W&J Professor Becomes Cage Fighter for New Book

Created: June 10, 2015  |  Last Updated: October 25, 2021  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

WASHINGTON, PA (June 10, 2015) — Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) distinguished fellow Jonathan Gottschall’s new book is what he calls the “non-fiction version of Fight Club.”

The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch is Gottschall’s seventh book, and just a month after its April 2015 release, it has already garnered attention from the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Daily Beast, Publisher’s Weekly and The Washington Post.

The book chronicles Gottschall’s personal journey with mixed marital arts fighting in order to answer the two questions within the book’s title: what draws men into fights, and why do audiences enjoy watching the action?

Gottschall said he was intrigued by the subject matter when Mark Schrader’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Academy opened in the building across the street from his office in Davis Memorial Hall on the W&J campus. Curious about the warrior culture of MMA, he decided to risk a black eye or two and try MMA himself.

While Gottschall dodged hits and interviewed fighters, he found himself surprised by the personalities of the people who were training alongside him at the academy.

“You might expect them to be bully types, or even savages,” he said. “I found them to be very ordinary young men who are looking for a challenge or a way to test their strength and their courage.”

The Professor in the Cage explores both the history and the science behind violence, with a focus on the culture of combat sport, and the rise of MMA popularity. By the end of his experience, Gottschall came to a surprising conclusion, “I set out to write a book about human violence, but I ended up with a book about the games, rules, and rituals we’ve invented to channel aggression down relatively safe pathways.”

Gottschall said he also learned a lot about himself through testing his physical strength and character, and experienced a personal growth that he did not expect.

“I wanted to know if I could go into the cage and compete bravely,” he said. “The most important thing I ended up learning about myself was that I was capable of it.”

Gottschall also is the author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, which has been reviewed by National Public Radio, The New York Times, and Oprah Magazine, among others.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.

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