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The evolutionary origins of human storytelling: Vestigial Tale, Part 2

Analysing stories is usually territory claimed by writers, critics, and university scholars. But recently, evolutionary psychologists have begun to look at the human propensity for storytelling from a scientific perspective. Why are we humans such suckers for a good story? Literary critics find the answer in story structure, characters, and plotlines. The literary Darwinists find the answer in evolution.
Prehistoric paintings in the Lascaux Cave, near the village of Montignac, southwestern France. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images)
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Analysing stories is usually territory claimed by writers, critics, and university scholars. But recently, evolutionary psychologists have begun to look at the human propensity for storytelling from a scientific perspective.  Why are we humans such suckers for a good story? Literary critics find the answer in story structure, characters, and plotlines. The literary Darwinists find the answer in evolution.  Documentary-maker Chris Brookes looks at the evolutionary origins of human storytelling. **This episode originally aired May 27, 2015.
 

Is there a typical way of telling a story? 

From infancy to old age, from nursery rhymes to novels to films to television drama, we humans are immersed in stories.   Be it  Hamlet, Hans Solo, Coyote, Rama, Miss Marple, Walter White or Tony Soprano - story casts an irresistible spell over us. Traditionally, scholars of literature have looked for the answer in story structure, in characters, and plotlines.  But  recently, storytelling has come under the gaze of anthropologists, cognitive scientists and evolutionary psychologists - and they find the answer in evolution. In Part 2 of Vestigial Tale, Chris Brookes considers the evolutionary origins of fiction storytelling.  


Participants in the programs:

  • Jonathan Gottschall, literary scholar  at Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, and author of the book The Storytelling Animal.

  • Brian Boyd, distinguished professor at University of Aukland and author of the book On The Origin of Stories

  • Martin Lovelace - associate professor of folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
     
  • Documentary makers Annie McEwen, Rob Rosenthal. Dublin storyteller Aideen McBride. Newfoundland storytellers Carl Pearcey, Mary Fearon, Andy Jones. Beekeeper Aubrey Golding. Writer Elizabeth de Mariafi. ​Kora musician and singer Boujou Cissoko.


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