Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
Desert nomads tested their vision by distinguishing a pair of stars. But we have since created more disquieting ways to test the strength of the eyes.
Reading the eye chart is an exercise in failure, since it only gets interesting when you cannot read any further. It is the opposite of interpretative reading, like one does with literature. When you have finished reading an eye chart, what exactly have you even read? From a Spanish cleric's Renaissance guide to testing vision, to a Dutch ophthalmologist's innovation in optical tech, to the witty subversion of the eye chart in advertising and popular culture, William Germano's Eye Chart lets people see the eye chart at last.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.
About the Author
William Germano is Professor of English Literature at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, USA. His previous publications include The Tales of Hoffmann (2013) and Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books (3rd edition, 2016). He writes a biweekly language blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
1. What can you see?
2. Reading stars, reading stones
3. How to choose eyeglasses (circa 1623)
4. The persistence of memory
5. Eleven lines, nine letters
6. Reading close up
7. Looking for trouble
8. Eye terror
9. Eye poetry
10. Optical allusions
11. The bottom line