Blindness is a condition of the flesh as well as a signifying operation. William R. Paulson maintains that blindness “means very different things, and moreover it is very different things, at different times, different places, and in different kinds of writing” (1987, 4). Such a critical stance can lead the field of disability studies to analyze disability in a manner that reckons with both the ways that bodies are made accessible through language and the ways that bodies exceed language. The state of visual impairment long ago assumed a metaphoric plasticity, making literal blindness serve as a figurative marker for other diminished capacities. This interplay permeates, for example, one of the West’s foundational texts, Sophocles’s version of the story of Oedipus. It is evident in the confrontation between Tiresias, the blind prophet, and the figuratively blind Oedipus, as well as in the ghastly scene where Oedipus literally blinds himself upon gaining his figurative sight (Stiker 1999).

This essay may be found on page 34 of the printed volume.

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