We argue that the projection of the visual field to the cortex constrains and informs the modeling of visual word recognition. On the basis of anatomical and psychological evidence, we claim that the higher-level cognition involved in word recognition does not completely transcend initial foveal splitting. We present a schematic connectionist model of word recognition that instantiates the precise splitting of the visual field and the contralateral projection of the two hemifields. We explore the special nature of the exterior (i.e., first and last) letters of words in reading. The model produces the correct behavior spontaneously and robustly. We analyze this behavior of the model with respect to words and random patterns and conclude that the systematic division of the visual input has predictable, general informational consequences and is chiefly responsible for the exterior letters effect.