Why Dead Authors Can Thrill Modern Readers

An interesting introduction to literary Darwinism, from LiveScience.com:

Carroll hypothesized that modern readers would
gravitate toward protagonists who displayed pro-social tendencies or promoted
group cooperation — similar to how ancestral human hunter-gatherers valued such
behavior.

He joined forces with another Literary Darwinist, Jonathan
Gottschall, as well as two evolutionary psychologists on the study. Their
online survey asked respondents to identify characters from classic 19th
century British novels as protagonists, antagonists, or minor characters, and
to rate character traits and emotional responses based on a psychological model
of personality.

As predicted, people rated protagonists as displaying
cooperative behavior that produced feel-good, positive responses from readers.
They rated antagonists as being motivated by desire for social dominance, which
drew negative emotional responses.

The study also found strong agreement among respondents
rating character traits, even if just two people responded regarding a certain
character. “Pride and Prejudice” had no lack of responses — 81 people
showed a familiarity with heroine Elizabeth Bennett that might have made the
Austen protagonist blush.