Literary Treatments of Blindness from Sophocles to Saramago
Blindness plays a prominent role in literature and is frequently turned into a metaphor associated with wisdom or divinity. There are certainly other ways to interpret blindness, but literature consistently links blindness and insight in one way or another. In this project I hope to trace blindness through several important works of literature spanning various time periods and genres, observing how the literary understanding of blindness has developed. Early works establish the connection between blindness and wisdom primarily through the blind prophet figure. The short stories of the twentieth century never completely abandon the metaphor of blindness as wisdom, but the symbolism becomes more sophisticated, and the depictions of blindness become more realistic. Each of the short stories expands the theme of blindness by complicating the blind prophet figure and posing questions that anticipate the work of the of disability studies. Finally, José Saramago’s novel Blindness deconstructs the glorification of blindness and explores the blind identity and its interaction with competing identities.