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Dear Neurotypical People: The Autoethnography of an Inarticulate Subject

Lloyd-Barlow, Viktoria (2021) Dear Neurotypical People: The Autoethnography of an Inarticulate Subject. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85826) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:85826)

Language: English

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The novel, All the Little Bird-Hearts, is the narrative of an autistic woman and, as such, offers a rarely provided perspective. The majority of cultural and literary work on the subject of autism is observational, being about atypical people, rather than by such individuals. This thesis is an alternative to the traditional, externally constructed narrative on autism; rather than depicting the autist by their perceived failings at being neurotypical, it speaks from inside the experience and in the first person. When I first began writing this work, I listened to a radio panel critiquing a translated Japanese poem. The conversation centred not on the poem itself but focussed instead on the ways in which it did not conform to the English model of poetry. All beauty and meaning were inevitably lost in such a translation. If the programme had regularly featured poetry which varied from these applied conventions, it would have enabled the speakers to debate the Japanese poem from a point of appreciation, rather than via the perceived Otherness in the narrative. The provision of authentic narratives on difference, such as All the Little Bird-Hearts, informs readers about conditions, cultures and communities which are otherwise constructed by people outside those experiences. A wider availability of minority authored writing also improves visibility for those who inhabit identities of invisible disabilities, such as autism, and augments the associated communities. It is challenging to authentically represent a spectrum condition within the first-person narrative of one protagonist. The lived experience of ASC is entirely different, both from person to person and, also from day to day. However, there are central atypical traits and experiences which are shared, and this commonality is what All the Little Bird-Hearts speaks to. The novel is not an idealistic fiction, but one which acknowledges the various traits of the condition, illustrating communication differences, social confusion and alienation, and also the subsequent losses experienced by the atypical protagonist. It also depicts an autistic life, though, which is often fulfilling and sometimes comfortable. These positive aspects are experienced by the protagonist, Sunday, when she allows herself to be unencumbered by expectations of neurotypical conformity and pursues her own model of behaviour and interests, as she does at work, for example, and in her friendship with David. In the final scene in the book (p.299-3), Sunday shares a moment of engagement with a street performer and this is the conclusion of the narrative theme that encourages living without masking one's condition. The watching crowd silently predict that the performance will conclude with the throwing of glitter and, subsequently, they move out of reach before they are covered. Sunday, though, remains and enjoys the resultant sensory experience; it is the direct result of her different ability in predicting the behaviour of others, and one which she is then enjoyably alone in receiving. The narrated observation of the entertainer also provides a distance in which Sunday can be recognised as separate from the costumed entertainer, both by herself and by the reader. The scene is confirmation that Sunday is aware what performativity looks like and that is not for her. All the Little Bird-Hearts is primarily a fiction in which the protagonist develops a greater understanding of herself and of her own specific needs and boundaries via the experience of personal tragedies and losses. This element of depicted self-development is not peculiar to atypical people but will be universal among readers of the work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Sackville, Amy
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85826
Uncontrolled keywords: autistic narrative
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2021 14:10 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 11:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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