Here is a short talk on the singularity of autistic writing. It is quite clear that the approach of autistic writers to autism is very different than the approach of psychotic writers to psychosis. In this talk I briefly present some points that distinguish the two.
2 thoughts on “Autistic Writers”
Interesting. Some follow-up questions:
You mention that it’s a historical accident/conflation that autism was originally conceived as a form of psychosis. Are you then saying that autism is best understood as a new fourth term in the “classic” (monothetic and archetypical) psychodiagnostic classification of neurosis/psychosis/perversion, as used by Lacan among others? How would this interact with the fact that ASD as we know it today is defined within the framework of the (polythetic and prototypical) DSM classification?
You mention the fact that autistics write *as* and *on behalf of* autistics, whereas psychotics do not. Are there other compelling reasons to have a strict metapsychological distinction between autism and psychosis?
Moreover, is this difference in writing style not more easily explained by the fact that there is a growing autism identity movement (often as part of the broader neurodiversity and disability rights movements — whereas a homologous psychotic identity does not exist)? Having been ‘interpellated’ as socially deviant (for otherwise they would not have had the opportunity for diagnosis), autistics no longer have the pre-20th century option of seeing themselves as relatively unmarked/unremarkable (or retrospectively ‘misdiagnosed’) within the broader texture of humanity. But to escape the social misery of having the core of one’s subjectivity pathologized, the autism identity arises in a dialectical turn as a progressive fight against the medical paradigm, in order to change the social contract so that autistics can be ‘markedly unremarkable (again)’. I ironically read the utopian telos of this movement as one where autism is seen as normal subjectivity, but (normal) subjectivity itself is pathologized/prohibited — in a way, isn’t this where we already are, but the only thing preventing us from seeing it as such is our belief in some (non-castrated) ‘normal/neurotypical’ other?
Admittedly, from the perspective of autism as a particular identity, the optics of ‘autism as a form of psychosis’ are pretty abysmal (not that neurosis or perversion are that much more flattering). But if pressed, I can sketch a Lacanian analysis of autism as psychosis: ‘reduced social motivation’ as a hole in the Symbolic register, and the ‘special interest’ phenomenon as the sinthome or ‘synthetic Other’ that potentially reenables metonymic exchange without relying on the missing Name-of-the-Father. Is this kind of analysis wrong, or can it be rehabilitated for autism-outside-of-psychosis?
Dear Nora, thank you for your fascinating reply!
As to your questions:
– Yes, I hypothesize that autism should be viewed as a fourth singular subjective structure in line with the three major subjective structures elaborated by Freud and Lacan: neurosis, perversion and psychosis. This year, my book on autism—which progresses this hypothesis—will be published with Palgrave. I hope you’ll have a chance to read it.
– This does not interact with DSM classification and does not really aim to. These are two different discourses on the psyche. I do offer in my book a different approach to the ASD called the “autistic linguistic spectrum.”
– The fact that autistic individuals write on behalf of other autistics while psychotic individuals write on behalf of humanity (for example) is not a source for a strict metapsychological distinction between autism and psychosis but an outcome of the different structures. Distinction between subjective structures is based on the subject’s mode of access to language.
– In psychoanalysis there is no normal subject, Freud had made that point several times in his work. Accordingly, normality is not so much a concept implemented within this discourse. Nevertheless, I do believe there is something singular in the contemporary autistic struggle that surpasses the domain of identity politics. I am working on this topic today and hope to have more to elaborate or publish on the subject in the near future.
– The metapsychological distinction between subjective structures is a tool used by analysts in order to direct an analysis. Therefore, I don’t think there is an ethics of psychoanalysis that defines one as good and the other as bad inside or outside of the clinic. About the analyses you are suggesting, I am not sure and I will have to hear more. Maybe we can schedule a meeting at a future time if you are interested. In any case, as to the hole in the Other (which is a psychotic trait according to Lacan) and the synthetic Other (a supplement for the foreclosed Other in autism) you are welcome to read in my new book that is already in the production phase. I will publish some more detailed posts on the subject as the production phase progresses.
Thank you again!
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