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Autism and Representation
Case Western Reserve Univ
Cleveland, Ohio
28-30 October 2005



Nancy Bombaci
Mitchell College
Do not cite without permission of author.

"Gods Among Men: Asperger's Syndrome and the Gender of Genius"


There are no "natural" geniuses. Mozart was his father's son. Leopold Mozart had gone through an arduous education, not just in music, but also in philosophy and religion: he was a sophisticated, broad-thinking man, famous throughout Europe as a composer and pedagogue. This is not news to music lovers. Leopold had a massive influence on his young son. I question how much of a "natural" this young boy was. 1
----Twyla Tharp

Hans Asperger (1944) wrote about "autistic intelligence" and saw it as the sort of intelligence hardly touched by tradition and culture- "unconventional, unorthodox, strangely 'pure' and original, akin to the intelligence of true creativity." 2
Michael Fitzgerald

Genius is related to gen itals. 3
Avital Ronell

Recent clinical definitions of Asperger's syndrome have associated this mental disorder with exaggerated male neurological patterns that lead to emotional coldness and a "geekish" rejection of social norms. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM IV ), some of the major features of Asperger's syndrome are an intense focus on narrow interests, a penchant to maintain repetitive routines, and an inability to relate to others on a developmentally appropriate level (section 299.80). Some of the characteristics associated with mild autism correlate with traits identified with introversion in clinical and popular discourses. Introverts have a penchant for solitude, a tendency to become absorbed in their thoughts, and a dislike of crowds. 4  Speculation by both psychologists and laymen also associates Asperger's Syndrome with the high intellectual creativity that popular culture narratives define in terms of genius. Various commentators, for example have diagnosed notable artists and scientists from Michelangelo to Glenn Gould, Wolfang Amadeus Mozart, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein as having Asperger's syndrome- a mental disability that may also foster exceptional talents. In light of feminist and postmodern theories that have rigorously challenged the notion of masculine genius, Asperger's syndrome poses interesting questions. While the longstanding Western notion of artistic and scientific genius deserves to be questioned, should it be viewed mainly in terms of a neurological condition? What does the current tendency to attribute the personal idiosyncracies and prodigious talents of notable artists and scientists to Asperger's syndrome reveal about contemporary American and European cultures? While feminist critics have rigorously challenged the notion of male genius, why have some twentieth century women writers exhibited a desire for the prodigious gifts associated with eccentric but gifted men?  

Since the advent of poststructuralism in the 1960's and the widespread rejection of cultural authority during that time, left leaning intellectuals in America and Europe have rigorously questioned the meanings of entrenched notions such as "brilliance," "genius," and "innovation." Marxist critics such as Terry Eagleton and Raymond Williams, for example suggest that creativity- the source of "genius"- inheres in common activities which most people perform on a daily basis. Even in a recent popular, self-help book by Twyla Tharp, the choreographer argues that high creativity is not a rare gift, but a habit that could be cultivated through diligence and persistence.   Despite the profound skepticism toward "genius" displayed by contemporary literary critics and cultural historians, recent commentators on Asperger's syndrome have displayed an unwavering faith in this concept.   In her memoir about her experience of having high functioning autism, Temple Grandin confidently states "It is clear that the genetic traits that can cause severe disabilities can also provide the giftedness and genius that has produced some of the world's greatest art and scientific discoveries." 5  In The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger's Syndrome and the Arts , psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald makes similar observations, as he argues that creative luminaries such as Jonathan Swift, William Bulter Yeats, Simone Weil, and many more, exhibited many characteristics associated with Asperger's syndrome. With reference to Hans Asperger, the psychiatrist who discovered and categorized Asperger's syndrome, Fitzgerald writes that the "autistic intelligence" evident in many with Asperger's syndrome is "a sort of intelligence hardly touched by tradition and culture- 'unconventional, unorthodox, strangely 'pure' and original, akin to the intelligence of true creativity" (Fitzgerald 15). By invoking the idea of a "pure" and "true" creativity, unadulterated by the influence of culture, Asperger and Fitzgerald essentialize both genius and selfhood. For many contemporary literary and cultural theorists, however, absolutely nothing, including the individual's consciousness and identity, is unmediated by the inevitable force of culture. At the same time, for psychologists influenced by genetics and evotlutionary biology, nothing is unmediated by the inevitable force of nature.

