Date of Award

1-30-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Abstract

This thesis is a study of autism in and intimations thereof in various narrative works of different types and from different time periods. My interpretation of autism, upon which my literary analysis is based, is in accordance with the insights of a field of psychological theory known as metabletics, which studies various conditions (autism, for example) in light of the wider social, cultural, and historical contexts to which they belong. I interpret autism as an expression of a comprehensive cultural condition that affects Modern society (especially in the Western world) as a whole and finds its historical roots in the advent of linear perspective vision, which occurred in the 15th century. As I examine intimations and/or expressions of autism in the various narrative works I explore, I elaborate upon the ways in which autistic symptoms (as well as the narratives in question) are connected to the traits of linear-perspective-based consciousness. My goal is to inspire a more robust and sensitive understanding of and approach to autism than the traditional medical/diagnostic approach.

After supplying the necessary background information about linear perspective vision and its effects upon Modern, Western society as a whole and then briefly attending to the implications of what some have interpreted as intimations of autism in pre-Modern narratives, I explore the autistic impulses within popular narrative works from different stages of Modern history, beginning with Shakespeare's Hamlet and concluding with David Fincher's 1999 film, Fight Club. In so doing, I trace the development of the autism phenomenon from within the concurrent (and enveloping) development of the condition of Modern man. After this, I devote a chapter to the portrayal of autism in contemporary children's fiction, which I argue to be our key to understanding and approaching the autism phenomenon in a manner that is beneficial to autistic children and to society as a whole.

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