REFLECTIONS: The Life and Writings of a Young Blind Woman in Post-Revolutionary France

Therese-Adele Husson, Author, Catherine Jean Kudlick, Translator, Zina Weygand, Translator , trans. from the French and with commentary and biography by Catherine Kudlick NYU $20 (155p) ISBN 978-0-8147-4746-9

While glancing through the archives of Paris's Quinze-Vingts Hospital, one of the few schools for blind people in the first half of the 19th century, scholars Kudlick and Weygand came across a fascinating manuscript that had gone unread for more than 175 years. It was a petition for lodging by Husson, a 22-year-old blind woman, to the director of the hospital. Writing with insight, clarity and tenderness, Husson details her experience: the difficulty of eating with guests, the joy of feeling sun on her face, her delight at being able to distinguish percale from chiffon with only a glancing touch. Although Husson wrote in a markedly different time, and some of her advice is charmingly outdated (e.g., all blind youngsters should avoid Voltaire and Rousseau to prevent "overexcited feelings"), the simplicity of most of her observations and her overwhelming sincerity are timeless: "every [flower] that has a sweet odor introduces a feeling into our souls that resembles them." Kudlick and Weygand discuss Husson's later life and novels to give a fuller picture of the young woman, then supply a brief but fascinating glimpse into the role of women, religion, disability and notions of the self in early 19th-century France. As well as discussing the social mores of the time, the authors also plumb the depths of Husson's fiction for additional insight into her perspective specifically and into the experience of blind people generally. Their detective work in finding Husson's novels (published under a pen name) and other early writings on disability is notable and provides a useful background for this valuable work of early feminism and disability studies. 8 b&w illus. (Nov. 1)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 02/01/2002
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