            For the sake of argument, it would not be farfetched to say that the romantic and modernist literary traditions often forefront characters with traits that correspond with clinical definitions of Asperger's syndrome. Central to both traditions are alienated and even solipsistic individuals who find solace and transcendence by "hyper-focusing" on inner worlds of their own making. Some recent feminist critics have demonstrated that nineteenth and twentieth century women writers led a popular literary tradition that questioned the elitist and masculine values of romanticism and modernism. 6 This "sentimental" tradition is identified with stereotypical feminine qualities such as pathos and warmth- characteristics antithetical to those of the romantic and modernist isolato, or the solitary genius whose extreme introversion brings to mind   "autistic intelligence." Suzanne Clark explains that the tradition of literary romanticism (and later modernism) "left women seeming inadequate to the figures of authorial transcendence and original genius" ( Sentimental Modernism 28). This relegation of women writers to mass culture led to what Andreas Huyssen terms "the great divide" between high and popular cultures during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 7

            While this "great divide" fostered the cultural ascendency of the romantic and modernist genius, postmodern critics have exposed this figure as a cultural role. In The Trouble With Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky , Bob Perelman argues that these modernist masters attempted to create "masterpieces" that were intentionally abstruse and tantalizing to the minds of those willing to decode difficult modernist texts. 8 Perelman quips, "Being difficult to follow is central to genius" (3). Arguably, the textual difficulties presented by Ulysses , Finnegan's Wake , and the experimental works of Gertrude Stein all have narrative characteristics that may be likened to autistic intelligence and Asperger's consciousness. A primary difference between these works of art and the Asperger's mind is that the former stand as performances or intentional acts that call for interpretation. Perelman displays intense skepticism towards the notion of genius and even goes as far as to say "But in a [contemporary] critical context, genius is an embarrassment" (1). As a critic informed by poststructuralist and postmodern theory, Perelman has serious reservations about the notion of incomparable genius and even likens it to kitschy representations of talented artists and musicians (2). At the same time, he argues that twentieth century writers such as Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofksy attempted to seduce their readers through the performance of genius. Perelman states that despite the banality of "genius," this cultural ideal motivated these artists to develop "ambitious writing structures" which also signifies "their improbable demands for social authority" (2). For these modernists, the performance of genius may well be a means of validating the potential for a triumphant self to go beyond the leveling and at times dehumanizing elements of mass culture. In the same vein, it may also as Huyssens and Clark suggest, be a means of rebelling against the mediocrity and kitschiness attributed to popular women writers (Clark 1-16).

            Just as the longstanding Western ideal of genius is associated with men and masculinity, so is the more recent construction of Autistic intelligence and the Asperger's genius. Of the twenty-one luminaries that Fitzgerald hypothesizes have Asperger's syndrome only one, Simone Weil, is a woman, and he views her preoccupation with mysticism as a feminine trait (135). When discussing Simone Weil's religious passion, he attributes her profound mystical feelings to "innate gender differences within Asperger's syndrome" which cause male philosophers to be more "skeptical and scientific" (135). He also attributes Weil's "complex gender identity" which supposedly caused her to play on "the first women's rug rugby team in France" to Asperger's syndrome (136). These assertions about Weil's sexual identity are problematic because they need far more cultural analysis and historicization than Fitzgerald provides.

