July 26, 2022, 11:00 am-11:45 pm ≡  Metropolitan Museum of Art, Galleries 691-693

A conversation about autism aesthetics in the photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher

grid of photos of old gravel plant, black and white

Part of The Met’s “Conversations with …” series, Julia joins Jeff Rosenheim (Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge, Photographs, The Met) for an interactive conversation that takes a disability perspective on the photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Consider how we define waste and disintegration and explore the Bechers’ work as a form of collecting that echoes autistic aesthetic values.

We will be reflecting in part on this quotation from Hans Asperger’s 1944 essay, “‘Autistic Psychopathy,’ in Childhood”:

Thus, a six-year-old boy had the ambition to collect 1,000 matchboxes, a goal which he pursued with fanatical energy. The mother, however, never saw him play trains with them as other children do. Another boy collected cotton threads; a third “everything” that he found on the street, but not like the street urchin, who has everything in his trouser pocket that he might need for his pranks. The autistic individual just stacks boxes full of useless junk. He constantly orders things and watches over them like a miser (82).

Becher water tower sketches

Sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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May 13, 2022, 10:30 am-12:00 pm ≡  The Center for Teaching & Learning, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

A Case for cripping the Curriculum

It's important to recognize the presence of disability--often subtle and complex--in "ordinary" literature.

Part of the CUNY Cripping the Curriculum Faculty Showcase, Julia presents the case for disability studies as a form of activism, suggests ways to integrate disability in requirement-level curricula, and demonstrates how end-of-term student projects encourage students to become small-scale public disability advocates.

check out slides from the talk

view the whole program

see video of the showcase, including keynote speakers

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October 20, 2020, 11:00 am-12:00 pm ≡ Dean’s digital café | New York INSTITUTE of technology

Poster--Deans Digital Cafe - Rodascan we learn to think differently about people who engage in violence?

see a short version or watch the whole talk

News and political discourse fetishize violence and reinforce its relationship both with Blackness and with psychiatric disability, an association that has been deadly both for Black people and for people with disabilities. Resisting that discourse, scholars and activists often talk about how these communities are actually victims of violence more often than they are perpetrators. This informal talk shares work in progress, a comic that invites people to rethink categories like “victim” and “perpetrator.” The framework proposed offers possible models that move discussion of violence beyond ideas of the “personal responsibility” and individualism to enable freer and more open recognition and discussion of the violences we encounter in everyday life.

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November 8, 2019 (Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts: Experimental Engagements) ≡  University of California, Irvine

Georges Perec, Inventories & Autism Poetics

Portrait of Georges Perec, back and white photoAn illustrated reading from Autistic Disturbances featuring a brief analysis of Georges Perec’s “Attempt at an Inventory of the Liquid and Solid Foodstuffs Ingurgitated by Me in the Course of the Year Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Four” (1974). This talk, part of a panel on neurodivergence and literature, looks at autism’s devotion to taxonomy as interpretive and curatorial, challenging interpretive approaches that regard list and catalogue writing as vacant and mechanical. Perec’s “Inventory” seems designed to contain, suggesting purely materialist or economic concerns. At a glance, the “Inventory” offers an illusory logic, consumed items roughly grouped into like categories, cheeses, for instance, or pies and tarts. But amid this neat docility, categorical disturbances abound. By disassembling regular structure, language elements are made available as fragments. And the aesthetic that treats words and phrases as discrete modules, that plays with the thingness of language, that elevates the interstices—silences and punctuation—becomes remarkable not only for the ways in which it disharmoniously discomposes, but also for the ways in which it opens language for new and imaginative recomposition.

See a rough script of the talk

See the slides

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October 4, 2019, 10:00 am-12:00 pm ≡  330 Wheeler Hall | University of California, Berkeley

Robinson Crusoe making an umbrellaAutism & Narrative Invention in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

Is the novel a form of autistic innovation? Presenting work from the recently published Autistic Disturbances (UMichP, 2018), Julia Miele Rodas will explore autistic dimensions of Robinson Crusoe. Interweaving conversation and formal reading, this talk will first consider how the novel’s themes of human isolation and imprisonment play into autism stereotypes. Ultimately, however, the audience will be invited to investigate the ways in which Crusoe’s narrative and semiotic innovations are grounded in autism poetics and indebted to autistic cognitive and aesthetic practices.

Sponsored by the University of California–Berkeley Department of English.

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May 17, 2019, 6:30-7:30pm ≡  Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gallery 922

Autism Aesthetics: A Conversation with Diana Paulin

Flat sculpture, grid containing black dotsDrawing on their respective work in autism studies, Julia Miele Rodas and Diana Paulin will explore the presence of autism poetics in two works on display as part of the Met’s Epic Abstraction exhibition. Beginning with Jennifer Bartlett’s “Squaring” (pictured right) and moving on to Thornton Dial’s “Shadows of the Field,” Rodas and Paulin will discuss autistic practices of collecting, sorting, ordering, and repeating, the ways in which these practices are evoked by these two pieces, and how the cultural responses to such practices are influenced by factors like race and diagnostic context.

Diana R. Paulin is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Trinity College and author of the award-winning Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation U.S. Drama and Fiction (U Minnesota Press, 2012). She is currently working on a book about Black Autism.

Sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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June 6, 2019, 6:00-7:30pm ≡  Metropolitan Museum of Art

marble statuette of blind female figure, NydiaMaking Disability Visible

A panel discussion addressing the presence, visibility, and legibility of disability in the Met collections.

Where do we find disability in the Met collections? Does it matter if an artist is disabled and should we include this context when talking about art? Are there “right” and “wrong” ways of talking about disability? What do we mean by “disability artistry” and “disability aesthetics”? And … is there a connection between these questions and the question of disabled access to gallery and museum spaces?

Join us for a conversation with panelists Ian Alteveer (Aaron I. Fleischman Curator, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Met), Rebecca McGinnis (Senior Managing Educator, Accessibility, The Met), and Therí A. Pickens (Associate Professor of English, Bates College), moderated by Julia Miele Rodas.

Sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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April 25, 2019, 6:00-8:00pm ≡  Binghamton University, FA 258

Autism Poetics & the Problem of Intentionality

miscellaneous contents of my son's pockets one random dayWhile research on autism has sometimes focused on special talents or abilities, autism is typically characterized as impoverished or defective when it comes to language. Autistic Disturbances reveals the ways interpreters have failed to register the real creative valence of autistic language and offers a theoretical framework for understanding the distinctive aesthetics of autistic rhetoric and semiotics. Reinterpreting characteristic autistic verbal practices such as repetition in the context of a more widely respected literary canon, the book argues that autistic language is actually an essential part of mainstream literary aesthetics. In addition to offering an overview of the central argument of the book, this talk will speak directly to the contested issue of autistic “intentionality,” arguing that the tensions around this question are part of what Melanie Yergeau sees as “a project of dehumanization.”

Sponsored by the Binghamton University Comparative Literature Department and the Graduate Student Organization.

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April 11, 2019, 1:00-4:30pm ≡  Lehman College, Library Conf Room 213

What is “Normal”?

Poster for Keep the Change film

Join us for a screening of Keep the Change, a charming romantic comedy and a refreshingly honest story about sex, love, disability, relationships, and personal values set right here in New York City. David meets Sarah attending a day program after getting in trouble with the law. It looks like the budding romance will be good for both of them, but David’s parents object. They call Sarah a gold-digger and look down on her because of her learning disability. Will David do the right thing and follow his heart? Does Sarah stay with David after he insults her?

Stay after the film for conversation with Julia Miele Rodas and Lehman College students about the film, including questions of sexual independence and consent for people with disabilities.