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

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

by Julia Miele Rodas


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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 Brontë 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780472053940
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Publication date: 08/03/2018
Series: Corporealities: Discourses Of Disability Series
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

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

Table of Contents

Foreword Melanie Yergeau ix

Preface: Involuntarity And Intentionality xi

1 Introduction 1

2 Articulating Autism Poetics 31

3 On the Surprising Elasticity of Taxonomical Rhetoric 77

4 Nothingness Himself 99

41/2 (Why "Bartleby" Doesn't Live Here) 117

5 Neuroqueer Narration in Charlotte Bronte's Villette 125

6 The Absence of the Object: Autistic Voice and Literary Architecture in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 147

7 Autism and Narrative Invention in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe 165

UnConclusion-Because the Butterfly: Autistic Infinitudes 179

An Accounting: Autistic Ejaculations 193

Notes 197

Works Cited 199

Acknowledgments: A Litany 215

Index 219

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