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Darwin’s theory of music, rhetoric and poetry

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Menninghaus,  Winfried
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Menninghaus, W. (2013). Darwin’s theory of music, rhetoric and poetry. In G. A. Danieli, A. Minelli, & T. Pievani (Eds.), Stephen J. Gould: The scientific legacy (pp. 169-176). Springer Milan.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-3233-B
Abstract
This essay on Darwin’s evolutionary theory of human music, rhetoric and poetry will first portray the way Darwin conceives of human music in relation to his animal model of artful singing. Second, it discusses the evolutionary heritage from previously evolved musical capacities Darwin diagnosed in verbal language, more specifically in its artful elaboration in rhetoric and poetry. Darwin’s speculations are boiled down to two testable hypotheses: (1) Rhetorically enhanced messages should be aesthetically more appealing, recruit more attention, and result in stronger affective involvement than the same messages deprived of the rhetorical extra-charms. (2) Affective responses to rhetorically enhanced versus rhetorically flat messages should moreover facilitate associations of an at least latent sexual dimension, and/or lead to different responses to sexual primes. In the third section of the present article, empirical studies are partly reported and partly envisaged that have a potential to test these hypotheses. Throughout this essay Darwin’s hypotheses are projected onto Stephen Jay Gould’s typology of evolutionary processes as well as onto older traditions in rhetoric, poetics, and aesthetics.