The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World

TitleThe Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1985
AuthorsScarry, Elaine
Number of Pages385
PublisherOxford University Press

Part philosophical meditation, part cultural critique, The Body in Pain is a profoundly original study that has already stirred excitement in a wide range of intellectual circles. The book is an analysis of physical suffering and its relation to the numerous vocabularies and cultural forces—literary, political, philosophical, medical, religious—that confront it. Elaine Scarry weaves these into her discussion, recalling the writings of Hannah Arendt and Jean-Paul Sartre. Scarry begins with the fact of pain's inexpressibility. Not only is physical pain enormously difficult to describe in words, it also actively destroys language, reducing sufferers in the most extreme instances to an inarticulate state of cries and moans. Scarry analyzes the political ramifications of deliberately-inflicted pain, specifically in the cases of torture and warfare, and shows how to be fictive. From these actions of "unmaking," Scarry turns finally to the actions of "making"—the examples of artistic and cultural creation that work against pain and the debased uses that are made of it.

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