Text info for NYU event and author photo of Leona facing a hyper-realistic painting of her head on a red-leaved 3-d image next to the paperback cover with its misty violet spectrum of There Plant Eyes.

TPE Book Celebration and Conversation with Steve Kuusisto and Elizabeth Bearden at NYU (In-Person & Online)

Co-sponsored by the Modern and Contemporary Colloquium and the Center for Disability Studies at NYU

There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness (Pantheon, 2021) is now out in paperback! To mark the occasion, author M. Leona Godin (NYU) will be joined by Stephen Kuusisto (Syracuse University) and Elisabeth Bearden (University of Wisconsin, Madison) to read from their work and discuss the metaphors and realities of blindness and disability in the humanities as well as the importance of bio and sensory diversity in our teaching and understanding of literature.


When: Thursday, September 22, 2022. 6pm.

Where: This will be a hybrid event held in-person at 244 Greene Street, 1st floor of the NYU English Department, NYC, and on Zoom. Please RSVP HERE.

All in-person guests must wear masks and bring proof of vaccination. CART and ASL will be provided. For other accessibility needs please reach out to Leona: mg357@nyu.edu.

Bluestockings Cooperative book store will be on hand with paperback copies of There Plant Eyes for selling and signing!


About the book


“So graceful, so wise, so effortlessly erudite, I learned something new and took pleasure in every page.” —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts


“[A] thought-provoking mixture of criticism, memoir, and advocacy.” —The New Yorker

For millennia, blindness has been used to signify thoughtlessness (“blind faith”), irrationality (“blind rage”), and unconsciousness (“blind evolution”). But at the same time, blind people have been othered as the recipients of special powers as compensation for lost sight (from the poetic gifts of John Milton to the heightened senses of the comic book hero Daredevil). Combining analyses of blindness in art, culture, and history with her own story of gradually losing her sight, in this genre-defying work, M. Leona Godin probes the ways in which blindness has shaped our ocularcentric world, and challenges deeply ingrained ideas about what it really means to be “blind.”

A vivid personal and cultural history, There Plant Eyes explores the fascinating history of blindness—from Homer to Helen Keller, from Dune to Stevie Wonder, and from the invention of braille to the science of echolocation. And in doing so, Godin reveals just how essential blindness and vision are to our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

“Elegant, fiercely argued        Godin enlarges our understanding of the blind and sight impaired, and There Plant Eyes proves a landmark contribution to the literature of disability, comparable to Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face andJean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—which is to say the literature of the human itself.” —The Wall Street Journal


About the Speakers

M. Leona Godin (pronounced like French sculptor Rodin) is a writer, performer, educator, and the author of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural history of Blindness (Pantheon, 2021). Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesPlayboyO MagazineElectric LiteratureCatapult,and other print and online publications. She produced two plays: “The Star of Happiness” about Helen Keller’s time performing in vaudeville, and “The Spectator and the Blind Man,” about the invention of braille. Godin holds a PhD in English, and besides her many years teaching literature and humanities courses at NYU, she has lectured on art, accessibility, technology, and disability at such places as Tandon School of Engineering, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, and the American Printing House for the Blind. Her online magazine exploring the arts and sciences of smell and taste, Aromatica Poetica, publishes writing and art from around the world.


Elizabeth Bearden’s first book, The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2012. Her second book, Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability, was published in the University of Michigan Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series in 2019 and was the winner of the Tobin Siebers Prize for Disability Studies in the Humanities. She has published articles in PMLAJEMCS, Ancient Narrative Supplementum, Arizona Journal for Hispanic Cultural Studies, and E-Humanista/Cervantes. She has also directed a digital humanities project documenting the funeral of Sir Philip Sidney. The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) awarded her a fellowship for the 2022-23 academic year, where she’ll work on her third monograph, Crip Authority: Disability and the Art of Consolation in the Renaissance. This book continues Professor Bearden’s research on the history of disability with an emphasis on how disabled authors in the Renaissance from Petrarch to Milton discussed their lived experience of disability.


Stephen Kuusisto, who has been blind since birth, is the author of Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey (Simon & Schuster, 2018); Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening (W. W. Norton & Company, 2006); and the memoir Planet of the Blind (Delta, 1998), a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”. He has also published several poetry collections: Old Horse, What Is to Be Done? (Tiger Bark Press, 2020); Letters to Borges (Copper Canyon Press, 2013); and Only Bread, Only Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2000). Recognized by the New York Times as “a powerful writer with a musical ear for language and a gift for emotional candor,” Steve has made numerous appearances on programs including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline NBC, National Public Radio and the BBC. A graduate of the “Writer’s Workshop” at the University of Iowa, and a Fulbright Scholar, Steve holds a University Professorship in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. He’s a recipient of a 2021 Guggenheim award in poetry. He speaks widely on poetry, diversity, disability, education, and public policy. His essays and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines including Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry, and Partisan Review.

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