Wonderworks reveals that literature is among the mightiest technologies that humans have ever invented, precision-honed to give us what our brains most want and need.
Literature is a technology like any other. And the writers we revere – from Homer to Shakespeare, Austen to Ferrante – each made a unique technical breakthrough that can be viewed as both a narrative and neuroscientific advancement. But literature’s great invention was to address problems we could not solve: not how to start a fire or build a boat, but how to live and love; how to maintain courage in the face of death; how to account for the fact that we exist at all.
Based on Angus Fletcher’s own research, Wonderworks tells the story of the greatest literary inventions through the ages, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern-day America. It draws on cutting-edge neuroscience to demonstrate that the inventions really work: they enrich our lives with joy, hope, courage and energy, and they help our brains heal from grief, loneliness and even trauma.
From ancient Chinese lyrics to nursery rhymes and fairy tales, from slave narratives to contemporary TV shows, Wonderworks walks us through the evolution of literature’s crucial blueprints, and offers us a new understanding of its power.