5 Apr: Helen Keller’s Living Word

Deaf and blind since toddlerhood, Helen Keller was seven years old when her teacher, Anne Sullivan, took her to a water-pump on 5th April, 1887 – and she learned the word ‘water’.

It was a eureka moment for Keller, who went on to read braille; write in pencil; learn French, German, Greek, and Latin; study at Harvard University; and speak using her own voice. She became one of the most famous disabled people of the twentieth century.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider a wordless definition of ‘love’; explain how Keller was able to follow her University lectures; and ask whether her autobiography’s narrative of overcoming immense adversity has become an unwitting example of ‘inspiration porn’…

Further Reading:

• ‘Deaf, Blind and Determined: How Helen Keller Learned to Communicate’ (HowStuffWorks, 2021): https://people.howstuffworks.com/helen-keller.htm

• ‘Is a Helen Keller Obsession Holding Disabled People Back?’ (New York Times, 2021): https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/21/opinion/helen-keller.html

• ‘Helen Keller Speaks Out’ (1954):