See it feelingly Classic novels, autistic readers, and the schooling of a no-good English professor

Ralph James Savarese

Book - 2018

Since the 1940s researchers have been repeating claims about autistic people's limited ability to understand language, to partake in imaginative play, and the generate the complex theory of mind necessary to appreciate literature. In this book the author, an English professor whose son is one of the first nonspeaking autistics to graduate from college, challenges this view. Discussing fictional works over a period of years with readers from across the autism spectrum, the author was stunned... by the readers' ability to expand his understanding of texts he knew intimately. Their startling insights emerged not only from the way their different bodies and brains lined up with a story but also from their experiences of stigma and exclusion. For Mukhopadhyay "Moby Dick" is an allegory of revenge against autism, the frantic quest for a cure. The white whale represents the autist's baffling, because wordless, immersion in the sensory. Computer programmer and cyberpunk author Dora Raymaker skewers the empathetic failings of the bounty hunters in Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Autistics, some studies suggest, offer instruction in embracing the non-human. Encountering a short story about a lonely marine biologist in Antarctica, Temple Grandin remembers her past with an uncharacteristic emotional intensity, and she reminds the reader of the myriad ways in which people can relate to fiction. Why must there be a norm? Mixing memoir with current research in autism and cognitive literary studies, the author celebrates how literature springs to life through the contrasting responses of unique individuals, while helping people both on and off the spectrum to engage more richly with the world.

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2nd Floor 618.9285882/Savarese Checked In
Series
Thought in the act.
Subjects
Published
Durham : Duke University Press 2018.
Language
English
Physical Description
xviii, 273 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781478001300
1478001305
Main Author
Ralph James Savarese (author)
  • Prologue: river of words, raft of our conjoined neurologies
  • From a world as fluid as the sea
  • The heavens of the brain
  • Andys and auties
  • Finding her feet
  • Take for Grandin.
Review by Choice Reviews

In See it Feelingly, Savarese (Grinnell College) uses his own experiences as a teacher and as a father of an autistic son to deliver a unique insight on teaching. Readers will find this book to be a work of art as Savarese not only exhibits an understanding of the beauty of teaching but also of the language of the autistic mind. Savarese's literary creation demystifies the limits of the autistic mind by following five autistic adults through their interpretation of and response to classic literature. Seamlessly connecting the emerging science of autism with neuroanalysis of the neurotypical reading of poems and novels, Savarese tackles autism spectrum disorder from a unique angle. In Savarese's own words, his goal was to understand what literature revealed about the effects of autism impairment and also to share the sheer joy of poetry. He accomplishes this objective masterfully throughout. This book is an excellent read for English teachers and for anyone working with an autistic population. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above; professionals and general readers.--D. Pellegrino, University of ScrantonDebra A. PellegrinoUniversity of Scranton Debra A. Pellegrino Choice Reviews 56:08 April 2019 Copyright 2019 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Savarese (Reasonable People), a Grinnell College professor, combines his knowledge of literature and personal experience with autism—his son is one of the first nonspeaking autistic people to graduate from college—in this challenging but worthwhile treatise. Passionately opposed to equating autism with intellectual and emotional incompetence, he describes teaching literature to five people from across the spectrum, including Temple Grandin. They also include Tito, who published his first book at age 12 and identifies with the title character in Moby-Dick, and Dora, who did not distinguish between animate and inanimate entities until high school, and compares the way autistic people are commonly viewed to how the androids are viewed in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In working with Grandin, Savarese self-critically interrogates his preconceptions about getting her to conform to "neurotypical" norms. The book's writing style can be hard going, full of academic lingo and digressions into etymology and literary theory, but this idealistic argument for the social value of literature and for the diversity of autism as a condition is a rewarding endeavor, nevertheless, in much the same way that a hike up steep terrain can open up to a wondrous view. (Oct.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

'We each have Skype accounts and use them to discuss [Moby-Dick] face to face. Once a week, we spread the worded whale out in front of us; we dissect its head, eyes, and bones, careful not to hurt or kill it. The Professor and I are not whale hunters. We are not letting the whale die. We are shaping it, letting it swim through the Web with a new and polished look.''tito Mukhopadhyay Since the 1940s researchers have been repeating claims about autistic people's limited ability to understand language, to partake in imaginative play, and to generate the complex theory of mind necessary to appreciate literature. In See It Feelingly Ralph James Savarese, an English professor whose son is one of the first nonspeaking autistics to graduate from college, challenges this view. Discussing fictional works over a period of years with readers from across the autism spectrum, Savarese was stunned by the readers' ability to expand his understanding of texts he knew intimately. Their startling insights emerged not only from the way their different bodies and brains lined up with a story but also from their experiences of stigma and exclusion. For Mukhopadhyay Moby-Dick is an allegory of revenge against autism, the frantic quest for a cure. The white whale represents the autist's baffling, because wordless, immersion in the sensory. Computer programmer and cyberpunk author Dora Raymaker skewers the empathetic failings of the bounty hunters in Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Autistics, some studies suggest, offer instruction in embracing the nonhuman. Encountering a short story about a lonely marine biologist in Antarctica, Temple Grandin remembers her past with an uncharacteristic emotional intensity, and she reminds the reader of the myriad ways in which people can relate to fiction. Why must there be a norm? Mixing memoir with current research in autism and cognitive literary studies, Savarese celebrates how literature springs to life through the contrasting responses of unique individuals, while helping people both on and off the spectrum to engage more richly with the world.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Ralph James Savarese showcases the voices of autistic readers by sharing their unique insights into literature and their sensory experiences of the world, thereby challenging common claims that people with autism have a limited ability to understand language, to partake in imaginative play, and to generate the complex theory of mind necessary to appreciate literature.