Mindblindness. Metaphor and Neuroaesthetics in the Works of Silas Weir Mitchell and Simon Baron-Cohen


Stiles, Anne and Finger, Stanley and Boller, Francois


Silas Weir Mitchell's novel, when All the Woods are Green (1894), acknowledges the medical use of mindblindness (agnosia) but also casts it as a developmental disorder, bringing it provocatively close to how current neuropsychologist, Simon Baron-Cohen and his followers use the term in relation to autism. This chapter traces the mindblindess metaphor in the works of Mitchell and Baron-Cohen to show how mindblindness informs the larger paradigms by which they theorize the brain. This analysis suggests that Baron-Cohen, and thus much current thinking about autism spectrum conditions, is influenced by Victorian-era cultural assumptions and neurosexism, a connection that calls for scrutiny of Baron-Cohen's current models of the brain and theories of autism. This chapter also demonstrates the extent to which Mitchell used fiction and advocated writing as neuroaesthetic tools and thus bridged in his work cognitive science and aesthetics-a connection that current scholars of neuroaesthetics are now theorizing.


English and Technical Communication

Keywords and Phrases

Agnosia; Article; Assortative Mating; Autism; Cognition; Cultural Factor; Developmental Disorder; Empathy; Human; Learning; Literature; Priority Journal; Psychologist; Sexism; Sexual Selection; Thinking; Autism Spectrum Conditions; Camp Cure; Civil War; History of Medicine; Mindblindness; Neuroaesthetics; Nineteenth Century American Fiction; Rest Cure; Theory of Mind; Agnosia; Autistic Disorder; Famous Persons; History; 19th Century; History; 20th Century; Metaphor; Neurology; Theory of Mind

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