Black and white photograph of Jorge Luis Borges in his office in the Argentinian National Library. He is seated with his hand on his wood cane and his other arm straddles the back of a desk chair. He seems to be looking off camera in conversation with someone. Borges is one of the blind authors featured in the introduction to There Plant Eyes.

Introduction: Seeing and Not-Seeing (TPE Hyperlinked Endnotes)

The introduction to There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness presents Godin’s earliest moments with vision loss when she was ten and visited so many baffled eye doctors. But the autobiographical quickly switches to engage with many of the book’s themes including the idea that blindness is a cultural phenomenon that has  for centuries been linked to ignorance and knowing. In this introduction we learn that the binary structure of blindness and sight is, for many reasons, inaccurate and  misleading. We meet some of Godin’s “blind spirit guides,” such as Milton, Borges, and Keller, who will help her dismantle some of our deeply held beliefs about what it means to be blind.

 

Introduction: Seeing and Not-Seeing (Endnotes)

  1. Genetic testing in 2017 indicated that my blindness is caused by a mutation to the CERKL (pronounced like “circle”) gene, which is short for ceramide kinase-like.
  2. I first heard the idea that blindness is not only a subject but a perspective from Andrew Leland, who is a writer, editor, and podcast producer with RP, whom I met in November He had seen the documentary Vision Portraits by Rodney Evans (who also has RP), in which writer Ryan Knighton (who also has RP) explains how as a person and a writer without sight, he had come to find the idea of blindness as perspective (rather than subject) to be liberating. Since Vision Portraits was released in only a few cities, I did not see it until nearly a year later when the Whitney Museum screened it online (with audio description) in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). By that time, I was in the late stages of editing this book.
  3. Milton, Paradise Lost, 51–55.
  4. Sontag, Illness as Metaphor,
  5. Sontag, Illness as Metaphor,
  6. Borges, “Blindness,”
  7. Borges, “Blindness,”
  8. Nor (though I don’t discuss them in this book) either of his other late works: Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistesabout the biblical Samson in his blind-prisoner moments up to and including his destruction of the
  9. Keller, The World I Live In, xi–xii.
  10. Keller, The World I Live In, 76–77.
  11. Charles Bonnet syndrome, or visual release hallucinations, is not uncommon in those who lose their vision later in Oliver Sacks discusses the phenomenon at length in Hallucinations.
  12. Borges, “Blindness,” 107.
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