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Reflective Mindreading: Theory of Mind and the Search for Self in Antonio Machado’s Soledades Steven Mills Buena Vista University, USA Abstract: In Antonio Machado’s collection Soledades, the poet’s search for identity guides an introspective quest where context, body, and mind form an intricate and inseparable connection. By extending cognitive capabilities to his natural environment, the poet, through embodied cognition and Theory of Mind, reads other people’s and nature’s minds to interpret t
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   Hispania 94.4 (2011): 589–602AATSP Copyright © 2011. Reective Mindreading: Theory of Mind and theSearch for Self in Antonio Machado’s  Soledades Steven Mills  Buena Vista University, USA Abstract: In Antonio Machado’s collection Soledades , the poet’s search for identity guides an introspec-tive quest where context, body, and mind form an intricate and inseparable connection. By extendingcognitive capabilities to his natural environment, the poet, through embodied cognition and Theory of Mind, reads other people’s and nature’s minds to interpret their intentions, fears, and mental states. This mindreading, in turn, reects Machado’s own interior states, allowing him to apprehend a clearer sense of his identity. Thus, in Soledades, Theory of Mind is a tool that utilizes personal memories, emotions,and thoughts as a part of the search for self. This pursuit is neither entirely physical nor purely cerebral, but rather, employs experiences from the past and present, all created through embodied cognition, toorganize and understand the world. Therefore, identity is the construct of past and present mental and bodily experiences intricately intertwined with the natural and social contexts. The poet discovers that heis neither a solitary individual nor merely a dispensable element of a greater society; rather, he representsan essential part of his social and natural context. Keywords: Antonio Machado, contextualism, embodied cognition, memory, mindreading, search for identity, Soledades, Theory of Mind A ntonio Machado is known for the metaphysical concerns in his poetry, incorporatingself-conscious and existential thought into his work, and in particular in the searchto discover and understand his personal identity, his sense of self. In his collection Soledades , Machado embarks on this search through Theory of Mind (ToM) as he personies his environment and then, in the process, endows it with both intentionality and the ability tothink. The lyric “I” contemplates his physical surroundings and discovers that his seclusion is breeched by nature, which ultimately participates in the construction of his sense of self. Whilehis personal identity comprises his own thoughts, emotions, and desires—that is, his mind—wealso see that these aspects are intricately and of necessity united with his environment of natureand society because he constructs nature’s mind through the physical sensations that he believeshe and it share. Such intrusions, as well as with his other human interactions, provide valuableinsights into his quest. When conversing with another person, this poetic voice penetrates theother’s thoughts by creating a mental state for him or her, which allows the voice also to make sense of his own state. When it is nature or other inanimate objects, he rst humanizes them into thinking organisms and then attributes mental states to them as well. The cognition he grants tohis environment further facilitates interaction with the external world—an embodied cognitionin which, beyond providing mindreading capabilities for nature, allows our bodies to be “closely dened, and experienced, in terms of the specic actions we engage in as we move about the world” (Gibbs 17). Therefore, as the speaker engages his natural world, its humanness stemsfrom his coupling with it: “The world becomes alive for us from being incorporated into our  bodies, while at the same time, we experience ourselves being absorbed into the body of the world. This fusion of body and world makes it difcult, at times, to strictly distinguish between the two” (18). The speaker’s fusion with the world is visible through ToM, which grants him  590  Hispania 94 December 2011access to the intentions and conditions of the world in which he lives, in order to better com- prehend his own memories, emotions, and thoughts and, ultimately, his self. Mindreading uses experiences created through embodied cognition and retrieved through memory rst to organize and understand the world and then to look inward as a tool to interpret one’s own mind. Beyond  personication, the speaker’s search relies heavily on the coupling of body, mind, and context, to read his own mind and that of his environment, and his identity becomes a construct of thistotal context, at once social and individual, constructing his own self through a union betweenexterior forces and internal thoughts.The presence of an independent mind as the speaker in poetry facilitates, even requires, thatwe look at the lyric “I” as an embodied person. Scott Brewster, in his recent study on the lyric poem, argues that, in what has become the “dominant model” for the lyric, there is a shift toward an inward and meditative speaker, isolated and “abstracted from specic historical conditions who can convey an immediacy of experience, ‘personal’ thoughts and feelings” (30). Thistransition would portray a speaker that seeks to better understand his own identity through an introspective and meditative tone within a ssured consciousness throughout Soledades . NancyA. Newton, addressing Machado’s poetry, similarly argues that “his poetry is not so much theexpression of self as the structuring of possible selves” (231), creating a meditative poetic voicewith an “attitude of unremitting doubt, uncertainty and questioning” (232). This structuringof selves, the search for identity, occurs through negatives, an opposition within the personal psyche that we can relate to Brewster’s removed, self-contemplative speaker, because the “I”requires “a crucial distancing  of self from itself” in order to achieve self awareness (Newton236; emphasis srcinal). 