The Other Country: A Father’s Journey with Autism.

Whelan, Michael (2007). The Other Country: A Father’s Journey with Autism. PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History , University of Queensland.

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Author Whelan, Michael
Thesis Title The Other Country: A Father’s Journey with Autism.
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Mr Venero Armanno
Abstract/Summary The memoir “The Other Country” and the essay “Inspiration is Power” examine i) contemporary experiences of autism and ii) the representation of autism disorder in scientific and autobiographical writing. “The Other Country” is a memoir of four years in the life of its author Michael Whelan, and his family, in the care of his son, Charlie. In February 1998, Charlie was diagnosed with autism, and in that moment Michael and his family’s lives changed. The memoir describes in four parts a four-year journey through a father’s experiences: Part 1, ‘Welcome to Holland’, the family’s feelings of fear, grief and dislocation following diagnosis; Part 2, ‘Look at Me’, the chaotic process of research and treatment, and intense early intervention programs; Part 3, ‘The Enchanted Cottage’, the slow process of recovery that the family went through; and Part 4, ‘The Long Way Home’, the transformation of Charlie, Michael and his family and notions of home and normalcy. The title, “The Other Country”, in this context refers to the largely invisible parallel society inhabited by anyone who lives outside the mainstream. The accompanying critical essay, “Inspiration is Power”, examines the influence of the discourses of biomedical science and parental pathology on the representation and understanding of autism. Specifically, among autism narratives, the medical voice has an overwhelming authority and power in characterizing autistic disorder and experience for the lay reader. This discourse contests the moral authority of parental autobiographical writing, which, by contrast, characterizes autism as a personalized invading “other” and thief of their child. Through a critique of specific aspects of identity, narrative, evidence and authority, the essay suggests a register of rhetorical moves that may be employed to influence, and consequently empower, the reader of autism narratives.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 16:34:03 EST