Holman’s Journal publishes extracts on blind experience from the writings of James Holman. Edited and (sometimes) narrated by Joe Rizzo Naudi.
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about the project
James Holman (1786 - 1857) was an English sailor, adventurer and author. He lost his sight in 1811 at the age of 25, undertook his first solo trip abroad in 1819, and went on to become one of the most travelled people in recorded history.
Holman wrote three books documenting his travels. They are meticulously compiled travelogues, heavy with facts, figures and practical guidance for contemporary travellers. But they are also full of personal anecdotes, essays, insights, asides and perspectives on his experiences as a blind person.
It’s this blind narrative that I want to foreground on Holman’s Journal, the times when Holman steps away from his fact-gathering, man-of-science persona and invites the reader into his sensory, emotional and social subjectivity.
Holman’s Journal is an attempt to revive his writing for a 21st century audience. I want to dust it off, read it aloud and present it in an accessible, online format. Because I think his work - and Holman himself - deserves it.
Be warned: it’s not all plain-sailing. Holman’s books carry with them a full complement of early Victorian perspectives on gender, sexuality, race, class and (of course) disability. I look forward to plumbing these intersectional complexities in the comments section.
I aim to publish one extract per week, starting with Holman’s account of his first trip abroad after losing his sight, The Narrative of a Journey through France, &c. (1822).
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With a view to accessibility, continuity and (at times) expediency, I have edited and abridged the majority of extracts published here. In some cases I have updated Holman’s language to aid comprehension. I always provide the corresponding page numbers, so you can check out the original text in the book scans (see below).
about James Holman
Jason Roberts' excellent biography of James Holman. The first book-length work on the life of the Blind Traveller, it is a thorough, engaging tour of his life, travels and social context, backed up by stacks of original archival research. It was the book that sparked my interest in Holman back when I was a young person in search of blind role models.
For a quick fix, Wikipedia provides a good overview of his life.
You can find public domain PDF versions of Holman’s original texts here:
I’m a writer from London working mostly on fiction, narrative non-fiction and theatre projects. Check out my other projects:
/ Black Cane Diary - on my experiences as a cane user.
Cane Research Project - researching mobility cane use, funded by Arts Council England.
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