Naming Adult Autism is one of the first critiques of cultural and medical narratives of Autism to be authored by an adult diagnosed with this condition.
Autism is a ‘social disorder’, defined by interactions and lifestyle. Yet, the expectations of normalcy against which Autism is defined have too rarely been questioned. This book demonstrates the value of the Humanities towards developing fuller understandings of Autistic adulthood, adapting theory from Adorno, Foucault and Butler.
The chapters expose serious scientific limitations of medical assumptions that Autistic people are gifted at maths but indifferent to fiction. After interrogating such clichés in literature, cinema and television, James McGrath also explores more radical depictions of Autism via novels by Douglas Coupland, Margaret Atwood, Clare Morrall and Meg Wolitzer, plus poems by Les Murray and Joanne Limburg.
Follow this link to see James McGrath in conversation with Kelly-Anne Watson at Leeds Beckett University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQOotRZRzv4
Follow this link to view a content breakdown of the above interview: https://www.academia.edu/36406389/Naming_Adult_Autism_A_Conversation_winter_2017_
Follow this link to read a 'Seeking Sara' blog interview with James: https://seekingsara174.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/639/
Introduction/ 1. Outsider Science and Literary Exclusion: A Reply to Denials of Autistic Imagination: Childhood Autism and the Psychiatric Imagination/Autism and the Machine/ Computer Coding and/as Literature: Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs/ Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake: Autism and Literary Exclusion/ Inaccuracies in Baron-Cohen’s “Minds Wired for Science” Narrative/ Bias in the Adult Autism-Spectrum Quotient Test (2001)/ Re-membering Autistic Imagination: Asperger, Wing, and Harro L./ Silberman’s Neurotribes: Science, Science Fiction and Autism/ Autistic Responses to Atwood’s Oryx and Crake/ The SySTEMizing Focus and its Implications for Autistic Diversity/ 2. Metaphors and Mirrors: The Otherness of Adult Autism/ Picking Up The Mirror: Enfreaking Normalcy/ Infantilizing Adult Autism in Diagnostic Observations/ Autism and Disorder: Foucault, Confinement and Cultural Fear/ The Screen as Mirror: The Office (UK) and the Neurotypical Gaze/ Post-Curious: Adult Autism as Cultural Spectacle in Big Bang Theory and The Accountant/ Autism, Metaphor and Metonymy/ Challenging the Myth of Autistic Narcissism/ ‘Mirror Neuron’ Theory and the Normative Stare/ Otherizing Autism Parents: Refrigerator Psychiatrists and their 21st-century Spectres/ The Who’s Tommy (1969) and the Cultural Onset of Metaphorical Autism/ Autism and the Person: Les Murray’s ‘It Allows A Portrait In Linescan At Fifteen’/ Normativity Through the Looking-Glass: Joanne Limburg’s The Autistic Alice/ 3. Against the ‘New Classic’ Adult Autism: Narratives of Gender, Intersectionality and Progression/ Patriarchy and Autism: The Cambridge Autism Research Centre and the ‘Extreme Male Brain’/ The Extreme Male Gaze: Scientific ‘Evidence’ on Autism and Testosterone/ Fictions of the ‘New Classic’ Autism/ Neurodiversity, The Bridge and Autistic ‘Adherence to Rules’/ Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate: Class, Criminality, Race and Adult Autism/ Clare Morrall’s The Language of Others (2008): Intersectionality, Autism and Womanhood/ Family and Phenotype: Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings/ Cultural Disability/ 4. ‘Title’ [sic]/ 5. Performing the Names of Autism/ Naming the Self Autistic/ Anger, Faith, and the Realization of Asperger Syndrome: Les Murray’s ‘The Tune On Your Mind’/ The Politics of a Name: Aspies, DSM-5 and the Psychiatric Retraction of Asperger Syndrome/ Autism, Performativity and Performance/ Autistic Criticism 1: Revisiting E. M. Forster’s Howards End/ Autistic Criticism 2: Neurodiverse Meeting Points in ‘Mad World'/ Bibliography/ Index
James McGrath demonstrates how pejorative narrative, including diagnostic labels, has defined how society regards Autism. We learn how ‘experts’ have constructed Autism discourse with little reference to those experiencing it and how this leads to their lack of agency. This excellent book rephrases autism as an impairment to a lifelong identity, providing a deeper understanding of it.
This book is an absolutely vital, timely and necessary critique of the cultural representations (and misrepresentations) of autism which make life so much harder for the growing numbers of autistic people fighting to have their own voices heard. This engaging book also has much to teach those experts in autism who unthinkingly peddle damaging stereotypes about it.
This is a fantastic and essential addition to the scholarly literature on autism … refreshingly nuanced [and] as richly narrativised as the texts it analyses. [The] footnotes are written with the soul and depth of a skilful poet and are far more than just side-notes: they are full of poignancy and craft, and linger long after finishing the book itself.
For clinicians working in the field of autism there is often the conflict of remaining up to date with the necessary clinical/scientific publications and keeping abreast of information more readily accessed by the wider population who may assume (often incorrectly) that expert professionals in the field have the time and inclination to read/watch/ be aware of everything on the subject of autism.
This book provides a useful conduit between the two – written by an expert by experience and academic in his own right, the book boasts a bibliography of over 300 books, films, TV programmes, articles, poems and websites and eloquently discusses them in the context of how these media portrayals might make the public perceive autism. An understanding of the impact of an autism diagnosis on both the person being assessed and the wider community is an essential pre-requisite for any clinician wishing to maintain a holistic and well-rounded approach to their professional role. Naming Adult Autism combines a wealth of information with a high quality writing style and, although it might at times challenge the medical perspective, it does so with the kind of integrity and critical thinking that surely must be appreciated by any good clinician.
Dr James McGrath is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University. His poems appear in various literary magazines. He has also published on popular music, particularly The Beatles and Joy Division