Loughborough University
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A social history of blindness

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posted on 2010-10-28, 09:26 authored by Kathleen Bates
This thesis examines the belief that ideologies about blindness which have their provenance in religious, mythical and symbolic belief are 'infused into our literature and art' to become 'an important part of the way we perceive ourselves and others'. Depictions of the enduring power and influence of symbolic belief is examined in fictional and autobiographical writings from 1600-1995. The history of theories of causation of disease in general is discussed in the first chapter. This is followed in the second chapter by an examination of the myths, meanings, symbols and ideologies which have become attached to blindness from pre-Christian times to the present day. The third chapter is devoted to an assessment of the influential meanings given to his own blindness by the poet John Milton and to an appraisal oi the responses, in the following century and a half, both by his adherents, notably Marvell, Dryden and the Romantic Poets, and his detractors, not least among whom was Samuel Johnson. The following two chapters are given to an examination of the influence of ideology on depictions of blindness in nineteenth and twentieth century literature. Special attention is given to portrayals of blindness in recent works for children, in view of the belief and recommendation that writings about and for handicapped children should be realistic and tree from stereotype. Both chapters are underpinned by brief surveys of the then current social situation of the blind and of the state of medical knowledge at the time. Finally, fictional representations of blindness are compared with a number of experiental accounts taken from autobiographies of blind people written between 1870-1990.



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies


© Kathleen Bates

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en

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    International Relations, Politics and History Theses


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