Curious Incidents in the Night-Time

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  • Title: Curious Incidents in the Night-Time: Portraying a Mind on the Spectrum in James Joyce’s “Ithaca”
  • Author(s): Richard Dragan
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Literary Humanities
  • Keywords: James Joyce, Ulysses, Autism, Asperger’s, Mark Haddon, Daniel Tammet
  • Volume: 17
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2019
  • ISSN: 2327-7912 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-8676 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Dragan, Richard. 2019. "Curious Incidents in the Night-Time: Portraying a Mind on the Spectrum in James Joyce’s “Ithaca”." The International Journal of Literary Humanities 17 (1): 11-22. doi:10.18848/2327-7912/CGP/v17i01/11-22.
  • Extent: 12 pages


This article develops an original reading of Joyce’s “Ithaca” episode in “Ulysses” as evidence of “Aspergan” writing and explores more recent portrayals of autistic writing, both by “neurotypical” writers like Mark Haddon in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and the autistic savant Daniel Tammet. Both Joyce and Tammet use mapping as means to understand human emotions in their texts. As critics have noted, at the precise point we want to observe the meeting of Stephen and Bloom, the style of “Ithaca”—which is obsessed with mapping its characters’ exact movements in night-time Dublin, and crowded with lists, catalogues, and arcane scientific data—prevents us from seeing anything of their humanity. Similarly, in one of his essays, Tammet tries to map out the movements of his mother in order to understand her mind and emotions, which are unavailable to him as a person with autism. While Joyce himself was not likely on the spectrum (as a recent critic has suggested), this reading connects recent theories of mindblindness and reading “Ithaca” as performance that re-creates a mind on the spectrum. This article concludes with a few thoughts on fears of “distant reading” in the digital humanities, which in the fashion of “Ithaca” also prefers maps, lists, and graphs toward a more traditional humanistic inquiry into literary texts.