Barash, Nanelle R.

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Barash, Nanelle R.

PERSONAL: Daughter of David P. Barash (a psychology professor) and Judith Eve Lipton (a psychiatrist). Education: Attended Swarthmore College, 2003–.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Delacorte Press, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Writer.


(With David P. Barash) Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Nanelle R. Barash published Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature while studying biology and literature at Swarthmore College. She wrote the book with her father, David P. Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. The project stemmed from a paper Nanelle wrote on Virgil's Aeneid for Overlake School, in which she used her father's suggestion of applying Darwinian analysis. David later wrote about the subject in the Chronicle of Higher Education and received praise for her article in the New York Times.

Madame Bovary's Ovaries presents many well-known literary texts as illustrations that support Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. For example, Othello's jealousy is akin to that of male elk and elephant seals. In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the young women naturally seek the most impressive males, just as female bluethroats show a preference for males with the brightest throat feathers. Other analysis treats the works of such authors as William Faulkner, D.H. Lawrence, Frank Norris, Amy Tan, Jonathan Franzen, and August Wilson.

As a work aimed at a general readership, a Publishers Weekly critic found Madame Bovary's Ovaries to be "a surprisingly lighthearted romp through both literature and the animal kingdom." A Science News reviewer found it to be a "well-researched and humorous narrative." According to a Kirkus Reviews writer, the study offers "an amusing, learned and literate look at the naked apes who populate the pages of our most celebrated fiction."

Other reviewers suggested that Madame Bovary's Ovaries skirts interesting issues. John Derbyshire remarked in the National Review that controversial aspects of sociobiology are avoided and concluded: "Half a loaf is better than no bread, and it is a very good thing that popular books setting human nature in its biological, evolutionary context are being published." Writing for Library Journal, Rebecca Bollen Manalac advised that "it can serve as a lay reader's introduction to evolutionary biology" rather than literary criticism. In a review for the Seattle Times, Bill Dietrich commented that, "like all one-stop solutions, the book seems to explain some lives better than others…. The book is silent on homosexuality, celibacy, human sacrifice or mothers who kill their own children." Still, he recommended the book to "any English teacher or book club hoping to provoke spirited discussion."



Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005, review of Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, p. 394.

Library Journal, May 15, 2005, Rebecca Bollen Manalac, review of Madame Bovary's Ovaries, p. 117.

National Review, June 20, 2005, John Derbyshire, review of Madame Bovary's Ovaries, p. 52.

Publishers Weekly, March 28, 2005, review of Madame Bovary's Ovaries, p. 67.

Science News, July 16, 2005, review of Madame Bovary's Ovaries, p. 47.

Seattle Times, May 2, 2005, Bill Dietrich, review of Madame Bovary's Ovaries.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), July 31, 2005, Peter Moore and Karin Winegar, review of Madame Bovary's Ovaries.