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The Blind Can See. Revisiting Disability in Jane EyreAnd a thesis:
Criterion: A Journal of Literary Criticism, Vol. 8: Issue 2, p. 91
To be blind means (literally) to live without physical sight. This definition of blindness is absolute—you are blind or you are sighted, you are disabled or you are not. So what of phrases such as “What are you, blind?” Why do we sometimes use language of blindness to define those with physical sight? Julia Miele Rodas offers an answer: a “continuum of seeing and not seeing,” a “diversity of blindnesses,” which “obscures the imagined boundary between blind and sighted, confounding our abstract sense of blindness as an absolute”. Rodas speaks to the fact that those who can physically see are sometimes metaphorically blind, fumbling around in ignorance, while those who are physically blind can be visionaries. As such, she suggests a continuum rather than a binary—an in-between space where the sighted experience varying degrees of blindness and the blind can sometimes see. This in-between space has become a major focus of disability studies as it works to erase stigma and reintegrate the disabled into conversations of identity and ability—and in the case of Jane Eyre, sight.
‘Wuthering Heights’ and the Othering of the Rural
Broome, Sean, University of Derby, 2015
This thesis explores the notion of rurality as a form of constructed identity. Just as feminist and postcolonial studies identify the formation of hierarchies within gender and ethnicity, I argue that the rural is constructed as inferior in opposition to its binary counterpart, the urban. The effect of this is the othering of the rural. This thesis takes Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights as a case study, using a critical approach to explore the ways in which it presents rurality, and to consider its role in the creation and reproduction of rural identity. The case study suggests that the adoption of a ‘rural reading’, in which an awareness of rural othering is fostered, can be a useful and productive strategy in textual analysis and interpretation.
The first three chapters of this thesis focus on rural construction generally. Chapter 1 draws on semiotic theory to examine the creation of binaries, and Derridean notions of linguistic hierarchies to suggest reasons for the inferior position of the rural. Chapter 2 considers the historical location of the urban/rural binary in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, within the context of the Enlightenment, the growth of capitalism, industrialisation and rapid urban expansion. Chapter 3 explores rural othering as a feature of contemporary culture, examining the textual presence of idyllic and anti-idyllic versions of the rural. Chapter 4 introduces the methodology of the case study, explaining the relevance of Wuthering Heights to the study of rural othering, providing a précis of the novel and an overview of previous critical responses. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 explore the three themes of nature, deviance and space. These are derived from the examination of rural construction in Chapter 3. In Chapter 5, the representation of nature in Wuthering Heights is explored, and the presence of animals within the novel in particular. In Chapter 6, the depiction of deviance in Wuthering Heights is discussed, with special focus given to the presence of deviant speech patterns, reflecting changing expectations of behavioural norms in the early nineteenth century. Chapter 7’s consideration of the relationship between space and rurality within Brontë’s novel considers her representation of landscape. Chapter 8 argues that a similar rural reading can be applied to other texts, literary and otherwise, opening up a fresh set of perspectives and possibilities for interpretation.