            The association of Asperger's genius with men and masculinity is further promoted by Simon Baron-Cohen in The Essential Difference , a work that argues that autism and its spectrum disorders have a neurological origin based on an excessively masculine brain. 9 Baron-Cohen suggests that while the male brain is geared towards "systematizing" or creating intellectually complex systems, the female brain is more prone towards "empathizing," or a profound sensitivity towards the emotions of others. For Baron-Cohen, those who have autism and its spectrum disorders are endowed (or afflicted) with extreme systematizing tendencies that impair social functioning. Given Baron-Cohen's definition of autism in terms of a lack of empathy, it would seem difficult, if not impossible for those with these conditions to become creative artists and passionate intellectuals. Artistic creativity requires a unique combination of systematizing and empathizing tendencies in order to produce works with intellectual and emotional power.

Fitzgerald defines autistic intelligence more in terms of the ability to produce unique ideas which others may view as idiosyncratic (9-26). Fitzgerald believes that while many Asperger's geniuses have impaired social skills, they are not incapable of feeling passion, which they direct more towards their intellectual interests. He hypothesizes that those with Asperger's syndrome, whether male or female, tend to have great difficulty developing a coherent sense of self because they view the world from an immature, childlike point of view (47). In his lucid analysis of the relationship of modernism to schizophrenia, Louis Sass argues that the incoherent selfhood represented in numerous modernist narratives is the result of a schizoid withdrawal from reality: 10

To the observer, such persons will seem unidentified with or detached from their        public performances- uncoupled, if you will- and especially from the inner feelings or qualities of personhood that such roles would normally imply. One may sense an aura of ironic detachment, albeit an ambiguous one, and often an air of mystery suggestive of some hidden intention, or perhaps of an entire private world that is far more significant than anything they reveal (98).

The clinical definition of schizoid personality disorder includes extreme social withdrawal, a preference for solitude, and an inability to show emotion ( DSM IV - TR). Primary differences between schizoid personality disorder and Asperger's syndrome as defined in the clinical literature are that   the former is characterized by extreme emotional flatness, and the latter is typified more by intensity of focus and repetitive rituals. Both, nonetheless, are characterized by extreme introversion, and what Fitzgerald terms "identity diffusion" (47). Fitzgerald and Sass pathologize the tendency to view identity as malleable and performative- an inclination which is, nonetheless, characteristic of many late nineteenth and twentieth century artists and intellectuals.

Fitzgerald uses Hans Christian Anderson as an example of a person with Asperger's syndrome who has experienced "extreme identity diffusion" obvious in his obsessive self-promotion (47). This inclination caused Anderson to "barely [know] where the persona ended and where the real self began" (47). Self-promotion, a tendency that has become more prevalent as the media has gained social power is also a symptom of modern (and later postmodern) culture. Using Fitzgerald's example, it may be suggested that the modern and postmodern worlds have conditions which support autistic consciousness and Asperger's intelligence. The creation and re-creation of tantalizing new identities for the media's marketplace causes the artist to focus narcissistically on his or he performing self. Fitzgerald also suggests that Andy Warhol, the quintessential media narcissist and self-promoter, had Asperger's syndrome (231-238). Fitzgerald states, "It is very difficult to find the central self of a person with Asperger's syndrome, because this is a central deficiency in Asperger's syndrome. It is impossible to build up a sense of oneself without a good theory of other people's minds; in Asperger's syndrome, this is lacking" (84). From this perspective, the extreme introversion characteristic of Asperger's syndrome prevents the person with this disorder from developing an image of himself in relation to others.

With all due respect to Fitzgerald, Baron-Cohen, Grandin and others who make the case for genetically constructed autistic intelligence, such characteristics certainly exist. Autistic traits may even be part of an evolutionary movement towards different neurological structures which lead to different forms of consciousness. Nonetheless, these traits are often mediated within a cultural context where deviance, difference, and performative power have gained social value. Conflict often arises, however, when the "Aspergian" genius must confront other powerful social forces which value conformity and homogeneity over introversion and distinction.

During the middle of twentieth century America, extroversion and "other directedness" became cultural ideals.   In the early 1950's, sociologist Philip Riesman used the terms "inner directed" and "other directed" to describe charecterological ideals that developed in Western cultures from the Renaissance until the twentieth century.   In brief, the inner directed person, who emerged in Renaissance Europe, developed values based on high ethical ideals and a strong sense of individualism. Riesman explains that "inner-directed" cultures emphasized the importance of rigorous self-criticism rather than "behavioral conformity alone" when defining the proper approach to ethical standards. 11 The more other-directed corporate personality of the mid-twentieth century, however, geared his or her attitudes and behavior towards pleasing others.

