Autistic Consciousness Represented: Fictional Mental Functioning of a Different Kind

in Explorations of Consciousness in Contemporary Fiction
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text

Subject Highlights

Novels about autism have become popular in middlebrow fiction in the early 21st century. With the rise of autism diagnoses and the end of the Decade of the Brain, a once unknown condition has gripped the minds of novelists as well. In this chapter, I analyse several “autism novels,” which explore what it is like to live with an atypically developing brain and mind. I argue that autism is a fundamental part of these works, and the depiction of mental functioning on the spectrum constitutes a unique experiment in the literary display of mind-reading, an essential skill of social cognition.

With the examination of Elizabeth Moon’s Speed of Dark, Claire Morrall’s The Language of Others and Jodi Picoult’s House Rules, I outline how the complexity of consciousness representation creates the illusion of a disabled mind for the reader. I focus on the social interactions between characters to show that autism is constructed in the text as a cross-neurotype biosemiotic underreporting and misreporting of mental dispositions and content. I examine the meticulously and irrelevantly detailed descriptions that issue from the autistic narrators to claim that these demonstrate a different grade of cognitive granularity from those of typically developing minds. I conclude that these techniques represent a less person-oriented mindset that aligns well with Ian Bogost’s concept of “alien phenomenology,” but affirm the inalienable humanity of the autistic community.

Table of Contents

Information

Metrics

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 37 37 6
Full Text Views 8 8 2
PDF Downloads 1 1 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0

Related Content