Skip to Content

Autistic Shit

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Sean Yeager

Co-Organizer: Soohyun Cho

Contact the Seminar Organizers

This seminar responds to Remi Yergeau’s question: “What might autistic shit signify? (16). We use capacious definitions for both “autism” and “shit.” The latter of these two terms is notoriously versatile. It takes many different grammatical forms and can stand in for virtually any noun. It carries contradictory connotations: gravity and levity; approval and disapproval; vague abstraction and odorous materiality. Yet somehow, this term is the simpler of the two. We seek to explore how this word “autism” is broad enough to encompass anyone who wishes to claim it, while also attending to how it is imposed upon so many – and furthermore, how these rhetorical impositions are used to justify material impositions on autistic bodies.

We argue that autism is always already comparative and operating across distinct semiotic codes. The late Mel Baggs described speaking a “language [which] is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment.” Baggs challenges foundational assumptions of mainstream semiotics by describing a non-representationality that is nevertheless deeply interrelational. And beyond deviating from normative linguistics, autistics’ communicative practices often widely diverge from one another.

This seminar invites papers which probe the relationships between autism and literature. Potential topics include:

What sorts of kinship exist between autistic readers and autistic (-coded) characters? 
How do these kinships interact with widespread tropes and stereotypes? Do these dynamics change when autistic authors write autistic (-coded) characters?
How are understandings of autism culturally specific? What changes across context?
How do autistics play with traditional literary genres (e.g fiction/memoir/biography)? How does autism reveal or complicate genre’s inner workings? How does genre shape understandings of autism?
What are the affordances and the limitations of literary representation? What futures are opened up or foreclosed?
How are autism and metaphor entangled? How do autists (mis)use metaphor? How does metaphor shape our understandings of autism? What happens when autism is used as a metaphor?
What are the affects of “autism poetics,” as described by Julia Miele Rodas? How do such devices hold readerly attention? Does this vary across readers’ neurotypes?
How do representations of autism spill beyond the page to affect actual autistics?


While we agree with Yergeau’s response to their own question – “Shit means nothing” (16) – we view this absence as an invitation to conversation. We welcome discussants of any neurotype, yet especially encourage self-identified autistics to apply.

«Back To Seminars