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



Participants' Notes

Anthony D. Baker is an assistant professor of English at Tennessee Technological University, where he directs the first-year composition program and teaches courses in writing, rhetoric, and literature. His research interests include composition pedagogy, student reflection, and postmodern texts. His interest in representations of autism arose from his son's diagnosis.

Matthew Belmonte is a Senior Research Associate at the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge. His research explores how the human mind represents perceptual experience, and how it imposes narrative order on these perceptual representations. He approaches this question within the framework of the sciences by studying the neurophysiology of attention in autism, and from the perspective of the arts by focusing on processes of symbolisation and narrative. What gave him this fascination with phenomenological and textual regularities is also what made his brother and his niece autistic.

James Berger, associate professor of English at Hofstra University, is author of After the End: Representations of Post-Apocalypse (1999) and editor of Helen Keller's The Story of My Life: The Restored Edition (2003). He is currently writing a book on portrayals of linguistic and cognitive impairments in modern literature and popular culture.

Nancy Bombaci is an Assistant Professor of Writing and Literature at Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut. In 2000, she received her Ph.D. from Fordham University, where she specialized in twentieth century literature and critical theory. She has published articles on late modernist fiction in Criticism and LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory. Her book, Freaks in Late Modernist American Culture: Nathanael West, Djuna Barnes, Tod Browning, and Carson McCullers will be published in early November 2005. Her interests also include disability studies, performance studies, writing pedagogy, and creative writing.

Gyasi Burks-Abbott, a 32-year old African American male on the Autism Spectrum, serves on the Board of Directors of the Asperger's Association of New England (AANE) and on the Steering Committee for the Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts. He earned his M.S. from the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science and his B.A. from Macalester College, where he double-majored in English and psychology. Currently, he is writing a memoir about his developmental history.

In addition to being the mother of an adult autistic, Ruth Elizabeth Burks is an assistant professor of English at Bentley College and a W.E.B. Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. in English from UCLA and B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California at Berkeley, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Dr. Burks also holds degrees from the American Film Institute and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Kristina Chew is Assistant Professor of Classics at Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is currently researching cognitive disability in ancient medicine and philosophy; she has also published a translation of Virgil's Georgics. She is writing a book, My Son Has Autism, about 8-year-old Charlie and her family's life with autism, sections of which can be read at her blog,

Angela Hein Ciccia is an Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Cognitive Science as well as a certified Speech-Language Pathologist. Her research and clinical interests focus on cognitive-communication impairments that are a result of neurologic dysfunction, both developmental and acquired. Currently, her research focuses on the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to identify neuroanatomical substrates that support social cognitive processing in typically developing adolescents and adolescents with social cognitive impairment.

Lisa Janice Cohen has been a practicing physical therapist since 1986. She is the author of many articles and invited book chapters in the areas of chronic pain, orthopaedic dysfunction, and repetitive stress injuries. She is also a poet and has had her work published both in print and in on-line magazines and is a moderator for an online poetry forum She has just completed her first novel. Her writing blog can be found at

Barbara Crooker has published in magazines such as Yankee, The Christian Science Monitor, Smartish Pace, and The Denver Quarterly, anthologies, including Worlds in their Words: An Anthology of Contemporary American Women Writers, and eleven chapbooks. She has won the Word Press First Book award for her first full-length book, Radiance, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships in Literature, seventeen Pushcart Prize nominations, and the W. B. Yeats Society of NY Poetry Prize. She is the mother of a 21-year-old son with autism.

Debra Cumberland is an assistant professor of English at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, where she teaches creative nonfiction, fiction writing, and nineteenth-century British literature. Her fiction, essays, and scholarly articles have appeared in Natural Bridge, Hurakan, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, and the anthology, Things of the Spirit: Women Writers on Faith, among others.