Riesman emphasizes that the "other directed" individual is so sensitive to the minds of others that he "aims to keep up with them not so much in external details as in the quality of his inner experience. That is, his great sensitivity keeps him in touch with others on many more levels than externals of appearance and propriety" (24). While the highly ethical self-orientation of the inner directed individual does not descend to narcissism, the other directed individual's extreme reliance on others for self-validation borders on blind   flunkyism. Sociologist Wini Breines states that "Although Reisman later denied that his portrait of the other directed personality had been meant to be critical, his attempts to point out its positive traits were unconvincing." 12  While the "inner directedness" that Riesman describes is synonymous neither with Asperger's syndrome nor with genius, it demonstrates that earlier cultures had a higher tolerance or even a preference for traits associated with introversion. Breines explains that the introversion associated with the inner directed individual is more characteristic of the rugged individualist- a quintessential American male figure. Likewise, the extroversion and empathy towards others that defined other directedness had implications associated with traditional feminine identity and behavior (31).

            Various popular and academic narratives from the 1950's and early 1960's reinforced the much older view that women should not aspire to creative individualism and intellectual elitism. A notable and characteristic example of such wariness occurs in a 1962 biography of Jacqueline Kennedy, where the author assures her female readers that although Mrs. Kennedy displays little interest in popular entertainments such as "bridge games, quiz shows or fashion show luncheons," she is by no means a "highbrow":    

She accepts and enjoys what are essentially established, safe and obvious works. She is

distant to anything that smacks of genuine artistic innovation or which has an experimental, truly avant-garde quality. She is neither a fan of composer John Cage nor constructionist Jean Tinguely's machines that consume themselves. 13

Some commentators maintained such views long after the early 1960's. In a telling commentary

in a 1978 article for Vogue , theater critic John Simon quotes Eugene Ionesco's use of the image of the American coed to define the idealized American woman:

            When I told Eugene Ionesco that I was writing a piece on "What is an American

Beauty," the playwright remarked off the top of his bald head: "A blond coed walking across a campus and looking at no one." That "looking at no one" is significant: a smile based on self-sufficiency, nonintellectuality, unconcern, but not arrogance: she looks at no one in particular, the better to be looking at everyone in general. 14

A paragon of upper class detachment, while devoid of intellectual intensity and arrogance, she posed   no threat to men. While she may be intelligent enough to perform well at a "good" college, she's not too smart.  

            Twenty three years later, Elaine Showalter wrote an article for the same magazine where she provides a different take on the intellectual expectations imposed on the American coed. 15 Showalter argues that especially during the 1950's and the 1960's, smart women often felt intense pressure to prove their intellects and affirm their self-worth. She mentions that women such as Sylvia Plath, Hillary Clinton, and herself, tried to measure up by exhibiting the backbreaking intellectual intensity that would appeal to stern graders. Yet while Showalter suggests that female coeds often felt the need to become straight-A students hell bent on pleasing professors, some of their male counterparts such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edward Albee, and Bill Gates, who later went on to become highly creative and successful, either dropped out or flunked out of "good" schools. At the end of her discussion, Showalter states, "In the old system, grades were used to establish and maintain hierarchy: some students were expected to fail, and a lot of independent thinkers found themselves in that group" (144). From the context of Showalter's article, it is obvious that some of these independent thinkers (who may have displayed traits associated with mild autism) were men who had little tolerance for the strictures of undergraduate academic life. Many women students, however, who were also gifted, felt compelled to conform to the role of the inveterate teacher pleaser. This compulsive grade grubber whose prime motivation is to satisfy (male) authority figures is another version of the other-directed woman who is smart but not too smart. During the era that Showalter describes, too much imagination, offbeat insight, or antiauthoritarian tendencies were offensive to the gatekeepers of the academic hierarchy.

