Brown Bag Lecture featuring Dr. Judylyn Ryan - "Reading Toni Morrison's Fiction as Neurohistory"

January 15, 2014

The Department of African American and African Studies is pleased to announce the Brown Bag Presentation featuring Dr. Judylyn Ryan. The talk is scheduled for Friday, 2/21/14 from 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM and will be held in the AAAS Conference Room (386B University Hall). For more information please contact, Dr. Devin Fergus at or the Department of African American and African Studies at 292-3700.

Abstract: Applying neuroscience understandings of the role of emotion in moral judgment to Toni Morrison’s fiction provides new ways of understanding her commitment to the interrelated projects of historical thinking, social literacy, and democracy. This approach enables a better appreciation of Morrison’s fiction as a therapeutic form of “do[ing] language” that can reactivate emotional circuits of the brain in order to generate more extensive and effectual historical thinking in line with the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. In sum, viewing Morrison’s fiction as a form of neurohistory illuminates the significance of her attempt to counter the emotional detachment toward communities of “disposable” people that pose an imminent threat to the health and stability of US democracy.

Dr. Ryan is an interdisciplinary scholar who teaches courses on (African) American literature, Black feminist theory, Black women's literature and cinema, African diaspora literatures and cinema, and the Freshman Writing Seminar at Ohio Wesleyan University. Her other research interests are cultural and critical race theory, narrative theory, Toni Morrison, and African diaspora religions. Professor Ryan has been a visiting lecturer and research associate in the Women's Studies in Religion Program in the Divinity School at Harvard University, and has held a Ford postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for the Study of Black Literature and Culture at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is the author of Spirituality as Ideology in Black Women’s Film and Literature (University of Virginia Press, 2005), and of articles published in The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison, SIGNS, Modern Fiction Studies, and other venues.   She is currently at work on a second book that combines bio-medical approaches to the study of diseases with methodologies derived from critical race theory and disability studies to develop and propose new models for understanding racism and race. It is titled The Epidemiology of Racism: Re-framing the Discourse on Race in the Age of Obama