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Autistic Austen?

January 3, 2005

According to Jane Austen was suspected of…well, one must read it for oneself.

While never officially diagnosed as having autism, a number of historical figures are highly suspected of having it. Newton, Nietzsche, Einstein, Turing and Wittgenstein are seminal thinkers who all exhibited autistic-like traits. In the arts, Jane Austen [emphasis added], Beethoven, Mozart and van Gogh also likely had autism. And today, prominent figures such as Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Keanu Reeves, Al Gore and, of course, the poster-boy for high-functioning autistics, Bill Gates, are all suspected of having autism.

The source of this information (if one could call it that) might be the Autistic Society, which shares the opinion. Absolutely no evidence is given.

So Miss Austen, that keen observer of relational interactions between her fellow creatures, was afflicted with a syndrome that, among other things, renders simple facial expressions indecipherable?

Will this comfort parents of autistic children, or simply keep them in Happy Happy Denial Land whilst the early intervention window slips past them?

Leave a Comment
  1. January 3, 2005 11:53 pm

    I have heard this before, and I think they’re talking about the real high-functioning autistics, like those with Asperger Syndrome. I still don’t buy it for Jane, though. There’s no evidence she had trouble functioning socially. Snarking on people doesn’t count. ;-)

  2. Julie B. permalink
    January 4, 2005 10:00 am

    Even people with Asperger’s Syndrome can’t read facial expressions well. One of my friend’s son has it, and they are systematically teaching him what different facial expressions mean.

    And really, Al Gore? Bill Gates? Gates is a genius businessman, not a genius scientist. People say he has Asperger’s because he has bad hair.

  3. January 5, 2005 4:12 pm

    I was amazed at this. The thought that Jane Austen was autistic is quite silly as the authors have not looked at her background or position in the society of the time.What was even more amazing was the expression that Wiggenstein was an autistic child. Well, he was born into one of the wealthiest families in Austria, brought up by nannies, had two brothers comitt suicide, teach at Cambridge, write two of the most influential books on philosophy in the 20th c and you begin to see my drift. Austen, moreover, had a reasonbly active family life in her childhood, had friends, was an active communicator and at no time in her biography was she seen as withdrawn.. Another academic axe to grind?

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