Conclusion Theory of Mind and the Color Line

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


I noted in the Introduction that most ToM literary criticism concerns itself with fictional narratives, especially novels, since these texts tend to offer multiple and diverse opportunities to read characters’ states of mind: to predict their motivations and desires and to winnow from the many possible interpretations of their actions those that seem most persuasive and meaningful. I hope by now I have convinced you that nonfictional narratives, including and especially those devoted to the problems and possibilities of reform, can provide mindreading opportunities of their own that match in frequency and complexity any you might find in fiction. You will hear echoes of my plea on behalf of nonfiction later in this Conclusion. I will begin, however, with a brief overview of some of the neurobiological and evolutionary dimensions of ToM that determine how and to what extent we engage with narratives; as part of this overview, I will reiterate the important claim made by most ToM literary scholars: that attention to the evolved, biological elements of cognition must be accompanied by consideration of cultural and historical contexts.1 Finally, I will show how the particular arguments I have made about Emerson and Du Bois can suggest, in broader terms, how ToM-based approaches may temper and supplement literary and cultural criticism that addresses problems of racial difference in the work of other writers: how it can enrich the efforts of scholars whose interest in comparative racialization, like my own, demands modes and methods of narrative study that not only cross the color line but also delve more deeply into the affective-cognitive infrastructures that subtend it.


Racial Difference Color Line Fictional Narrative Intellectual Labor Double Consciousness 
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© Ryan Schneider 2010

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