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