The Metanarrative of Blindness

A Re-reading of Twentieth-Century Anglophone Writing
David Bolt


Although the theme of blindness occurs frequently in literature, literary criticism has rarely engaged the experiential knowledge of people with visual impairments. The Metanarrative of Blindness counters this trend by bringing to readings of twentieth-century works in English a perspective appreciative of impairment and disability. Author David Bolt examines representations of blindness in more than forty literary works, including writing by Kipling, Joyce, Synge, Orwell, H. G. Wells, Susan Sontag, and Stephen King, shedding light on the deficiencies of these representations and sometimes revealing an uncomfortable resonance with the Anglo-American science of eugenics.

What connects these seemingly disparate works is what Bolt calls “the metanarrative of blindness,” a narrative steeped in mythology and with deep roots in Western culture. Bolt examines literary representations of blindness using the analytical tools of disability studies in both the humanities and social sciences. His readings are also broadly appreciative of personal, social, and cultural aspects of disability, with the aim of bringing literary scholars to the growing discipline of disability studies, and vice versa. This interdisciplinary monograph is relevant to people working in literary studies, disability studies, psychology, sociology, applied linguistics, life writing, and cultural studies, as well as those with a general interest in education and representations of blindness.

“The scope of The Metanarrative of Blindness is comprehensive and its findings convincing. The prose is eloquent and frequently witty, which will make the book accessible to disability studies scholars as well as to scholars in other fields of literary studies . . . a valuable study that advances the field and will inspire future scholarship.”
—Georgina Kleege, University of California, Berkeley

Cover illustration from “The Country of the Blind” by H. G. Wells.  Illustration by Frank R. Paul.

David Bolt is Associate Professor in Education Studies at Liverpool Hope University and the founding editor of the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies.

Praise / Awards

  • "By calling attention to the metanarrative of blindness and its implications, Bolt has produced a worthwhile and fascinating study."
    --Christopher Krentz, ALH Online Review

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Product Details

  • 178 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02958-7

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Blindness, Disability Studies, twentieth-century literature, metanarrative, ocularcentrism, eugenics, literary representation, Disability theory, staring, applied linguistics