From the earliest days of medical research into autism, both psychologists and the general public have characterised those on the autism spectrum as literal-minded, unimaginative and lacking in empathy. While in recent years a fresh emphasis on neurodiversity has served to sweep aside this kind of reductive thinking, many people still view autistic readers as limited in their capacity to engage with literary texts. In his new book See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor
(Duke University Press, 2018), professor at Grinnell College
and author Ralph James Savarese
challenges the notion that autistic readers are unable to immerse themselves in figurative language or get lost in imaginative worlds. Instead, Savarese, himself the father of a young autistic man, explores the many diverse and illuminating ways in which neurodivergent readers can engage with literature. From a young reader who identifies with the cetacean “antagonist” of Moby Dick
to a woman who provides stunning new insights into Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
, See It Feelingly foregrounds the unique perspectives of autistic readers and highlights their inventive approaches to literary analysis. In this podcast, Professor Savarese speaks to Miranda Corcoran about the impetus for this project and his experience working with neurodivergent readers.
Miranda Corcoran is a lecturer in twenty-first-century literature in University College Cork. Her research focuses on Cold-War fiction, science fiction, horror and the gothic. She is currently writing a monograph on witchcraft and adolescence in popular culture. She is a regular contributor to Diabolique and blogs about popular culture here. You can follow her on Twitter @middleagedwitch