James T. Fisher is a cultural historian of religion and ethnicity in the United States. His most recent book is Communion of Immigrants: A History of Catholics in America (2002). He is nearing completion of Covering the Waterfront, a history of labor and religious strife in the Port of New York and New Jersey, mid-twentieth century. Fisher is Co-Director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University in the Bronx.

Ann Jurecic is an assistant professor in the Rutgers University English Department and the former Associate Director of the Princeton Writing Program. She is at work on a book entitled On Writing and Healing that examines writing in the humanities and in medicine and asks how these different fields can inform one another. Professor Jurecic has recently published in Pedagogy and WPA: Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators.

While attending The University of California at Davis, Kristen Loutensock first began working to develop a film arts curriculum for children with developmental disabilities. This program became the basis for her honors thesis, "Beyond the Margins--Autism in Film and Video" and has remained part of her graduate work at UC Berkeley in Film, Disability Studies, and Cognitive Science.

Patrick McDonagh (BA, MA UBC; PhD Concordia) received his doctorate for research on the cultural history of the idea of intellectual disability, primarily nineteenth-century representations of idiocy. A co-founder of the Vancouver (Canada) - based Spectrum Society for Community Living, and a former member of the board of directors of Autism BC, he has published on the history and representations of intellectual disability and autism in Disability Studies Quarterly, the British Journal of Learning Disabilities, and the Journal of Developmental Disabilities.

Bruce Mills teaches at Kalamazoo College, including a service-learning class on autism. His publications include Cultural Reformations: Lydia Maria Child and the Literature of Reform (1994) and Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts (forthcoming 2005). He has been president of his local autism society and is a board member of the Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding. In the fall, the Georgia Review is scheduled to publish his essay "An Archaeology of Yearning" which reflects on his autistic son's drawing abilities.

Stuart Murray is Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures in the School of English at the University of Leeds in the UK, and has published widely on a range of issues of postcolonial writing and cultural history. His interest in autism stems from the 2002 diagnosis of his son. Since that date he has given talks in both the US and UK on contemporary cultural representations of the condition, and has written on autism in literature (both 19th and 20th century) and film.

Majia Holmer Nadesan (PhD Purdue University 1993) is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Arizona State University West. Her research blends political economy, governmentality studies, cultural studies and communication theory to explore how social identities are constituted, inhabited, and resisted. She recently published Constructing Autism: Unraveling the "Truth" and Understanding the Social, a sort of genealogy of twentieth-century autism. Other published works explore governance and everyday life, touching upon a wide range of contexts including the family, education, and the workplace.

Erika Nanes received an M.F.A. in creative writing from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and a Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of California at Irvine. She has taught literature and composition at The University of California at Irvine and UCLA and is currently a lecturer at the University of Southern California.

Todd Oakley is associate professor of English and Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University. His research explores the intersection of rhetoric, linguistics, and cognitive science. In the early 1990s he began investigating the conceptual basis of rhetorical effect (especially through mental spaces theory and theories of cognitive grammar), and this has resulted in a book-length project titled Elements of Attention: Explorations in Mind, Language, and Culture. He is the father a thirteen-year-old autistic child, Simon.

Mark Osteen, Professor of English and Director of Film Studies at Loyola College, Baltimore and a former board member of the SCE, has published widely on modern and contemporary literature and film. He is the author of The Economy of Ulysses: Making Both Ends Meet (1995) and American Magic and Dread: Don DeLillo's Dialogue with Culture (2000). He is also editor of The Question of the Gift: Essays across Disciplines (2002), and co-editor, with Martha Woodmansee, of The New Economic Criticism (1999). Most recently, he edited a special double issue of Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture, devoted to jazz and jazz writing, and has completed a memoir entitled One of Us: A Family's Life with Autism.

Sudha Rai is Professor of English at the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur, India. Her areas of specialisation are postcolonial literatures and theory; South Asian diasporic literature of the U.K, Canada, and the U.S; and the politics of representation in literature and film. Dr. Rai has written or edited three major works: V. S. Naipaul (1982), Homeless by Choice: Naipaul, Jhabvala, Rushdie and India (1992), and (with Jasbir Jain) Films and Feminism: Essays in Indian Cinema (2002).

