Changelings: Folk Monsters, Contemporary Culture, & Ableism: American Comparative Literature Association Conference

March 16, 2024

I'm presenting for the seminar "Autistic Shit" at the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Conference on March 16, 2024 Stream D, 514C 4pm.

For hundreds of years, children with autistic and neurodivergent traits were often believed to be “changelings,” children swapped at birth for evil fairies or other monsters. Looking back at this folklore can uncover the roots of modern ableism, as well as show us how autism and neurodivergence has always existed. Modern and Contemporary literature and music further develops these connections further between neurodivergence and changelings by re-claiming the changeling as the hero of their own story. My talk builds upon my work for the book chapter "Goth Subculture, Neurodivergence, and the Dark Power of Changeling Narratives for the forthcoming book "Heavy Metal and Disability: Crips, Crowds, and Cacophonies."

The ACLA 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." More information on the seminar: