Blindness as a Figure of Knowledge in Literature and Film

The project examined a cultural-historical tradition dating back to antiquity in both image and word: the enactment of blindness at the interface between ‘soma’ and ‘sema,’ between specific corporeality and figurative meaning. Despite the immense increase in optical knowledge since the 17th/18th century and the founding of ophthalmology in the 19th century, and in spite of the subsequent use of blind psychology and education for enlightenment purposes, the allegorical use of blindness persists in Modernity. With the help of significant examples, the project examined the ways in which literature and film modified the existing discourses on blindness—e.g. assuming moral causes to be reasons for the disability or treating blind peoples’ special skills as anthropologically relevant exceptionalities—in the context of their specific genre or medium. Here, blindness acted as not only a prominent figure of knowledge resp. non-knowledge, but also as a medium of literary and cinematic self-reflection.


Fig.: Self-portrait of the blind Jorge Luis Borges, no date

Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2011–2012
Head researcher(s): Anne-Kathrin Reulecke


Anne-Kathrin Reulecke, Margarete Vöhringer (ed./eds.)

Grenzwerte des Visuellen in Künsten und Wissenschaften

LiteraturForschung vol. 36
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2019, 174 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-357-1


Interdisziplinärer Workshop
21 Feb 2013 – 23 Feb 2013

Sehstörungen. Grenzwerte des Visuellen in Künsten und Wissenschaften

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

read more