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Representing AutismCulture, Narrative, Fascination$
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Stuart Murray

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781846310911

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846314667

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Idiots and savants

Idiots and savants

(p.65) Chapter 2 Idiots and savants
Representing Autism
Liverpool University Press

This chapter concentrates on idiots and savants. The term ‘idiot’ became more precisely defined as the nineteenth century progressed, moving away from the larger category of madness. Charles Dickens' fifth novel, Barnaby Rudge, is regarded as being far more typical in its alignment of disability with the conventions of fictional sentiment or melodrama, and the mobilisation of ideas about society and culture. This chapter shows that the savant is shadowed by the idiot, even if the distance between the two is increasing. It reveals that savant autism has the same absence of coherence that marked ‘the idiot’ figure of an earlier era.

Keywords:   idiots, savants, savant autism, Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, fictional sentiment, melodrama

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