Exquisite Defects. Detoxing the Female Literary Genius at the Crossroads of Neurophenomenology and Neurodiversity

01 November 2021 → 31 October 2025
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Literatures in German
    • Psychology of literature
Female German literature Neurophenomenology Neurodiversity
Project description

Genius literary creativity has always been heavily linked with masculinity, whereas female deviance from the norm remains only partially tolerated. Experimental features of male authors are increasingly linked to patterns of neurodiversity, but these continue to be seen as strokes of genius, whereas female authors with similar eccentricities suffer heavily from stigma. This research project aims to tap into the new wealth of neurologically oriented literature research in order to analyse the ways in which neurodiversity under varying designations (e.g. legasthenia, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder) surfaces in literature and ego-documents by German and Austrian female authors. By studying e.g. visual qualities of the language and narrative characteristics that neurodiversity encourages, problems of characterisation as ‘deviant’ instead of ‘neurodivergent’ with regard to female authors can be tackled. The project offers an alternative to current spectacularised representations of neurodiversity in order to shift the patient’s state from object of study to subject whose experiences are heard and valued. This way, literature serves as a powerful heuristic access to a highly personal experience as well as a specific aesthetic design. Accordingly, informed by recents insights from neurophenomenology and the neurodiversity paradigm, the literary analysis of neurodiversity will shed new light on and ultimately detox the female literary genius.