                                                              * * *

Despite the conventional association of idiosyncratic intelligence or genius with masculinity, some women artists and cultural theorists have still identified strongly with it, as they have tried to make a place for it within their critical perspectives. In Gender and Genius , Christine Battersby argues that while genius is usually gendered as "male," "the concept of genius has to be appropriated by feminists and made to work for us" (15). 16  For Battersby, this process of appropriation can occur only if women artists challenge dominant discourses that construct women as lacking the ability to produce original insights (154). Battersby explains that popular culture has defined human difference and deviance in terms of "others" and "outsiders." "Others are usually women and people of color who get categorized as 'not-quite-human' due to racist beliefs and values (138). "Outsiders," on the other hand, are usually men who are defined as mad geniuses who often display unconventional behavior (138). The singular and idiosyncratic individual with Asperger's intelligence described by Baron-Cohen and Fitzgerald fits Battersby's notion of "the outsider"- a figure that has been glamorized in both high and popular culture for over a hundred years.   A number of women artists have questioned the racist and sexist values that relegate them to the category of "others," as they have identified more fully with the more glamorized and empowered "outsider" position. Despite the outsider's association with deviance, his creative autonomy and his ability to manipulate his surroundings make him an intriguing and oddly appealing figure.

                          * * *                        

Some women writers have created narratives and characters that display the introversion, eccentricity, and intellectual daring that bring to mind both the classic outsider figure and the person with Asperger's intelligence. This is especially evident in works by   the contemporary experimental novelist Carole Maso. This writer creates characters that display the extreme introversion and creative "hyper-focus" associated with Asperger's syndrome, as they also demonstrate an intense desire for the prodigious artistic and intellectual gifts associated with outsiders. As we will see, this desire for genius functions as gender transgression and an attempt   to challenge middle class mores. Time and space prevent an extended analysis of Carson McCullers, Gertrude Stein, and Ayn Rand, twentieth century women writers with unique perspectives on the relation of introversion to genius and gender.

Carole Maso frequently creates female characters whose introversion and identity diffusion cause social and psychological problems. While Maso never invokes Asperger's syndrome when defining these characters, their introversion bears enough resemblance to this disorder to provoke commentary. While Maso in one recent interview cautions against the veneration of genius by stating, "The creative impulse runs through us all, I think," she more frequently makes pronouncements that both affirm and redefine the notion of "great" literature and writers. 17 Maso appropriates the notions of genius and innovation in order to promote her version of a feminist aesthetic rooted in the cultures of avant-garde experimentalism, French feminist theory, and, to a more limited extent, the masculine tradition of high modernism. Through her redefinition of the terms "genius" and "greatness," Maso aims to define herself not only as a significant woman writer, but as a feminist aesthete- one with "highbrow" inclinations. In an interview with Jill Adams, Maso clarifies that her primary artistic goal is to foster "the essential dignity and complexity of the human spirit," rather than to elevate "the individual nobility and genius of the artist." 18 At the same time, she acknowledges contemporary theorists who question the notion of heightened creativity, while claiming to be unable to respond fully to this:

Many who are doing interesting work play into the notion of our essential sameness andinterchangeability, saying there is no original expression and disassembling the individual as we have constructed it. But these are hard, provocative questions you ask and woefully inadequate responses (Adams 9).

Without any trace of hostility, Maso hedges "this interesting work" which questions theentrenched Western notions of selfhood and artistic transcendence. Maso is especially intriguing because she fuses an elitist defense of artistic integrity and quality with an egalitarian impulse towards representing nonmainstream perspectives. On the one hand, Charles B. Harris argues that in The Art Lover (1990), Maso calls into question the aesthetics of male characters who affirm modernist notions of idealized introversion such as "distance, impersonality and order." 19 Harris believes that Maso identifies more with female characters who embrace a more politicized and emotive aesthetic (166). In a similar vein, Victoria Frenkel Harris argues that in Ava (1993), especially, Maso "abjures high modernist hermeticism, that Eliotic valorization of the autonomous text, which claims to escape from the personality of both the writer and the reader." 20 For Frenkel Harris, Maso instead involves the reader by eliciting responses that are personal rather than merely intellectual- a different process from modernist reader response theories which emphasize the reader's engagement with textual complexity (Frankel Haris 178).

