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Blindness and Writing
From Wordsworth to Gissing


Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: July 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316645444

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About the Authors
  • In this innovative and important study, Heather Tilley examines the huge shifts that took place in the experience and conceptualisation of blindness during the nineteenth century, and demonstrates how new writing technologies for blind people had transformative effects on literary culture. Considering the ways in which visually-impaired people used textual means to shape their own identities, the book argues that blindness was also a significant trope through which writers reflected on the act of crafting literary form. Supported by an illuminating range of archival material (including unpublished letters from Wordsworth's circle, early ophthalmologic texts, embossed books, and autobiographies) this is a rich account of blind people's experience, and reveals the close, and often surprising personal engagement that canonical writers had with visual impairment. Drawing on the insights of disability studies and cultural phenomenology, Tilley highlights the importance of attending to embodied experience in the production and consumption of texts.

    • Offers revisionary readings of nineteenth-century canonical authors
    • Extends understandings of disabled and embodied identity
    • Presents a range of under-researched archival material relating to the history of disability
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This critical analysis makes an important contribution to future scholarship on the lived experience of blindness and visual impairment. Blindness and Writing is certainly a book that all who are interested in ophthalmologic discourse should read.' Denise Saul, The British Society for Literature and Science

    'Tilley brilliantly outlines the varied ways in which the conventional association of blindness with illiteracy was challenged throughout the nineteenth century - from the development of raised print books, to the publication of early autobiographies by blind writers, to the complex and ambivalent portayals of visual impairment by major authors, including Wordsworth, Dickens, Charlotte Brontë and Frances Browne.' Jonathan Taylor, The Times Literary Supplement

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316645444
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.403kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Blind People's Writing Practices:
    1. Writing blindness, from vision to touch
    2. The materiality of blindness in Wordsworth's imagination
    3. 'A literature for the blind': the development of raised print systems
    4. Memoirs of the blind: the genre of blind biographical writing
    Part II. Literary Blindness:
    5. Blindness, gender, and autobiography: reading and writing the self in Jane Eyre, Aurora Leigh, and The Life of Charlotte Brontë
    6. Writing blindness: Dickens
    7. Embodying blindness in the Victorian novel: Frances Browne's My Share of the World and Wilkie Collins' Poor Miss Finch
    8. Blindness, writing, and the failure of imagination in Gissing's New Grub Street.

  • Author

    Heather Tilley, Birkbeck College, University of London
    Heather Tilley is Birkbeck Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London.

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