Abstract

Evolutionary critiques of literature often focus on the adaptive benefits that can accrue to an individual or group when stories and narratives are consumed—either read or heard. But the benefits of story construction are multiple and empirically-documented, and story production appears to serve several adaptive functions at the individual level. For instance, recent research in psychology suggests that people often receive physical and mental health benefits from writing uniquely personal, unshared narratives and stories in response to past events that were emotionally difficult for them to accept or comprehend. These findings invite an intriguing re-examination of many works of literature in terms of health narratives that may have been constructed around the core conflicts and concerns of each work. By way of illustration, poems from four widely-respected poets are examined using the health narrative framework and compared to each other to assess their relative degree of success.

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