Transforming | our perspective on autism

Those with autism can study the humanities too

Senior lecturer in English and the Humanities, Dr James McGrath, was diagnosed with autism shortly after completing his PhD. James is particularly interested in how literary studies can cross into other disciplines, and has published widely on music as well as poetry. After being diagnosed with autism, James began to focus on the medical humanities. His recent book Naming Adult Autism: Culture, Science, Identity combines academic and creative writing, and experiments with literary criticism of medical texts. He also reviews a range of literary characters in novels, films and poetry that feature autism.

“Many autistic people are encouraged to believe they should only study maths or science. I want to advocate that success in the arts and humanities is also a real possibility if you are autistic,” he said. James’ quest for greater emphasis on humanities approaches to autism have led to the development of a new English module, Literature and Medicine. “The very definition of medicine involves healing and helping. I really believe that literature can be a part of those processes."

James has read his poems on BBC Radio 3 and discussed his research on BBC Radio 4. He has also written for publications including The Big Issue, The Guardian, The Independent and The Yorkshire Evening Post. He is currently working on a sequence of poems to be titled an autistic figuration, which highlights the relationship between repetition and variation in autistic identities. James said: “Autism isn’t an illness, it’s simply a difference. I am very privileged to have the position I do; I want to inspire others with autism to become lecturers and to believe that they too can study the arts and humanities.”

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School of Cultural Studies and Humanities

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We celebrate students and staff with a true passion for the Arts and Humanities. Through inspired teaching and intellectual debate, plus day-to-day interaction with award-winning authors and playwrights, a rolling programme of media industry professionals, published lecturers and world-renowned researchers, we will nurture your passion by developing your creative and critical thinking.

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