1 The effect of such binaries, the negative as a source of meaning inMachado’s works, leads to her conclusion that for Machado the “mind must become its own object in which it nds itself—subject—reected: mind which knows itself to be mind. (. . . ‘El gran ojo que todo lo ve al verse a sí mismo’)” (236). In a similar vein, Antonio Carreño suggeststhat there is an internal (mental) and external (physical) world, and in order to apprehend eachthis plural self must shift “de un yo intimista e introspectivo por otro exterior, en búsquedadel social e histórico: el ‘otro’” (84). In these Cartesian images of self in Soledades , there aretwo separate, independent parts of a self, each performing an action to understand the world, but separate nonetheless (86). 2  Cognitive psychology, however, allows us to reassess this claim because the internal searchin Soledades , rather than occurring in isolation or as a fragmented ego, involves a knowing being that relies on, learns from, and couples with its exterior world. This duality only givesa partial glimpse into the speaker’s sense of self; therefore, as I will discuss in greater detaillater, we must replace this Cartesian approach to identity with a perspective that incorporatesembodied context. Brewster, for example, while laying out the concept of lyric also concedesthe practicality of considering the context from which this speaker is isolated, because the reader  “must constantly ask: ‘who is speaking / observing / remembering / reecting / meditating / exhorting / praising / imagining here? How is she/he (or sometimes it) addressing me now, atthis time?” (34). In a similar discussion, Jonathan Culler argues that deictics, or those elements of language that discuss the situation surrounding an utterance, “force us to construct a ctional situation of utterance, to bring into being a voice and a force addressed, and this requires us toconsider the relationship from which the qualities of the voice and the force could be drawnand to give it a central place within the poem” (166). 3 To remember who exactly the lyric “I”is, we must ground the lyric voice in a natural and social context, essentially recontextualizingthat abstracted “I”, extending to him/her a mind, intentions, and embodiment to every degreethat we do with others in our real-world interactions. Cognitive psychology demonstrates thatwe engage characters—reading their minds, sharing their fears, and anticipating their inten-tions—the same way we do with real people. 4 Therefore, we must begin an understanding of thelyric “I” with the premise that he/she, as Gibbs has described, is embodied in his or her world;he/she is a contextual being that must understand him or herself as a part of his or her context in  591 Mills / Reective Mindreading order to discover an elusive identity. As the lyric “I” in Soledades listens to the narratives of his prodigal brother, observes the monotony of a childhood classroom, or walks through the hot anddusty twilight garden, he relies on both nature and his inner self in a search that requires a union between his own cognition and the greater physical context. Beyond pure introspection, theseexternal elements form essential clues to his identity as the speaker engages the same mentaltool that we all use to understand and give meaning to ourselves and our surroundings: ToM.Theory of Mind refers to our ability to mind read, our capacity to understand another’semotions, thoughts, intentions, and desires. Alison Gopnik, in The MIT Encyclopedia of Cogni-tive Science , explains that ToM “involves psychological theorizing about our ordinary, intuitive,‘folk’ understanding of the mind” (838). ToM, used interchangeably with “mindreading,” refersto the way that we, as cognitive agents, “routinely predict and explain the behavior of others byascribing to them a cornucopia of mental states” (Rigdon 379). Simon Baron-Cohen explainsit in these straight-forward terms: “Now, you and I are mindreaders. I don’t mean that we havespecial telepathy; I just mean that we have the capacity to imagine or represent states of mindthat we or others might hold” (2). James Stiller and R. I. M. Dunbar discuss ToM or mentalizingas “intentional states” that we attribute to people whom we encounter, our “understanding of  states of mind, typically exemplied by the use of words like believe, intend, suppose, think  ,and so on” (95). This attribution of intentionality allows us to function as social beings by providing, as Lisa Zunshine explains, the “ability to explain people’s behavior in terms of their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires” (6). People attribute states of mind to others basedon facial expressions, vocal tones, body language, and, as Marco Iacoboni suggests, mirror neurons. ToM “is the default way by which we construct and navigate our social environment,incorrect though our attributions frequently are” (Zunshine 6). Because it is fundamental tohuman interaction, in the collection Soledades , ToM emerges as an important tool for Machadoas he portrays a cognitive agent in his poetry.The underlying requirement in ToM is that other people have independent and privatethoughts and intentions; we just try to interpret what they are as we communicate. Trying toconstruct another’s mental state requires a lot of guesswork, but also a heavy reliance on thecontext as well as our own experiences and emotions, a fact that ultimately makes mindreadingviable though not perfect. While we are often wrong, with ToM we nonetheless create a link  between another’s mind and ours, and, as Robert M. Gordon explains, when simulating theother’s mind, we predict his or her behaviors and actions by calling on our own emotions, a process which “permits us to extend to others the modes of attribution, explanation, and predic-tion that otherwise would be applicable only in our own case” (730). This process applies to thelyric “I” in Machado’s poetry because, as he struggles toward self-discovery, he attempts tounderstand others’ minds, relying on his own