Yay, a post! I miss writing in this blog. Hello, blog.
I figure that a good post-hiatus post might involve what I’ve been up to lately that is non-dissertation — that is, teaching. This past quarter, I taught an undergraduate section of Intro to Disability Studies, the second time I’ve taught this course. And in the fall I’m teaching a special topics in literature course called Authoring Autism. I kind of figure that folks who read my blog will have a lot to say about the autism class in particular.
Above is an image of my course flyer — I’ve been posting these across campus. I decided on going the “famous people who might have been autistic” route not because I like to retrodiagnose dead people (I loathe doing that, actually), but because 1) retrodiagnosis is one among many topics I’d like my students to critically engage this fall, and 2) I was hoping to attract students, especially from the humanities, to my class. Class enrollment is up to 18 people, which is pretty good for a special topics course. < /explanation>
I’ve drafted a syllabus for the course, which you can find here in PDF format. I’d like to emphasize that it’s a rough draft, and I’m already making changes in the assignments, schedule, and readings (i.e., I’m adding in materials from the neurodiversity special issue of DSQ, giving students more memoirs to choose from, figuring out potential guest speakers, etc.). I’ve also included my course description behind the cut — at root, this is a course that considers how autism and autistic people are represented across media.
I am, however, open to suggestions. Ohio State terms run 10 weeks in length, so we’re limited with our time. But I’d very much like to find out what others in the blogosphere would like to see in a class like this.
Course description: Public discourse on autism has reached critical mass. It’s hard to open a newspaper, change a TV channel, or browse a Facebook profile without catching something about autism—the epidemic, the puzzles, the children, the charities, the discrimination. The CDC currently touts a 1 in 110 autism incidence rate; former Playboy bunnies claim that our government is poisoning children with heavy metals and dairy products; popular TV shows feature unemotional autistic characters with savant-like super powers; and college programs are molding the most autism-centric cohort of disability service professionals our country has seen to date. If we’re to believe anything we encounter in the media or popular literature, we can certainly believe that autism is everywhere and has the potential to touch anyone at any time.
With this supposed increase in autism has come an increase in texts about autism (across media, across genre), much of it volatile and emotionally charged. Our main objective in this class, then, is to consider the rhetorical import of these texts, to develop an understanding of autism as a complex and crucial part of the human experience, to examine the ways in which able-bodiedness (or neurotypicality) has become an invisible default. We’ll work together in exploring how the authors of these various texts aim to persuade an audience that their view is the most emotionally, ethically, or logically sound view. To that end, we’ll also investigate the many important issues—legal, social, cultural, medical, political—currently at stake in the autism world. Throughout the term, we’ll continually engage popular, literary, and scholarly representations of autism in print, film, and the blogosphere in light of the following questions: What does it mean to be an autistic person? What does it mean to be an autism parent, professional, or advocate? What does it mean to author autism?