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Translation and untellability. Autistic subjects in autobiographical discourse

Journal article
Authors Jenny Bergenmar
Published in LIR.journal
Issue 6
Pages 60-76
ISSN 1102-9773
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Pages 60-76
Language en
Keywords autism, autobiography, pathography, narrative identity, disability, ableism
Subject categories Languages and Literature


This article discusses the conditions for and reception of autobiographies by autistic persons from a critical disability perspective. Taking as a point of departure theories of narrativity where storytelling is seen as an essential human trait and narrative as a prerequisite for the construction of a self, the article discusses different modes of representing autistic subjectivity, in some cases contradicting these assumptions. In some of the “canonized” autistic autobiographies, the narrative script of overcoming autism is strongly present. The article shows how this is not merely an adaptation to the expectations of the audience, but also a method strategically employed as a means to avoid objectification and to gain agency. Although some autobiographical representations of autistic personhood resist having to translate their experience or language to fit the narrative script of disability, audiences tend to appropriate them into the expected narrative trajectory of overcoming, thus rendering alternative representations of autistic personhood unacknowledged.

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