Thursday, April 14, 2011

Critics of Sarah Abrahamson #7

Dr Simone Oettli

Lecturer (English and New Zealand literature)
University of Geneva,
Geneva, Switzerland

'Janet Frame and autism? Response from a Frame scholar'
NZ Medical Journal
9 November 2007

'[Abrahamson states] that Frame’s “formal psychiatric diagnosis, however, has not been clear”. On the contrary, her formal diagnosis, given in New Zealand, was not only horrifyingly clear, but dangerously incorrect, and was revoked by a group of psychiatrists at the Maudsley Hospital in London, 12 years later. It seems that Antipodeans are determined to repeat that original mistake, because Abrahamson, regretting that “no alternative diagnosis has been widely canvassed”, now wants to impose “strong autistic features” on Frame, using a (mis)reading of Frame’s Autobiography as her only evidence. It’s like accusing Agatha Christie of murder!'

'I’d like to know whether, in Australia and New Zealand, it is an accepted part of the medical profession to make a diagnosis without examining the person concerned. Here in Europe, that is out of the question. And anybody who has the slightest idea of how literature functions knows that one can’t confuse a text with the person who wrote it.

Moreover, Abrahamson’s ‘analysis’ of the Autobiography is blatantly unconvincing. She uses a literal reading of the title of the first volume To the Is-land as proof of hyperlexia, revealing thereby that she is not acquainted with figurative language and failed to pick up the play on multiple meanings that Frame so obviously exploits.'
(Simone Oettli is the author of a scholarly monograph on Frame: Surfaces of Strangeness: Janet Frame and the Rhetoric of Madness (2003) which involved a close analysis of Frame's autobiography)

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