A Different Side of the Story: On Neurodiversity and Trees

Pilar Martínez Benedí


This essay analyzes Richard Powers’s The Overstory (2018), a novel that ostensibly demands an eco-critical reading, under the lens of neurodiversity. Focusing on the idiosyncrasies of sensory perception in autism, the essay explores the atypical engagement with the more-than-human that neurodiversity (and specifically autism) fosters—a kind of engagement that deeply destabilizes neuro-normative, human-centered subjectivity, opening up to more egalitarian ways of relation with the environment. In a novel populated by neurodivergent characters with a keen ecological sensibility, Powers comes close to imagining this kind of non-hierarchical connection with the natural world. The essay explores how neurodiversity works in the novel at a characterological, thematic, and structural level, functioning as a bridge between human and non-human scales. In this way, neurodiversity finely glosses and articulates the kind of animistic, environmental message that Powers instils in his Pulitzer prize winning novel.


American literature, Richard Powers, neurodiversity, environmentalism, non-human

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13136/2281-4582/2020.i16.904


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