Stumbling Blocks Before the Blind: The Medieval Construction of a Disability


ACLS Fellowship Program




This book examines blindness in the Middle Ages, deploying current theories of disability and drawing upon literature, history, art, and religious discourse. My focus is upon France and England. A number of practices and institutions in France, both positive and negative--blinding as punishment, the foundation of hospices for the blind, and some medical treatment--resulted in not only attitudes that commodified human sight but also inhumane satire against the blind in French secular literature. Anglo-Saxon and later medieval England differed markedly in all three of these areas, and the less prominent position of blind people in society resulted in noticeably fewer cruel representations in literature.