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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that cognitive theory and evolutionary theory explain the human preference for originality in the arts. Drawing on cognitive, ecological, and environmental psychology and evolutionary theory and showing the correspondence between these fields and Russian formalism and reception theory, the first part of the chapter explains that attention to the novel and unfamiliar was particularly advantageous to humans over the course of evolution. The ability to seek out knowledge and utilize new resources benefited the far-ranging human species. The preoccupation with the new, initially facilitating survival, serves as the foundation for a predominant aesthetic predisposition. The second half of the chapter claims that the enduring stature of William Wordsworth’s experimental Lyrical Ballads is well explained by this predilection for novelty. Cognitive and evolutionary theory, then, explain the predisposition underlying reception theory’s concept of horizonal change.

Keywords: originality, novelty, aesthetics, cognitive psychology, ecological psychology, Lyrical Ballads, Russian formalism, reception theory

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