Liselotte Van der Gucht conducts research on neurodiversity in German twentieth century literature by female authors. The female literary genius remains overshadowed by her male counterparts to a large extent. Studies on the link between creativity and mental conditions often attribute pathological labels to female authors because they defy societal and artistic norms and expectations. Even though their male colleagues do so as well, such women’s transgressions lead to hostility, marginalisation or even institutionalisation. Literary and art history brim with “cases” like Camille Claudel, Zelda Fitzgerald, Unica Zürn, Christine Lavant, and Sylvia Plath. Her research aims to shift away from denominations of psychopathology and to offer a more neutral approach to the way in which extraordinary talent and nonconformism intersect instead, by adopting the frameworks of neurophenomenology and neurodiversity. This angle allows for a revision of the genius notion, which has a strong masculine connotation in the German context especially, and for an investigation of phenomena such as hyperesthesia and hyperlexia in a more targeted manner. The heuristic relevance of neurodiversity is illustrated by the example of four German/Austrian female authors, whose genius is now undisputed, but whose reception has at the same time been accompanied by scandalisation and pathologisation: Franziska zu Reventlow, Else Lasker-Schüler, Ingeborg Bachmann, and Elfriede Jelinek. The questions are raised how neurodiversity surfaces in literary works and to what purpose it is employed. Prospective results will serve a more universal knowledge of neurodivergent female authors and will help reshape the way that neurodiversity is thought of today. Ultimately, new light can be shed on challenges concerning inclusion that (Western) society is facing.
Most recent article currently under review:
Van der Gucht, Liselotte. 2021. 'Exquisite Defects: Detoxing the Female Literary Genius at the Crossroads of Neurophenomenology and Neurodiversity'. In Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler. [under review]
Duitse letterkunde: tekstanalyse en interpretatie: bijzondere vraagstukken