Edited By Chris Mounsey and Stan Booth
Aphra Behn’s ‘Blind Lady’: Reading Impairment/Impairing Reading
This essay argues that Aphra Behn, writing during the Restoration, was able to combine an understanding of the impaired body as a lived experience, with a political metaphor: Varronian satire. The combination, the essay argues, set off Behn’s career as a playwright in her attack on the Whig Robert Howard’s play The Blind Lady, in a satire The Unfortunate Bride: or, the Blind Lady a Beauty that was not published until after Howard’s death in 1698, which has skewed the chronology of her writing and our understanding of Behn’s career in the theatre.
One of the major problems of studying historical texts is the question of how to study them. As scholars of English we move from theory to theory, sometimes inventing our own, sometimes using old theories in new ways, but the question remains when we use whatever reading method we do, have we captured what the text meant to the readers for whom it was written? Or are we getting something out of the text (or perhaps putting something into it) that was never there.
Aphra Behn’s The Unfortunate Bride: or, the Blind Lady a Beauty1 is a case in point. As with most of Behn’s posthumously published novels, it has a very short bibliography of secondary sources, in fact I can locate no ← 81 | 82 → secondary sources in any of the readily available academic databases. But where it is reduced to a mere mention in...
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