The Autistic Detective: Sherlock Holmes and his Legacy

Sonya Freeman Loftis

Abstract


Sherlock Holmes has long been rumored to be on the autism spectrum. Yet the significance of the great detective's autism "diagnosis" has been largely overlooked. While it would be impossible to diagnose a fictional character with a neurological difference, it says something about the way that the public imagines autism that Holmes is consistently imagined and described as a person on the spectrum. Indeed, Conan Doyle's character popularized the stereotype of the detective with autistic traits, thus perpetuating several common tropes about autism. Emulating Conan Doyle's famous tales, contemporary crime fiction frequently creates detective characters with autistic characteristics. For example, popular television shows such as Criminal Minds present detectives with autistic traits who are clearly constructed to remind audiences of Holmes. While figures such as Spenser Reid (and other crime fighters following in Holmes's shadow) may seem to counteract fears of people with cognitive disabilities as deviant, criminal, or dangerous, they may actually reinforce those stereotypes.


Keywords


Sherlock Holmes; Arthur Conan Doyle; Autism; Detective; Criminal Minds

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v34i4.3728

Copyright (c) 2015 Sonya Freeman Loftis



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