Monday, October 22, 2012

Sandra on Seeing Clearly

In “‘It Is Only with One’s Heart That One Can See Clearly’: The Loss of Sight in Teresa Medeiros’s The Bride and the Beast and Yours until Dawn,” published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, Sandra Schwab asks "How is disability, in particular visual impairment, used in romance fiction?"

It's not a question that can be answered fully in just one paper, so Sandra focuses her discussion on two novels by Teresa Medeiros. As stated in the abstract, Sandra concludes that "Medeiros rejects various dominant cultural stereotypes about visual impairment and disability such as the disempowerment and perceived helplessness of blind characters" but she adds that,
even if in The Bride and the Beast the lack of sight becomes a vehicle to criticize the body cult in romance fiction and even if Yours until Dawn rejects many common stereotypes about disability and closes with a reference to the old body, the literal cure in both novels aims at normalizing the bodies of the protagonists and thus results in what Davis has called “the neutralizing of the disability” (542). In regard to visual impairment, this is a common trope in romance fiction, whereas other forms of disability are often used to enhance the dark appeal of the male protagonist and act as externalizations of his inner wound. Though the genre thus creates new stereotypes about disability, [...] it generally rejects depictions of disability as a disempowering force that creates helplessness and dependence. (288)
Schwab, Sandra. “‘It Is Only with One’s Heart That One Can See Clearly’: The Loss of Sight in Teresa Medeiros’s The Bride and the Beast and Yours until Dawn.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 6.3 (2012): 275–289.


  1. The notion of "cure" and its role in the romance novel is fascinating. I've been wondering in my recent work if the "happily ever after" is not functioning as a type of "cure." Paradoxically, of course, so often we are told that romance readers need to be "cured" of their "addiction" to romance novels.

  2. I was just talking about this with a colleague this weekend. We are working on a new series together and we were talking about the nature of the "complete me" tropes in romance fiction. We asked: are the protagonists curing each other, healing each other, completing each other. In my own work, I notice a tendency for the lovers to "see each other," sort of, re-seeing as revision. In talking about Twilight and 50 Shades on my blog in August, I noticed this trend, too. Anastasia Steel for example, starts out worried, anxious, intimidated--and refers to herself only as Ana, stripping herself of the power and strength of such a name. Ultimately, though, she learns to see herself differently, to see herself as Gray does. Twilight, too, with Bella, shows yet another girl unaware of her own power and ability. They are both "coming-into-your-own-through-the-eyes-of-another" tales. This isn't exactly what I mean, but I hope it's close enough for a comment...

  3. Jonathan, mention has been made of valium too, which is more a "cure" than an "addiction." [I've got a post up at the moment at my blog about the addiction metaphor, incidentally. And I wrote a little bit about "curing" there too.]

    J.W., your comments are always welcome! The "seeing" metaphor is a very powerful one, I think. I have to admit to a personal dislike of the metaphorical use of "short-sighted" because I am, literally (but I hope not metaphorically).

    I haven't read Twilight but does the lighting (or rather lack of it) in Forks tie in with the seeing/not seeing metaphor? Do vampires see clearly where normal people don't, for example, which could create parallels with Edward "seeing" Bella as valuable whereas others don't?

  4. Thanks so much for linking to my article, Laura! It grew out of the paper I gave at the "Cultural Production of Disability" conference in Manchester back in 2010 (aka the conference where we were snowed in).

    JW, both of Teresa's novels I looked at for this article use the "seeing" metaphor in the way you describe. In "The Bride and the Beast" it is primarily the heroine's view of herself which is reshaped in the course of the novel, while in "Yours Until Dawn" the hero's view of himself and of his actions undergoes a change. In my article, I argue that the loss of sight (either through darkness/a blindfold or through visual impairment) functions as a metaphor for a lack of insight and self-knowledge, but at the same time the loss of sight also enables the characters to gain insight and (self-)knowledge. Hence the reference to Saint-Exupéry: the Fox's statement really encapsulates what the two novels are all about.