Towards a neuroinclusive theory of the contemporary
: representing the temporality and aesthetics of the contemporary in ten novels of neurodivergence

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Sitting at the intersection of literary studies, epistemologies of the contemporary, and disability studies (in many of its declinations), my thesis explores selected novels written in English and French featuring characters who are differently placed on the neurocognitive spectrum to discuss a number of neurodivergent and neurodiverse experiences of time and reality. It argues that the concept of ‘the contemporary’ as a periodising and / or aesthetic category has been used problematically to encompass the experience of all people, while implicitly describing the experience of neurotypical individuals alone. In line with critical disability studies advocacy of intersectionality and critical medical humanities commitment to entanglement, my project provides an interdisciplinary analysis of ten twenty-first-century novels featuring characters living with either dementia, schizophrenia, or autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) to investigate how their neurodivergent experiences of time and reality can complicate three models of the contemporary as a periodising and / or aesthetic category. Moreover, it explores not only why the debate around the contemporary and neurocognitive diversity is worth having for theorists of the contemporary, but also why disability and neurodiversity scholars and advocates should care about what the contemporary means. With a focus on the temporal and aesthetic attributes of the contemporary, I demonstrate how it can – via its fictionalisation – contribute to imagining new categories of time and complicating notions of disability identity and representation. Ultimately, I show how theorisations of the contemporary and neurodivergent narratives can be mutually beneficial, from identifying mutual processes of exclusion in their critical writing, to discussing the complexities of neurodivergence, to contributing new insights to the field of existing research on the usage of other historical-aesthetic categories.
Date of Award12 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorMargaret-Anne Hutton (Supervisor) & Katie Jones (Supervisor)


  • Contemporary
  • Neurodiversity
  • Fiction
  • Disability studies
  • Time studies
  • Literary studies

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 4 April 2029

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