Autistic Disturbances: Theorizing Autism Poetics from the DSM to Robinson Crusoe

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University of Michigan Press, Aug 3, 2018 - Social Science - 256 pages
While research on autism has sometimes focused on special talents or abilities, autism is typically characterized as impoverished or defective when it comes to language. Autistic Disturbances reveals the ways interpreters have failed to register the real creative valence of autistic language and offers a theoretical framework for understanding the distinctive aesthetics of autistic rhetoric and semiotics. Reinterpreting characteristic autistic verbal practices such as repetition in the context of a more widely respected literary canon, Julia Miele Rodas argues that autistic language is actually an essential part of mainstream literary aesthetics, visible in poetry by Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein, in novels by Charlotte Brontė and Daniel Defoe, in life writing by Andy Warhol, and even in writing by figures from popular culture.

Autistic Disturbances pursues these resonances and explores the tensions of language and culture that lead to the classification of some verbal expression as disordered while other, similar expression enjoys prized status as literature. It identifies the most characteristic patterns of autistic expression-repetition, monologue, ejaculation, verbal ordering or list-making, and neologism-and adopts new language to describe and reimagine these categories in aesthetically productive terms. In so doing, the book seeks to redress the place of verbal autistic language, to argue for the value and complexity of autistic ways of speaking, and to invite recognition of an obscured tradition of literary autism at the very center of Anglo-American text culture.

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Foreword by Melanie Yergeau
Articulating Autism Poetics
On the Surprising Elasticity of Taxonomical Rhetoric
Nothingness Himself
4½ Why Bartleby Doesnt Live Here
The Absence of the Object
Autism and Narrative Invention in Daniel Defoes Robinson
UnConclusionBecause the Butterfly
Autistic Ejaculations
A Litany

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About the author (2018)

Julia Miele Rodas is Professor of English, Bronx Community College, CUNY. Her website is

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