Abstract

Over the past forty years or so, the evolutionary human sciences have gradually developed a good working model of human nature. That model includes basic emotions and basic motives such as survival, mating, parenting, favoring kin, and acting as members of a social group. Cognitive and social adaptations include the capacity for envisioning the perspectives of other people. Meaning in fiction can be located in the interplay of perspectives among authors, characters, and readers. Successful stories simultaneously draw on our common nature and create new and unique moments of imaginative experience. I construct a diagram for the elements involved in interpreting a text and give an illustrative reading of a short story by Ambrose Bierce. I argue that Bierce presupposes an intuitive model of universal human concerns and that evolutionary psychology provides the best explanatory framework for that intuitive model.

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