The proliferation of life writings written by people on the autism spectrum is a relatively recent phenomenon and has become the touchstone for autism culture in no time. Cultural and literary studies have acknowledged these autism narratives, which are getting gradually labelled and institutionalized. Could one approach them as a new subgenre within life writing or disability narratives, and if so, which are its distinctive features and what could this labelling possibly imply? Constructing corpora is not an exclusively formalistic definitional act or tool, but also a significant method in which to explore the functioning and cultural value of personal narratives. In order to do justice to this diverse corpus of autism self-narratives, three perspectives and theoretical frames are taken into account: (1) a more traditional or textual genre perspective, (2) a pragmatic genre perspective, and (3) a socio-rhetorical genre perspective. As a case study, two extreme poles on the autie-biography-spectrum will be analysed and compared: the Australian author Donna Williams and the Belgian author Schipper Landschip. The two cases will testify to the diversity, potentiality and dynamics of an emerging corpus.
life writing, autism, disability narratives, genre studies, Donna Williams, paratext