Sight Unseen


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Georgina Kleege

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This elegantly written book offers an unexpected and unprecedented account of blindness and sight. Legally blind since the age of eleven, Georgina Kleege draws on her experiences to offer a detailed testimony of visual impairment—both her own view of the world and the world’s view of the blind. “I hope to turn the reader’s gaze outward, to say not only ‘Here’s what I see’ but also ‘Here’s what you see,’ to show both what’s unique and what’s universal,” Kleege writes.
Kleege describes the negative social status of the blind, analyzes stereotypes of the blind that have been perpetuated by movies, and discusses how blindness has been portrayed in literature. She vividly conveys the visual experience of someone with severely impaired sight and explains what she can see and what she cannot (and how her inability to achieve eye contact—in a society that prizes that form of connection—has affected her). Finally she tells of the various ways she reads, and the freedom she felt when she stopped concealing her blindness and acquired skills, such as reading braille, as part of a new, blind identity. Without sentimentality or clichés, Kleege offers us the opportunity to imagine life without sight.

Georgina Kleege is a novelist, essayist, and translator. Her most recent book is the novel Home for the Summer. She has taught writing and literature courses at the University of Oklahoma and at The Ohio State University.

"What is it like to be Georgina Kleege? We can know, thanks to her acute powers of reflection, and her fine way with words. This is phenomenology at its best, and anyone interested in the mind will find here a bounty of insights and gentle corrections to their habits of thought, and will get to know a remarkable person as well."—Daniel Dennett, Director, Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University, author of Consciousness Explained and Kinds of Minds

“This compelling and original meditation on blindness and contemporary culture is a most unusual book. It includes observations on manners, rhetorical morals, form and color, sculpture and drawing, and the physiology of sight, representing blindness with a newly defined sort of authenticity.”—John Hollander

"Well-crafted essays on blindness and sightedness that clarify for the sighted not only what it’s like to be blind but what it’s like to be perceived as blind."—Kirkus Reviews

"Can the blind teach the sighted new ways of seeing? Georgina Kleege’s astonishing book about what its like not to be—and yet to be—one of those who take sightedness for granted is in every sense an eye-opener. I have never been made so conscious of the glories of seeing, and yet so ashamed of my presumptions about those complete human beings who do not directly share them. Kleege is by turns angry, seductive, insightful, poetical and witty. She writes with a rare combination of beauty and intelligence. Oliver Sacks eat your heart out. Here is the real thing."—Nicholas Humphrey, Professor of Psychology, New School for Social Research, New York

"Georgina Kleege writes to the very heart of seeing from the experiences of blindness in a sighted world. Sight Unseen is a profound insight into that common touch of light and sense of a visual presence."—Gerald Vizenor, University of California, Berkeley

"An arresting book about the life-experience of the blind, with much of interest to say about the representation of blindness in literature."—John M. Coetzee, Department of English, University of Cape Town

"Kleege’s skill at articulating her personal struggle does enable one to appreciate what a blind person 'sees.’"—Library Journal

"What is most powerful about Kleege’s book is the picture that it creates of a gifted woman leading a full life despite a handicap that might be supposed to have made it almost impossible. . . . This is a provocative book, gracefully written and morally urgent. It demonstrates how narrow the path is between the denial of difference and the transformation of difference into otherness."—Arthur Danto, New Republic

"Sight Unseen is an extraordinary book because it insists upon the ordinariness of blindness. It shows the sighted reader that there is no need to be frightened of blind people or of going blind."—Francis Gilbert, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Sight Unseen, by Georgina Kleege, is a book that goes a long way toward promoting a balanced attitude that seeks to understand the implications, and therefore mitigate the pangs, of [blindness]. . . . Kleege introduces us candidly, gently, without unseemly gesturing, and with not even a shade of self-pity, into the ordinary experience that controls daily life bereft of visual function. . . . The worthiest teaching of Sight Unseen, however, is not to be sought in the transmittal of vision-related information. It is a higher, more valuable lesson: the demonstration that the plight of the blind is partly its own reality, and largely the creation of the normally sighted."—F. Gonzalez-Crussi, Commonweal

“As a novelist, essayist, and translator, she provides a very readable, sometimes humorous, and often poignant assessment of what blindness means to the person who is blind and what it seems to mean to those around her. . . . What she offers sighted readers is an opportunity to imagine life without sight.”—Larry Zimmerman, Key Reporter

“A human document, the story of all those who belong but also do not belong, the common ingredient that allows those with insight to dissect society and describe it with greater clarity, sensitivity and knowledge.”—Semir Zeki, Times Higher Education Supplement

Nominated for a 2001 TORGI (Talking Book of the Year) Award in the category of Partner-Produced Non-fiction awarded by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind
ISBN: 9780300076806
Publication Date: March 11, 1999
304 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4