Natalie Kruse – Writing Autism

Writing Autism: A Transdisciplinary Approach to the Literary and Scientific Representation of Autism Spectrum Disorders.


With the proliferation of life writing accounts written by people on the autism spectrum, the foundation of research centers, political and self-help organizations, as well as the publication of movies like “Rain Man,” autism has gained considerable prominence over time. Not only in the disciplines of medicine, the neurosciences, psychiatry, epigenetics, and sociology has it evolved into a hotly debated and extensively researched topic, but also in the field of literature Autism Spectrum Disorders have become a popular and much discussed subject. And still—since its “discovery” in the 1940s by Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger—autism has been framed predominantly in a scientific context.

In my project, it will be my goal to arrive at a more comprehensive picture of autism: instead of a one-sided and separating approach I want to transcend different genre boundaries and professional disciplines. In order to achieve this, I will show how scientific storytelling differs from and may even coincide with the narratives represented in (auto)biographical accounts about autism. How has this neurodevelopmental disorder been represented and approached in historic and scientific contexts? In what kind of manner, on the other hand, has it been portrayed in personal accounts written by people directly or indirectly affected by this very condition? What effect do those different modes of narration have on how autism is perceived, discussed, and dealt with in today’s discourse? Apart from a literary analysis, I will approach the topic of autism from a theoretical, that is philosophical and ethical, perspective. Furthermore, I plan to incorporate a discussion of the notion of normalcy and its historic development, as it presents an indispensable part of the debate around the issue of illness and disability, in general, and autism, in particular.

Author: Natalie Kruse