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Title: Representing Reactive attachment disorder in contemporary fiction: creating new paths for neurodiverse characters
Author(s): Liebnitz, Natalia
Supervisor(s): Bell, Liam Murray
MacNeil, Kevin
Keywords: neurodiversity
reactive attachment disorder
heterogenous characters
Issue Date: 5-Jun-2023
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The first element of this work is a novel titled June in the Garden, which follows a neurodiverse protagonist with a diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder. The next section of the exegesis will provide insight into her atypical profile, particularly her traits of social disinhibition, an absence of emotion, affected cognitive processing and reasoning skills, and an inability to initiate and maintain relationships with others. The second element will include two parts: (1) a critical analysis of key diagnostic terms used in the clinical field to describe disorders relating to social-emotional detachment and disengagement, specifically reactive attachment disorder (RAD); (2) discussions on the current depiction of social-emotional detachment and, more broadly, of neurodiversity in contemporary fiction. This second part will argue that the two main pathways to depict a detachment disorder, like RAD, is heterogeneous characterisation, defined by common patterns that are exhibited in the novels selected, and typography, defined by unconventional text arrangement or a presence of visuals on the printed page. Aspects of typography will include deconstruction of the standard print form to allow for creative formatting, such as increased spacing, incomplete sentences, blank pages, and bolding of words. Another aspect will include the addition of specific visuals, such as conceptual word sharks (The Raw Shark Texts, Steven Hall, 2007), black and white photographs (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer, 2005), and mathematical formulas and blueprints (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, 2003). These two methods, heterogeneous characterisation and typography, will explain my creative process for developing a neurodiverse protagonist, showing connections between my work and the work of other fiction writers. However, primarily this research will convey a new pathway for an atypical protagonist with a disorder relatively unknown in the wider community, to recontextualise the presentation of social-emotional detachment in fiction. I also hope to highlight the gaps in RAD research, particularly at the adult level, and to show how RAD can be portrayed realistically in a contemporary novel, without being too ‘gimmicky’.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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