Maso's abovementioned critics place her firmly within the camp of women writers who have questioned the modernist valorization of extreme introversion and "hyper-focus"- traits that have autistic implications.   I argue that while Maso challenges masculine modernist elitism and distance through some of her textual strategies, some of her female characters retain elitist literary impulses as well as a fascination with genius and introversion.   As we will see, their aestheticist focus on the beauty and singularity of specific works of art initially seems at odds with Maso's more feminist and postmodern inclinations.

Despite the unabashed elitism and ambition of Maso's artist figures, they all face difficult obstacles when trying to develop creative sensibilities. For Maso, genius is a quality that can neither be developed easily, nor can be easily understood in others. We see this in Maso's first novel Ghost Dance (1986), where the narrator Vanessa Turin stands in awe of her enigmatic and brilliant mother, the poet Christine Wing. 21 From a young age, Christine defines her sensibility in terms of a "topaz bird," a figure that her own mother's German family mythologized as "the Luminous Bird of Genius" (14). The bird, itself, is an aestheticist and romantic figure that represents a quest for unique perceptions and the creation of singular art objects. Vanessa finds most interesting and vexing that Christine can only nurture her genius through solitude. She explains, "I was well accustomed to quiet. The word itself carried great significance, for it was nearly the only instruction given in our house" (109). But she also resents her mother's inaccessibility and thinks, "It is not enough- your sadness with no explanation, your life of solitude, your retreats" (183). When trying to nurture her gift, Christine creates a social distance between herself and others and even risks madness. During a stay in a mental institution, Christine equates her genius with madness, as she declares her refusal to alter her thinking according to the dictates of psychiatry:

She put her head on the pillow with me: "They are dressed in white," she said, and they carry hypodermic needles. But even then I stay. They want me to look away, to leave the Topaz bird behind. They think they can make me see what they want. But they can't. Even then I stay (69).

Louise DeSalvo views Christine's topaz bird as a representation of her childish inability to takefull responsibility for her actions. 22 Viewed from a less judgmental perspective, Christine's main social offense, particularly as a woman who grew up during the 1950's, is that she is more "inner directed," introverted, and consumed with developing her own talent.      

In Christine Wing, Maso creates a female character who risks being too creative, too smart, and too hyper-focused on her artistic pursuits. While Maso empathizes with Christine Wing and others like her, she does not "let them off the hook" that easily. Maso is certainly aware that although genius may be a supreme object of desire for women artists, the pursuit or possession of it may command a very high social and psychological price.   Bernadette O'Brien, the main character in Maso's Defiance (1998), represents the failure of a female genius who dwells within a context that simply cannot contain her. As a child,   Bernadette was set apart by her elective mutism and her intense focus on intellectual pursuits- characteristics which signify extreme introversion if not Asperger's syndrome. Unable to relate to Bernadette's genius, her mother views it as shameful:

Cover up , she says. My intelligence- it's too personal, it's too radiant. It comes steaming off me- something indecent. I cast an eerie glow.

Cover it as one might cover the budding breasts so as not to attract attention. The blushing moist star. The shoulders folding inward. Apologize . The opening. The extraordinary passion of the blooming brain (53). Proud of her genius, Bernadette refuses to deny or "cover" it as she eventually comes to define herself in terms of this difference.

