Why Humans Like to Cry: The Evolutionary Origins of Tragedy

Michael Trimble. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-969318-4
In this multidisciplinary investigation of emotional crying, Trimble (The Soul in the Brain), emeritus professor of behavioral neurology, explores the evolutionary and physiological roots of human tears with special reference to Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. Trimble's insights about lachrymal glands and dacrystic seizures are smart and thorough, although his facility with neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and evolutionary theory tends to highlight the defects in his knowledge of literary genres. In application to tragedy, the scientific perspectives that Trimble brings to bear are apt to seem essentializing, ahistorical, or simplistic. One does not necessarily need to turn to neurobiological perspectives in order to conclude, for example, that "Tears are an accompaniment to Tragedy as art form, and they reflect the tears of everyday human tragedy, which is linked to loss and mourning." To his credit, Trimble acknowledges the discomfort of certain scholars with the idea of music or tragedy as "universal language", but these acknowledgments rarely inflect his arguments about humanistic pursuits. On the whole, Trimble's lucid, appealing prose is at its best when occupied with tears rather than tragedy. 15 b&w illus. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 02/04/2013
Release date: 12/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 241 pages - 978-0-19-164441-2
Paperback - 232 pages - 978-0-19-871349-4
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