Associate Professor of English Edward Wheatley has been awarded a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for 2004-2005. Wheatley's project is a book he is writing titled "Stumbling Blocks Before the Blind: The Medieval Construction of a Disability." This cultural studies project will present the first comprehensive exploration of a disability in the Middle Ages, drawing upon literature, history, arts history and religious discourse.
Wheatley says the book will be the first devoted entirely to blindness in both a single period before the 20th century and more than one country. It will be the first to relate current theories of disability to the social and institutional constructions of a disability in the 13th through 15th centuries, especially in France and England. Wheatley's goal is to show that many of the attitudes about blindness that remained dominant in western culture had their roots in the Middle Ages, but that also a few innovations–cultural, literary, and, to an extent, medical–resulted in a fuller understanding and acceptance of blindness than had existed earlier.
Abridged versions of two of the six chapters of the book have been accepted for publication this year in Exemplaria and Disability Studies Quarterly. Wheatley will use the NEH Fellowship to complete the book.