Tito Mukhopadhyay & Ralph Savarese | Classical Autism and the Instruction of Literature

Tito Mukhopadhyay & Ralph Savarese | Classical Autism and the Instruction of Literature

Tito Mukhopadhyay and Grinnell College's Ralph Savarese have been reading and discussing literature by Skype for years. Mukhopadhyay, who has been described as “severely autistic,” types his comments on the sidebar while Savarese, who has been described as “neurotypical,” speaks. The former has never been allowed in a regular school; the latter is an English professor. In 2012-2013, they read Herman Melville’s classic novel "Moby Dick," two chapters a week for seventeen months. In the fall of 2014, they visited Arrowhead, where Melville wrote "Moby Dick," and Mystic Seaport, home of the Charles Morgan, the world’s oldest wooden whaling vessel. Engaging issues of perception, sensory processing, and unrecognized competence in autism, they will recount their illuminating readerly journey.

Tito Mukhopadhyay is the author of four books, including "How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move?", and the subject of both a 60 Minutes profile and a BBC documentary. His latest book, "Plankton Dreams: What I Learned in Special-Ed" is available from Open Humanities Press. Of Mukhopadhyay, Oliver Sacks once wrote, “It has usually been assumed that deeply autistic people are scarcely capable of introspection or deep thought, let alone of poetic or metaphor leaps of the imagination… Tito gives the lie to all of these assumptions and forces us to reconsider the condition of the deeply autistic.”

Soma Mukhopadhyay is a teacher at HALO: Helping Autism Through Learning and Outreach, a non-profit organization. She developed the Rapid Prompting Method to teach her son, Tito, and foster his communication abilities. HALO offers workshops and camps for families and students throughout the year. 

Ralph James Savarese is the author of "Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption" and co-editor with his wife, Emily Thornton Savarese, of the first collection devoted to the concept of neurodiversity. Winner of the Hennig Cohen Prize for the best essay on Herman Melville, he has published some twenty-five articles on autism. In 2012-2013 he was a Humanities-Writ-Large fellow at Duke’s Institute for Brain Sciences. He teaches at Grinnell College in Iowa.