experiences, emotions, and context as a founda- tion. Gordon sheds light on the voice’s actions, suggesting that ToM “requires that you rst recognize your own mental states, perhaps under certain imagined hypothetical conditions, andthen infer that the other is in similar states” (730–31). We must recognize how one’s situationresembles similar situations that we have either had or can imagine and then map our mentalstate onto the other. The poetic voice thus relies on his own emotions to interpret what his  brother, God, or other people must be thinking. Eventually, he extends his ToM to nature where hidden thoughts are inherently absent, and this new direction, while revealing possible secrets in nature, also reects his own concerns about his personal context. As he thus connects with nature on a cognitive and emotional level, his thinking is embodied, distancing the lyric “I”from a Cartesian sort of mind/body dualism that initially emerges in the text. The poetic voicerelies on ToM to understand his fellow man as well as nature, but because he extends his ownconcerns and emotions onto the other person or object, it also becomes a mirror through whichhe can read his own mind and better grasp his own identity. This mirror effect is evidenced in the rst poem of the collection, “El viajero,” when the lyric “I” relies on the brother’s narrative combined with his own experience with his natural  592  Hispania 94 December 2011environment and his emotions to read his brother’s—and eventually his own—mind anddesires. This sibling has returned from a life journey and recounts his experiences; meanwhilethe speaker shares his personal thoughts through a meditation that resembles the trope ubi sunt   where everything fades away when past and present meet in his memory: the image of the brother now—“las sienes plateadas, / un gris mechón sobre la angosta frente; / y la fría inquietudde sus miradas”—contrasts drastically with the young, idealistic youth who had departed to adistant land. The connection is purely mental, occurring through a memory juxtaposed with the present, and immediately precedes the poet’s speculation of the future through the simultaneouschanges of the season: “deshójanse las copas otoñales / del parque mustio y viejo” (87). Theseason turns, just as the brother, the poetic voice, and all humanity, through the “tictac del reloj”to remind us that time inexorably passes. From the very beginning of  Soledades , we see the typeof existential questioning that permeates Machado’s poetry in which “se cuestiona el sentido de su existencia, cuya causa, y cuya nalidad, desconoce, y que se siente por tanto como algo  precario y contingente” (Ángeles 28). This temporal passage carries the observer, in this casethe poet, into a metaphysical anxiety resulting from “la contemplación de la marcha inexorabledel tiempo” (Predmore 702–03), a passage of time that leads to the inability to tie down anidentity that seems as elusive as the seasons. 5 This anxiety plays out through the poem as a part of his reection on his brother, his own past and his entire context. Faced with this dilemma, the speaker’s angst is evidence of his search for identity throughhis embodied experiences and through reading his brother’s mind. Pertinent to this study of ToM is Bernard Sesé’s suggestion that the key of the poem may lie in that which the poeticvoice believes his brother is thinking: “[L]a fría inquietud de los ojos del viajero contrasta, enefecto, de manera insólita, con la atmósfera familiar, cálida e íntima. ¿Será preciso intentar leer en esa mirada inquieta el secreto de esta poesía?” (130). The rhetorical question suggests thatthere is information in the look that we are to glean, requiring ToM in order to fully understandthe brother. The lyric “I” interprets this ambulatory gaze as nostalgic, and sharing similar emo-tions, he looks to his environment, with the chilled winds and the decay of vegetation from theseasonal changes (87). Here, he understands the passage of time, his brother’s exit and arrival, and his own aging in terms of the cyclical shifting of seasons. The mirror, a tool for reection,  juxtaposes his condition with the world’s state, and he can no longer cleanly distinguish wherehe ends (experientially and temporally) and where the world begins; they move together in atype of cyclical dance, each reaching the end of an era. As Raymond W. Gibbs Jr. relates, thespeaker here is “being absorbed into the body of the world” where “this fusion of body and world makes it difcult, at times, to strictly distinguish between the two” (18). This embodied contemplation paves the way for the speaker’s ToM toward his brother because, by drawing onthe scene outside, he guesses the brother’s mental state: “¿lamentará la juventud perdida? . . . /¿La blanca juventud nunca vivida / teme, que ha de cantar ante su puerta?” (87). While theseare questions, they are not haphazard; the poetic voice, through ToM and nature, sees in this traveler a sharing of his anguish concerning eeting time, thus inserting his own concernsinto the other’s thoughts and attributing to him a state of mind that reects his own. However, this attributed mental state is not based on the brother’s words alone (which we as readers donot receive), but relies on a greater context, the seasonal progression within both nature andhumans (though people arguably only experience one complete cycle, and nature repeats it).Thus, drawing on Vittoria Borsò’s discussion, “el paso del tiempo se graba en la percepciónfenomenológica del mundo,” or “la temporalidad del ser-en-el-mundo” (393). 6 Here all ele-ments are inseparable: the brother’s mental state leads to nature, which causes the lyric “I” to question his own state, forcing him to consider his brother’s thoughts, and nally ending in his own concerns regarding his existence. This journey is possible because both he and the traveler share similar experiences (at least in the poet’s perspective) of living with a body in the worldof emotions and sensations that change as do the seasons. His mindreading becomes a form
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