Parry remains delusional and no cure for him seems imminent. Given that the subject afflicted with erotomania suffers from a psychological impairment rather than a genetically physiological one, is he more or less culpable for his criminal deeds than is Saturday’s Huntington’s sufferer? Because in Enduring Love McEwan focuses on how the erotomanie subject’s behavior affects the protagonist and his sense of moral responsibility, however, he does not really address this question. What McEwan does question, ultimately, as David Malcolm says, is knowledge: “The novel presents different kinds of knowledge,” and while the two main forms-Joe’s neo-Darwinian materialism and Jed’s Christian eschatology-”give their possessors considerable certainty,”"what the novel also shows is that knowledge is (like love) a rather fragile thing, difficult to get and, indeed, rather unstable.” In sum, Malcolm rightly says, “an atmosphere of epistemological uncertainty bedevils the world of Enduring Love” (177).
Thus, where might analysis of Enduring Love and McEwan’s reading list leave us? To be sure, all those names and books are associated with the new evolutionary theory and its affiliated materialist philosophy. And, yes, new Darwinist critics (such as Carroll, Literary Darwinism ix) readily identify McEwan as one of them because much of his fiction exhibits considerable knowledge of current evolutionary science. Moreover, yes, his fiction often revolves around psychological issues (incest in The Cement Garden, for instance; mourning in The Child in Time), and he clearly orients himself intellectually toward the hard sciences, psychiatry, and the brain sciences in consciousness studies rather than toward a traditional psychoanalysis that is anathema now to cognitive and evolutionary psychology (talk about anxiety of influence). But, no, Enduring Love, while also exhibiting those attractions, does not ultimately offer a persuasive endorsement, if that is what one seeks in it, of any hard evolutionary theory. Thus, while it is clear that McEwan’s novel reaches out to evolutionary theorists and critics, it works-as perhaps all good fiction does-within that middle intellectual ground, somewhere between hard, empirical and soft, speculative knowledge, there where lurks the spectre of that dualism Uttal claims is the bane of cognitivism. In evolutionary terms, Enduring Love addresses not brain or mind but consciousness.5 It is a consciousness, however, that does give credence to a limited dualism, one of the sort found in the credo-”No ideas but in things”- expressed in William Carlos Williams’s Paterson. Though we have not closed Zizek’s parallax gap, ideas-and idealism-do come, albeit “in things,” and cannot simply be disregarded by ultramaterialists. Thus (and here we are, back in the material world), as p