Jose Carillo's Forum


This section features links to interesting, instructive, or thought-provoking readings about the English language and related disciplines. The selections could be anywhere from light and humorous to serious and scholarly, and they range widely from the reading, writing, listening, and speaking disciplines to the teaching and learning of English.

Is music a cultural invention or product of sexual selection?

Did the capacity of humans to compose and enjoy songs come from the advent of civilization or from biological evolution?

Two American psychologists and book authors, Gary Marcus and Geoffrey Miller, have taken opposite sides on this issue and debated it in the April 16, 2012 issue of Atlantic Magazine.

Guitar ZeroMating Mind

Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University and the author of Guitar Zero: The New Musician and The Science of Learning (Penguin Press HC, 288 pages) and Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of The Human Mind (Houghton Mifflin, 224 pages), argues that music is best seen as a cultural invention.

On the other hand, Miller, a professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico and the author of The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature (Anchor, 528 pages) and Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior (Viking Adult, 384 pages), takes the position that music is the product of sexual selection and an adaptation that’s been with humans for millennia.

In Guitar Zero, Marcus postulates that that music is a cultural technology, something that human beings have crafted over the millennia, rather than something directly wired into our genomes. On the contrary, in The Mating Mind, Miller contends that music has some key features of an evolved adaptation, being universal across cultures, ancient in prehistory, and capable of being learned by children early and spontaneously.

Read the Miller-Marcus debate in “Did Humans Invent Music?” in now!

Read an excerpt from Gary Marcus’s Guitar Zero in the website now!

Read an excerpt from Geoffrey Miller’s The Mating Mind in The New York Times now!

In “Style is the Man,” an essay that came out in May 2012 issue of Atlantic Magazine, Australian poet and critic Clive James does a retrospective on the late Dwight Macdonald, who is considered one of America’s finest essayists. James says: “No modern American prose writer of consequence ever postured less: compared with him, Mary McCarthy is on stilts, Gore Vidal grasps a pouncet-box, and Norman Mailer is from Mars in a silver suit. At his best, Macdonald made modern American English seem like the ideal prose medium: transparent in its meaning, fun when colloquial, commanding when dignified, and always suavely rhythmic even when most committed to the demotic.”

Mass Cult & Midcult

Read Clive James’s “Style is the Man” in the Atlantic Magazine now!

In a review of Terry Eagleton’s The Event of Literature in the April 5, 2012 issue of The Guardian of UK, Stuart Kelly says that the following attempt of Eagleton to define “literature” is elegant in that it’s inherently fuzzy: “My own sense is that when people at the moment call a piece of writing literary, they generally have one of five things in mind, or some combination of them. They mean by ‘literary’ a work which is fictional, or which yields significant insight into human experience as opposed to reporting empirical truths, or which uses language in a peculiarly heightened, figurative or self-conscious way, or which is not practical in the sense that shopping lists are, or which is highly valued as a piece of writing.” Kelly says that this admittedly porous definition provides a rationale for why the diverse books on his own bookshelf—a collection of dialogues, children’s stories, a novella, ancient Greek courtroom strategies, a short story—can all be considered literature.

Event of Literature

Read Stuart Kelly’s review of Terry Eagleton’s The Event of Literature in The Guardian now!

Click to read comments or post a comment

View the complete list of postings in this section
(requires registration to post)

Copyright © 2010 by Aperture Web Development. All rights reserved.

Page best viewed with:

Mozilla FirefoxGoogle Chrome

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional

Page last modified: 22 April, 2012, 5:15 p.m.