Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Pausing Encounters with Autism and Its Unruly Representation
This dissertation seeks to explore and understand how autism, asperger and the autistic spectrum is represented in Canadian culture. Acknowledging the role of films, television, literature and print media in the construction of autism in the consciousness of the Canadian public, this project seeks to critique representations of autism on the grounds that these representations have an ethical responsibility to autistic individuals and those who share their lives. This project raises questions about how autism is constructed in formal and popular texts; explores retrospective diagnosis and labelling in biography and fiction; questions the use of autism and Asperger's as metaphor for contemporary technology culture; examines autistic characterization in fiction; and argues that representations of autism need to be hospitable to autistic culture and difference. In carrying out this critique this project proposes and enacts a new interdisciplinary methodology for academic disability study that brings the academic researcher in contact with the perspectives of non-academic audiences working in the same subject area, and practices this approach through an unconventional focus group collaboration. Acknowledging the contribution of disability studies approaches to representation, this project will also challenge these methodologies on the grounds that the diverse voices of audiences are, at times, absent from discourse focused research. Chapter One offers an explanation of disability studies scholarship and the history of autism as a category of disability and difference. Chapter Two looks at how disability and specifically autistic representations have been understood academically and introduces the rationale and experiences of the focus group project. Chapter Three explores retrospective, biographical diagnosis, the role of autism as technological metaphor, and contemporary biography. Chapter Four looks at the construction of autistic characters in Canadian literature and film. Chapter Five interrogates documentary and news media responses to autism and the construction of autism as Canadian health crisis, and also explores how discourses that surround autism are implicated in interventions and therapeutic approaches to autistic individuals. Key Terms Autism; Autistic Spectrum; Asperger; Disability; Representation; Media; Interdisciplinary Research; Focus Group; Retrospective Diagnosis; Biography; Academic Method; Academic and Representational Responsibility; Literature; Film; Diagnosis; Disability Studies; Therapy Author Keywords: Academic Method, Autism Spectrum, Biography, Disability, Interdisciplinary Research, Representation

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