White Attention Economy in To Kill a Mockingbird


  • Leonie Bartel


Combining cognitive stylistics, cognitive narratology, and critical race theory, the paper establishes the concept of a ‘white attention economy’ as a tool for analysing systemic discrimination inscribed in (real world) attention patterns and its reflection in literary fiction. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) works with such a ‘white attention economy’, that is, selective narrative attention privileging a white perspective, which exploits and reinforces readers’ habitual attention patterns. Most strikingly, the novel’s character descriptions present white characters as default. However, the novel also breaks with key principles of a white attention economy and thus challenges it, encouraging readers to reflect upon their own attention patterns. This is mainly achieved through two different joint attention frames: (1) the representation of joint attention between characters, which (2) readers are invited to join cognitively.