Around The Blind Musician: The Artistic Representation of Deviant Sense Organs


  • Mikhail Stroganov



V. G. Korolenko; 19th-century Russian literature; disability; deviant senses; deviant communicative abilities; blind character


Referring to V. G. Korolenko’s story The Blind Musician and a number of other works of Russian literature, this article considers the image of a human being with deviant sense organs and its communicative potential as a subject of literature. The article looks at the period when deviant sense organs started to be perceived as a feature of a disabled person and deviation as a disability, the reasons behind it, and how it influenced literature. Relying on these criteria, the author reconstructs the history of the depiction of people with deviant bodies in European culture between the 12th and 20th centuries. It is demonstrated that T. Shevchenko and I. Turgenev mainly focused on the social oppression of people under serfdom, and not on the problems of a person with disabilities. Such a tendency is characteristic of other works of the period. V. Korolenko’s The Blind Musician was published during the years when the Patronage Committee for the Blind operated. The characters argue about their attitude towards the blind: patronage protects the blind from the troubles of the surrounding world, while attempts to integrate them into the world of those who can see leads to them losing their identity as blind people. While they are apparently opposed, the two positions rely on the idea that a person with deviant sense organs is not comfortable because of their state. This caused blind people themselves to protest: A. Birilev and A. Shcherbina stated that the blind do not aim to see light and do not suffer because of it: they claimed to be entitled to internal representation. I. Osorgin and M. Shishkin joined this debate. The portrayal of a person’s self is valid in terms of social, gender, age, and national deviations but does not extend to deviant sense organs. A person with a deviant body agrees to be qualified as an invalid; a person with a deviant feeling or communicative ability objects to being qualified as such. Deviant sense organs, unlike a deviant body, cannot have an external representation, as the presence of such sense organs means the development of deviant forms of communication, which provokes the blind and the deaf to create texts of auto-representation.

Author Biography

Mikhail Stroganov

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Kosygin Russian State University; Leading Researcher, Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

33, bldg. 1, Sadovnicheskaya Str., 117997, Moscow, Russia.

25a, Povarskaya Str. 121069, Moscow, Russia.


Arkhangelskii, A. (1900). Novyi vzglyad na povest’ Korolenko “Slepoi muzykant” [A New Look at Korolenko’s Story The Blind Musician]. In Kazanskii telegraf. No. 2393, 2394. Reprint in Klassika [e-library]. URL: (mode of access: 11.06.2017).

Averintsev, S. S. (1981). Vvedenie : Drevnegrecheskaya poetika i mirovaya literatura [Introduction: Ancient Greek Poetics and World Literature]. In Poetika drevnegrecheskoi literatury. Moscow, Nauka, рр. 3–14.

Gornfeld, A. (1916). “Slepoi muzykant” i slepoi kritik [The Blind Musician and the Blind Critic]. In Russkie vedomosti. February 14.

Gornfeld, A. (1922). “Slepoi muzykant” i slepoi kritik [The Blind Musician and the Blind Critic]. In Petrishchev, A. B. (Ed.). V. G. Korolenko. Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo: Sbornik statei. Petrograd, Mysl’, pp. 144–145.

Khitrov, A. A. (2008). Blagotvoritel’naya sotsial’naya i meditsinskaya pomoshch’ slepym v Rossii pod pokrovitel’stvom imperatorskoi familii (vtoraya polovina XIX – nachalo XX v.) [Charitable Social and Medical Assistance to the Blind in Russia under the Auspices of the Imperial Family (the Second Half of the 19th – Early 20th Centuries)]. In Vestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo universiteta. Seriya 2. Iss. 4. Part 1, pp. 54–60.

Khvoshchinskaya, N. D. (1868). Dva pamyatnye dnya: Povest’. 1866 g. [Two Memorable Days: A Tale. 1866]. In Otechestvennye zapiski. No. 4, pp. 345–396.

Korolenko, V. G. (1914). Retsenziya: Skrebitskii, A. I. Vospitaniye i obrazovanie slepykh i ikh prizrenie na Zapade (s chertezhami v tekste i 5-yu tablitsami) [Rev. of: Skrebitskii, A. I. The Upbringing and Education of the Blind and Care for Them in the West]. In Korolenko, V. G. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 9 t. [Complete Works. 9 Vols.]. Petrograd, Tovarishchestvo A. F. Marks. Vol. 9, pp. 344–347.

Korolenko, V. G. (1936). Izbrannye pis’ma v 3 t. [Selected Letters. 3 Vols.]. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaya literatura. Vol. 3. 284 p.

Korolenko, V. G. (1953–1956). Sobranie sochinenii v 10 t. [Collected Works. 10 Vols.] Moscow, Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury. Vol. 2. 479 p. Vol. 10. 717 p.

Osorgin, M. (1992). Vol’nyi kamenshchik: Povest’. Rasskazy [Free Mason: A Tale. Stories]. Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii. 336 p.

Padden, C., Humphries, T. (2006). Deaf People: A Different Center. In Davis, L. J. (Ed.). The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. 2. N. Y., L., Routledge, pp. 331–338.

Shcherbina, A. M. (1916). Slepoi muzykant Korolenka kak popytka zryachikh proniknut’ v psikhologiyu slepykh (v svete moikh sobstvennykh nablyudenii) [The Blind Musician by Korolenko as an Attempt to Penetrate the Sighted Psychology of the Blind (in the Light of My own Observations)]. Moscow, Tovarishchestvo tipografii A. I. Mamontova. 51 p.

Shevchenko, T. (1968). Kobzar’ [Kobzar]. Kiїv, Dnipro. 558 p.

Shishkin, M. (1994). Slepoi muzykant: Povest’ [The Blind Musician: A Story]. In Znamya. No. 1, pp. 62–79.

Stroganov, M. V. (2007). Istoricheskaya poetika: Uchebnoe posobie [Historical Poetics: Tutorial]. Tver’, Tverskoi gosudarstvennyi universitet. 152 p.

Stroganov, M. V. (2016). Deviantnoe telo. Chelovek-invalid v fol’klore i literature doreflektornogo i reflektornogo traditsionalizma [Deviant Body. The Disabled Person in the Folklore and Literature of Pre-reflex and Reflex Traditionalism]. In Vestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta tekhnologii i dizaina. Seriya 2. Iskusstvovedenie. Filologicheskie nauki. No. 3, pp. 72–76.

Tarasenko, O. S. (2016). Literaturno-khudozhestvennyi spor o slepote M. A. Osorgina s V. G. Korolenko [Literary and Artistic Debate about the Blindness of M. A. Osorgin and V. G. Korolenko]. In Filologicheskie nauki. Voprosy teorii i praktiki. No. 9. Part 2, pp. 41–43.

Turgenev, I. S. (1963). Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 28 t. Sochineniya v 15 t. [Complete Works. 28 Vols. Works. 15 Vols.]. Moscow, Leningrad, Izdatel’stvo Akademii nauk SSSR. Vol. 5. 659 p.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1916). Slepoi rebenok [Blind Child]. In Vygotskii, L. S. Sobranie sochinenii v 6 t. [Collected Works. 6 Vols.]. Moscow, Pedagogika. Vol. 5, pp. 86–100.

Zolotnitskaya, R. L. (1986). Neizvestnyi korrespondent V. G. Korolenko [Unknown Correspondent V. G. Korolenko]. In Russkaya literatura. No. 4, pp. 165–171.



How to Cite

Stroganov, M. (2019). Around The Blind Musician: The Artistic Representation of Deviant Sense Organs. Quaestio Rossica, 7(1), 155–170.



Problema voluminis