Autism, Culture, & Representation (course description & reading list)


Course description

Public discourse on autism has reached critical mass. It’s hard to open a newspaper, change a TV channel, or browse a Facebook profile without catching something about autism—the epidemic, the puzzles, the children, the charities, the discrimination. The CDC currently touts a 1 in 110 autism incidence rate; former Playboy bunnies claim that our government is poisoning children with heavy metals and dairy products; popular TV shows feature unemotional autistic characters with savant-like super powers; and college programs are molding the most autism-centric cohort of disability service professionals our country has seen to date. If we’re to believe anything we encounter in the media or popular literature, we can certainly believe that autism is everywhere and has the potential to touch anyone at any time.

With this supposed increase in autism has come an increase in texts about autism (across media, across genre), much of it volatile and emotionally charged. Our main objective in this class, then, is to consider the rhetorical import of these texts, to develop an understanding of autism as a complex and crucial part of the human experience, to examine the ways in which able-bodiedness (or neurotypicality) has become an invisible default. We’ll work together in exploring how the authors of these various texts aim to persuade an audience that their view is the most emotionally, ethically, or logically sound view.

To that end, we’ll also investigate the many important issues—legal, social, cultural, medical, political—currently at stake in the autism world. Throughout the term, we’ll continually engage popular, literary, and scholarly representations of autism in print, film, and the blogosphere in light of the following questions: What does it mean to be an autistic person? What does it mean to be an autism parent, professional, or advocate? What does it mean to author autism?

Course Reading List

Thursday, 9/8

Tuesday, 9/13

Reading due:
Burke, Terministic Screens (on CTools)
Broderick, Autism as Rhetoric

Thursday, 9/15

Reading due:
Straus, Autism as Culture (CTools)
Linton, Disability Studies/Not Disability Studies (CTools)

Tuesday, 9/20

Thursday, 9/22

Reading due:
Wallace, An Epidemic of Fear
selections from McCarthy’s Mother Warriors
Rethinking Autism (watch Leeann videos and Autistics Speak video)

Tuesday, 9/27

Reading due:
Selections from the Autism Hub, Autism Blog Directory, and/or other autism blogs

Tuesday, 10/4

Thursday, 10/6

Reading due:
D.J. Savarese, “Communicate with Me”
Ralph Savarese, “To Persevere” and “You’re Adopting Whom?” (CTools)
Murray, “Autism Functions”

Tuesday, 10/11

Thursday, 10/13

Reading due:
Selections from Baron-Cohen (CTools)
Choose 2 entries from Autism and Empathy: Voices of Autistics

Thursday, 10/20

Reading due:
Haddon, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Tuesday, 10/25

Reading due:
selections from Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures (CTools)
Robertson & Ne’eman, “Autistic Acceptance, the College Campus, and Technology”

Thursday, 10/27

Tuesday, 11/1

Reading due:
Bumiller, “Quirky Citizens” (CTools)
Baron-Cohen, “Essential Difference: The Male and Female Brain” (CTools)
Cat in a Dog’s World, “Diagnostic Criteria, Stereotypes, and Invisibility”

Thursday, 11/3

Reading due:
Senator, “Is Autism the New Gay?”
Brown, “Intro” and “Emily Dickinson” (CTools)

Tuesday, 11/8

Reading due:
Prince-Hughes, Songs of the Gorilla Nation, 1st half

Thursday, 11/10

Reading due:
Prince-Hughes, Songs of the Gorilla Nation, 2nd half

Tuesday, 11/15

Reading due:
Sinclair, “Don’t Mourn for Us”
Sicile-Kira, “The Real World of Autism: The Refrigerator Mother Club” (CTools)
Murphy, “Proverbs 13:24” (CTools)
Zaks, “I Have Asperger Syndrome, and I Am a Parent”

Thursday, 11/17

Reading due:
Savarese, Reasonable People, 1st half

Tuesday, 11/22

Reading due:
Savarese, Reasonable People, 2nd half
Mukhopadhyay, “Five Poems”

Tuesday, 11/29

Reading due:
Moon, Speed of Dark, 1st half

Thursday, 12/1

Reading due:
Moon, Speed of Dark, 2nd half

Tuesday, 12/6

Melanie Yergeau is an assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan. She blogs at aspie rhetor.

The reading list for the currently-in-progress course autism, culture, & representation appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 10/21/11 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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