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The Variable Body in History


Edited By Chris Mounsey and Stan Booth

The essays in this book explore the different ways the body has been experienced and interpreted in history, from the medieval to the modern period. Challenging the negative perceptions that the term ‘disability’ suggests, the essays together present a mosaic of literary representations of bodies and accounts of real lives lived in their particularity and peculiarity. The book does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather it celebrates the fact that it is not. By presenting a group of individual cases from different periods in history, the collection demonstrates that any overarching way of describing bodies, or unifying description of the experience of the myriad ways of being in a body, is reductive and unhelpful. The variability of each body in its context is our subject.
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The Blind Made Happy: Arcs of Reward and Redemption in Early Modern Children’s Texts




The children’s literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (1780–1840) provides a fascinating lens for examining the perception of blindness in American and British culture. Didactic literature sought to give children a view of the real world and to teach them about the moral way to respond to that reality. The blind characters depicted in these texts include people of all ages and from a wide range of socio-economic classes. Comparisons of early to late texts and of British to American texts reveal significant differences in the perception of medical treatments and educational opportunities available to the blind.


The children’s literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century provides a fascinating lens for examining many aspects of Anglo-British society. Connoisseurs of children’s literature find works from this time period less readable than the texts that emerged in the mid-nineteenth ← 171 | 172 → century during the genre’s ‘Golden Age’, due to the tendency of these texts to be highly didactic, lacking in imaginative touches, and filled with mundane description. These are precisely the qualities which make them an excellent source for information about the contemporary time period, since during this time period one of the primary mandates of children’s literature was to depict the world for children, and the depictions tended to be so distilled or simplified that neither the youngest, most naive child – or a scholar from another century – could mistake their meanings.


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