Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Project title: (Partial) blind, blending, blindness - Investigations on the topic of 'blindness' in the Greek pictorial world of the late 8th - 4th century BC
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Heide Frielinghaus, Prof. Dr. Jochen Althoff
When looked at it from a medical, cultural as well as a metaphorical perspective, the human eye has a special significance. In a visually dominated life, blindness is considered one of the worst physical disabilities. Such dysfunction is often associated with a concept of being different. Therefore, blindness was and still is a frequent subject of social discourse, in which causes, types and opinions were/are debated. In various ancient Greek literary sources blind or blinded people, blindness as a disease or healing attempts are mentioned in diverse contexts. Since the 7th century B.C., references to blindness or blind people can also be found in the material culture. One may think of depictions of blind people in paintings and sculptures, or more abbreviated forms, such as the so-called 'eye votive'.
Textual sources referring to blindness have already been collected and studied intensively and from different points of view. However, the material and iconographic sources so far have been neglected. Not only a comprehensive collection and compilation of material sources dealing with blindness, but also an analysis of problems arising from this subject, its background and contest, is still lacking. Just the general meaning of eyes, as for instance the eye as a decorative element, has been in the focus of material and iconographic studies.
In this dissertation project, numerous chronologically and geographically dispersed material sources connected to blindness and possible remedies will be analyzed and interpreted – taking into account the nature of the respective type of material and its context. With the help of single results, which will be compared and combined with one another, a diachronically differentiated picture of the physical dysfunction, its representation, meaning and classification will be developed in order to show concepts of blindness.
The dissertation project was completed in March 2017.