course examines pain as a cultural phenomenon with historically
varying meanings. Pain has no language itself, and this is the
parodox: unspeakable itself, Pain is endlessly productive of
language and representation. In this course we shall consider
a variety of media and materials. The body will be the primary
metaphor / document, the way it presents will be read symptomatically..
Through history pain, publicly displayed, means different things:
From Homer through the Christian era through Renaissance art
through the Slasher film, bodies in pain are deployed as example,
witness, pedagogy, and pleasure. Pains private meanings
often diverge from its public ones, which are manifold, and
often contradictory. For example, we are told that pain is good
for individuals, that it builds character. On the
other hand commodity pop culture goes to great lengths to erase,
deny, disavow pain. From another perspective Love is thought
to be the sublime human experience. Nonetheless being in love
seemingly necessitates suffering, hurt, and abjection: I
made a life out of loving you, you made a life out of hurting
me. This course reviews distinct historical periods from
Homer through pop cultures fascination with the torn body:
How are we to read the Crucified body of Jesus? The Marquis
De Sades equation of Pain and Pleasure? Why is so much
pleasure obviously derived from dismembered bodies (Texas Chainsaw
course draws from many sources. I have tried to keep expenses
down by finding readings on the Web (see External Links);
others are on Electronic Reserve (also see External Links).
of the class texts are short, and where noted they can be
found electronically, either through
Blackboard links or, directly, on the Web. Individuals who
do not have computer access may xerox copies of these materials
at their own expense. Please see me.
to be purchased include (in order of use):
JM Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Elie Wiesel, Night
Marquis de Sade, Justine
Other recommended reading:
Peter Edwards: Torture
Laura Hinton, Masochsim
Stephen Bruhm, Gothic bodies: politics of pain
Drew Leder, The Absent Body.
Queytal, A history of syphilis
Thomas Laquer, Making of Sex
cannibalism, torture, and the Eucharist.
Susan Sontag, AIDS and its metaphors
Caroline Bynum, The Body
Robert Detwiler, Written on the Body
Robert K. Martin: Gothic: A National Narrative
Assignments, outlined below (see Assignments) include Midterm
and Final, weekly class essays, evaluative and theoretical
DAILY READING AND WRITING
essay and outside supportive reading.
Close-reading of text: Choose among any of texts offered for
a particular week. Explore some aspect of the text / image.
Cite at least one outside source, beyond those offered in
syllabus or reference, to place the image in its historical
context / significance. The following items are suggestions
of what you might consider:
1) rhetorical positioning: meaning of representation and its
construction; its audience, intent, and function; What constraints
does it place upon a reader, how does it solicit readers
2) places where the text might deconstruct itself.
3) "meta" questions: what are the assumptions, world
view, ideological investments and parameters: against what
sort of cosmology and world view does the pain / violence
image or text derive its meaning? In what sort of universe
is such a representation possible?
4) What does image suggest about world view: can you locate
it in its historical context? What might be a contrasting
by selected individuals will be used to begin class discussion
on each new text.
Two or three individuals who will work together researching
the above (each student, however, is responsible for writing
his or her own weekly essay); the study partners will also
work together in studying and completing other course assignments;
they meet periodically with me; at semesters end Study
Partners will share an oral final exam.
These exams, blind-graded, will be conducted as blue-book,
inclass exam. As Part of the Final exam, each group of Study
Partners will meet with me for an oral evaluation. Please
see the University Class Schedule for date of the Final.
READER: collect, develop, sample different cultural scenes,
or texts, of the pained body:
This will take the form of an extensive area of private research.
Each student, working together with her or his study partners,
will be responsible for demonstrating mastery of the content
of the course. Using various textual methods (including a
variety of representations), the student will develop an introductory
ethnography of the body in pain:
two theoreticians on the body in culture: Bryan Turner, Mary
Douglas, Thomas Laquer, Freud, Marx, among others. Choose
representational scenes we have not discussed in class.
2. Apply the questions that guided class discussion (textual;
metatextual; see above). What are the uses of the body in
pain? How has it been displayed, manipulated? How does such
display "produce" or make its meaning?
of this reader can include webpage as well as textual elements.
We will discuss this more in detail later in the semester.
Each student will be responsible for writing a brief evaluation
of her or his achievement in the course.
other resources related to Presenting Pain (for enrolled students
only) please see the Blackboard website