Irene Rose is a PhD student at Manchester University and her title is Asperger's Narratives: Identity and Self-Formation in Autistic Autobiography. She is a part-time lecturer and research assistant in the department of Media and Cultural Studies at Liverpool John Moores University.
She has previously published work in gender studies, has given two papers on autism (with one forthcoming) and is the convenor of the upcoming Autism and Representation colloquium to be held in Liverpool in February 2006.

Ilona Roth is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Open University, U.K., and will soon move from the Psychology Discipline, Faculty of Social Sciences to the newly formed Department of Life Sciences. Dr. Roth's long-standing interest in the Autism Spectrum has resulted in several chapters on this topic and a series of BBC programmes and videos on Autism and imagination. Dr. Roth's current research involves an ongoing programme of studies into the nature of imagination and self-awareness in people on the autism spectrum. A book based on the 2004 interdisciplinary British Academy Symposium "Imaginative Minds" which Dr. Roth convened is in preparation for publication in 2006.

Jonathan Sadowsky is the Theodore J. Castele Associate Professor of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University. He received his Ph D from The Johns Hopkins University in 1993. His research interest is the social and cultural history of medicine. His publications include Imperial Bedlam: Institutions of Madness and Colonialism in Southwest Nigeria (1999). He is currently conducting research on the history of electro-convulsive therapy.

Phil Schwarz
is Vice-President of the Asperger's Association of New England (, and a board member of the Massachusetts chapter of the Autism Society of America ( He is the father of an autistic son, and an Asperger's adult himself. Professionally, he is a software developer. He earned an S.B. in mathematics at the University of Chicago, 25 years before the recent emergence (to his great delight!) of an Asperger's student organization there.

Chloe Silverman completed her PhD in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the role of affect in biomedical knowledge, and in the selective erasure of affect in the production of forms of biomedical rationality. She is currently completing a manuscript on the history of the diagnostic category of autism and the emergence of parent advocacy groups devoted to altering the authoritative description of autism as a lifelong neurological condition in order to make room for treatment and the possibility of multiple etiologies.

Sheryl Stevenson, Associate Professor of English at the University of Akron, has published articles on women's writing, representations of AIDS, feminist dialogics, and theories of psychological trauma. Her interview with English novelist Pat Barker led to a book project focusing on issues of trauma in Barker's fiction. The interview and a section of the book will appear in Critical Perspectives on Pat Barker (forthcoming, 2005).

Michael Turnheim lives and works in Paris and Vienna as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He teaches at the Medical School of the University of Vienna. In addition to his analytical praxis he is a consultant in a day clinic for psychotic and autistic children. He has published several books and numerous articles on clinical questions and on the theory and history of psychoanalysis, including Freud und der Rest (1993), Versammlung und Zerstreuung (1996), and Das Andere im Gleichen (1999). His latest book, Das Scheitern der Oberfläche (The Failure of the Surface, 2004), deals with autism, psychosis and bio-politics. He is the German translator of Lacan's Seminar on psychosis.

Sara Waller received her PhD in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago in 1999. She worked with autistic children at the University of California-San Diego Pediatric Neurology Laboratory, and taught philosophy at California State University Dominguez Hills as an Associate Professor, before coming to Case this semester. Her area of research is philosophy of neurology.

Peter J. Whitehouse
, MD, PhD is Director of the Office of Integrative Studies, Department of Neurology at Case Western Reserve University as well as Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Psychology, Nursing, Organizational Behavior, Cognitive Science and History. He is a geriatric neurologist, cognitive neuroscientist and "global" bioethicist. His main interest is developing innovative learning environments to promote collective wisdom, like The Intergenerational School, an innovative life-long, developmentally-based, and experiential and service learning oriented public school.




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