Autism and the American dream

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The teleological structure of disability narratives, their emphasis on cure and recovery, has received sustained critical attention in disability and life writing studies. More recently, scholars have found evidence for a “paradigm shift” away from the dominant cultural script that sees disability as a corrigible ‘defect’ to “‘disability’ as human variation” (Foss, 2009, n.p.). What has been missing in these discussions is a contextualization that targets the ways in which culturally specific ideologies and individual medical histories shape the representation of disability. Focusing on selected U.S.-American autobiographies by people with Asperger’s syndrome and severer forms of autism, we discuss their negotiation of the American dream and Western notions of illness and recovery. We are particularly interested in the ways in which the experience of the disabled resists and challenges not only the American progress narrative, but also narrativization as such, a process or technique which is meant to transform experience and events into intelligible information.


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