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Autism in fiction and autobiography

  • Gordon Bates

Summary

Many memorable characters in Western culture could be viewed as having features of autism or Asperger syndrome. In spite of the familiarity of autistic stereotypes such as Star Trek‘s Mr Spock, more completely described characters with autism are still unusual. In recent years there has been a growing interest in autism, mirrored by an increase in depictions of autism in popular works of fiction and autobiography. In this article I will outline the issues that have preoccupied writers and the techniques they have used to demonstrate autistic difference. Some writers have illuminated aspects of the autistic triad of social impairment, abnormalities of language and need for sameness. Other writers have opened our eyes to the autistic world view in its strangeness and richness. Still more have started to examine prejudice, disability rights and the implications of an international autism community. As in other areas of mental health, literature can help inform, entertain and question our attitudes and values.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Gordon Bates, Huntercombe Hospital, Ivetsy Bank, Whaton Aston, Stafford ST19 9QT, UK. Email: gordon.bates@fshc.co.uk

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Declaration of Interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Armitage, S (2001) Little Green Man. Viking.
Asperger, H (1944) Die ‘Autistischen Psychopathen’ im Kindesalter. Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten; 117: 76136.
Attwood, T (1998) Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Jessica Kingsley.
Baker, N (1988) The Mezzanine. Reprinted 1990, Granta Books.
Cesaroni, L & Garber, M (1991) Exploring the experience of autism through first hand accounts. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 21: 303–13.
Desai, A (1980) Clear Light of Day. Heinemann.
Dick, PK (1964) Martian Time-Slip. Ballantine Books.
Grandin, T, Scariano, MM (1986) Emergence: Labeled Autistic. Arena Press.
Grandin, T (1996) Thinking in Pictures. Vintage Books.
Grossmith, G, Grossmith, W (1892) The Diary of a Nobody. Arrowsmith, J. W.
Haddon, M (2003) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Jonathan Cape.
Jackson, L (1998) Freaks, Geeks and Asperger's Syndrome: A User's Guide to Adolescence. Jessica Kingsley.
Joyce, J (1922) Ulysses. Sylvia Beach.
Kanner, L (1943) Autistic disturbances of affective contact. The Nervous Child; 2: 217.
Lee, H (1960) To Kill a Mocking Bird. Heinemann.
Melville, H. (1853) Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street.
Reprinted (1990) as Bartleby and Benito Cereno. Dover Publications.
Miller, S (1991) Family Pictures. Penguin.
Moon, E (2002) The Speed of Dark. Ballantine Books.
Moore, C (2005) George and Sam. Penguin.
Park, C (2002) Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter's Life with Autism. Backbay Books.
Sacks, O (1995) An Anthropologist on Mars. Picador.
Sainsbury, C (2000) Martian in the Playground: Understanding the Schoolchild with Asperger's Syndrome. Lucky Duck Publishing.
Toole, JK (1980) A Confederacy of Dunces. Reprinted 2006. Penguin Books.
Vine, B (2005) The Minotaur. Viking.
Williams, D (1998) Nobody Nowhere: The Remarkable Story of an Autistic Girl. Jessica Kingsley.
Wing, L, Attwood, A (1987) Syndromes of autism and atypical development. In Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (eds Cohen, D, Donnellan, A) John Wiley & Sons.
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BJPsych Advances
  • ISSN: 1355-5146
  • EISSN: 1472-1481
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-advances
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Autism in fiction and autobiography

  • Gordon Bates
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