Blindness Envy: Victorians in the Parlors of the Blind Academic Article uri icon


  • Despite their tendency to metaphorize and disembody blindness, the sighted have used it to represent the body's experience of coming to knowledge in a world of things. The vibrant intensity of the attachment to things in Victorian literature makes this writing a rich site for exploring the way represented blindness comes to figure what a body articulated by materiality knows and does not know of itself and of the world. Reading works by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, among others, this essay accounts for an impious strain in representations of blindness and examines how the Victorian literary imagination of blindness evinces a palpable desire for it, grounded in the fantasy that it permits enviable access to a way of knowing and experiencing things from among them rather than from the abstracting distance imposed by sight. Alongside its imagination of the buffeting distress of thingly encounters, blindness envy fantasizes an aesthetics of disorientation and surprise.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • O'Farrell, M. A.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • O'Farrell, Mary Ann

publication date

  • May 2012

published in