Defiance , the most conventionally structured of Maso's novels, represents the sordid trashiness that also comes to define Bernadette. This Harvard physics professor's sadomasochistic relationship with two of her male students and her ultimate murder of them is the subject of tabloids. Maso claims that her literary method in Defiance is to parody conventional fiction in order to bring it to its most extreme form (Adams 13). With rancorous irony, Bernadette frequently expresses her disgust with American culture and the genteel forms of oppression often displayed by the east coast power elite. While she was born into a working class Catholic family, she enjoys the power that she now exerts over her wealthy and privileged male students (86). Aware that she represents a "Cult of the Female Genius," she defines herself against the "Cult of the Anything in America, Cult of the All-American," because of the ways in which American culture appropriates and commodifies forms of difference. Bernadette claims that in her efforts at self-invention, she has even ended up commodifying herself:

The strange burlesque of these pages. Oh to be commodified, usurped, trivialized, not only by the tabloids, but by myself. This ludicrous presentation, this packaged, sanitized,                   absurd character I create for you I Bernadette (15).

Bernadette feels that she has never been in true possession of her experience and identity, a condition that leads to tragic results. In Maso's text, Bernadette's genius is real, but it also corresponds to a social role created by a culture fascinated with difference.

                                                              * * *

The fact remains that because of the cultural fascination with genius, it remains a supreme object of desire, despite its associations with tragic oddity. The current fascination with Asperger's syndrome is based on an attempt to resurrect and explain   genius- an idea onto which people project their desire to be exceptional, Promethean, and immortal. While the "Aspergian" genius may be a god among men, his flaws make him more human. In a recent article released by BBC News , Michael Fitzgerald and psychiatrist Muhammad Arshad diagnose Michelangelo, the quintessential deified male artist, with Asperger's syndrome:

His single-minded work routine, unusual lifestyle, limited interests, poor social and

communication skills and various issues of life control appear to be features of high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome. 23

The extreme introversion associated with Asperger's syndrome and related disorders may well be a factor which produces genius. Yet the tendency to view genius only in terms of autistic spectrum disorders runs the risk of promoting formulaic explanations for both mental abilities and singular works of art. We must view our gods among men not mainly in terms of their mental differences, but also in relation to the cultural forces which produce them.


1. Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life . (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), 7-8.

2. Michael Fitzgerald, The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger's Syndrome and theArts . (Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2005), 15.

3. Andrea Juno and V. Vale. "Interview With Avital Ronell" in Angry Women . (San Francisco: Re/Search Publications, 1991), 130.


5. Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures . (New York: Doubleday, 1995), 187.

6. See Suzanne Clark's Sentimental Modernism: Women Writers and the Revolution of the Word (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991). Also see Jane Tompkins' Sentimental Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction: 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford UP, 1988).

7. Andreas Huyssens, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Post Modernism .

(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986).

8. Bob Perelman, The Trouble With Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky

(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

9. Simon Barron-Cohen, The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male & Female Brain (New York: Perseus Books, 2003).

10. Louis Sass, Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1992).

11. David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character

(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), 15.

12. Wini Breines, Young, White, and Miserable: Growing Up Female in the Fifties (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 29.

13. Charlotte Curtis, First Lady (New York: Pyramid Books, 1963), 64.

14. John Simon, "What Is An American Beauty," Vogue , June 1978, 177.

15. Elaine Showalter, "The Belle Curve," Vogue , October 2002, 138-144.

16. Christine Battersby, Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989).

17. Brian Evenson, "An Interview With Carole Maso." wysiwyg://30/http://www.raintaxi. com/online/ 1997winter/maso.shtml, 1.

18. Jill Adams, "Interview With Carole Maso," http://www.barcelonareview: com/20/e_cm_int.htm, 9.

19. Charles B. Harris, "The Dead Fathers: The Rejection of Modernist Distance in The Art Lover ." ( The Review of Contemporary Fiction . Fall 1997. Vol. XVII, no. 3), 163.

20. Victoria Frenkel Harris, "Emancipating the Proclamation: Gender and Genre in Ava ." ( The Review of Contemporary Fiction . Fall 1997. Vol. XVII, no. 3), 178.

21. Carole Maso, Ghost Dance . (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986).

22. Louise DeSalvo, "Storytelling as Testimony and Healing in Ghost Dance ." ( The Review of Contemporary Fiction . Fall 1997, Vol. XVII, no. 3), 147.

23. "Michelangelo Linked With Autism,"






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