Neuroqueering Gender/Genre
: Autistic Storying in Contemporary Anglophone Literatures

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

The cultural and political milieu in the Anglophone Global North signals increasingly bleak outcomes for autistic lives. Both institutionally and interpersonally, one can observe a mounting tendency to utilise pathological biomedical renderings of autism to justify gender essentialist and transphobic discourses. Such trends not only evidence harmful reversals of gender equality and equity, but also have significant implications for autistics.

Medical deficit models of autism similarly rely on gender essentialism, whether via an ‘Extreme Male Brain’ theory or the increased adoption of a so-called ‘female autism phenotype’. Such framings homogenise and erase the intersectionality and diversity of autistic subjectivities, whilst also denying autistics epistemic agency. Any claim about gender norms and/or identity are viewed within this construction as deficit, rather than as intersection.

This project responds to this milieu from an interdisciplinary perspective, informed by literary studies, disability studies, and (neuro)queer theory. It departs from earlier studies of autism in literature, which have prioritised cultural stereotypes, life-writing by family members of autistics, and reading autistic lives with a pathologizing lens. Rather, I join the nascent field of enquiry in the health humanities, critical neurodiversity studies. I investigate how autistics ‘own’ literatures, as valuable autoethnographic interventions and creative praxes, subvert neuronormative and cisheteronormative authorings of neuro/gender entanglements, and ameliorate the epistemic and literal harm to autistic lives.

Whilst literature harbours a multitude of creative and political potentialities, it is also subject to as much external surveillance and interference as autistic bodyminds themselves. Consequently, I develop neuroqueer(ing) as concept and theoretical tool in a literary context, to argue that its potentialities in political and creative praxis facilitate the emancipation of autistic storying of neuro/gender entanglements. I argue that, in neuroqueering literary genre and creating hybridised forms that subvert traditional memoiristic conventions, autistics can project their own epistemic agency and imagine liberatory futures.
Date of Award23 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SponsorsSouth, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorJana Funke (Supervisor), Maria Vaccarella (Supervisor) & Andrew M Blades (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • autism studies
  • neurodiversity
  • Queer theory
  • Neuroqueer Theory
  • Critical Disability Studies
  • Contemporary Literature
  • twenty-first century
  • Literary theory
  • Trans studies
  • autofiction
  • autoethnography
  • autism
  • experimental literature
  • american literature
  • anglophone literature

Cite this

'