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

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The Body in Pain is a profoundly original meditation on the vulnerability of the human body and the literary, political, philosophical, medical, and religious vocabularies used to describe it. Elaine Scarry bases her analysis on a wide array of sources, including literature and art, medical case histories, documents on torture compiled by Amnesty International, and the writings of such figures as Clausewitz, Churchill, and Kissinger. The author begins with the fact of pain's inexpressibility, noting not only the ...
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The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World

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Overview

The Body in Pain is a profoundly original meditation on the vulnerability of the human body and the literary, political, philosophical, medical, and religious vocabularies used to describe it. Elaine Scarry bases her analysis on a wide array of sources, including literature and art, medical case histories, documents on torture compiled by Amnesty International, and the writings of such figures as Clausewitz, Churchill, and Kissinger. The author begins with the fact of pain's inexpressibility, noting not only the difficulty of describing pain, but its ability to destroy a sufferer's language. She then analyzes the political consequences of deliberately inflicted pain, particularly in cases of war and torture, showing how regimes "unmake" an individual's world in their exercise of power. From the actions that "unmake" the world Scarry turns to a discussion of actions that "make" the world -- the acts of creativity that produce language and cultural artifacts.

Scarry analyzes physical pain within numerous contexts by transcripts to Amnesty International documents.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I believe this project to be perhaps one of the most significant books on language, philosophy, and literature of the coming years."—Emory Elliott, Princeton University

"Stunningly original, enormously important, powerfully written....The beauty of her writing is that she can make us see torture and war as we have never seen them before, read the Bible and Marx as we have never read them before—indeed, see our day-to-day world in a usefully new manner."—Eric J. Cassell, M.D., Cornell Medical Center

"One of the most important books I have read this year [1987]."—Judith Fryer, University of Massachusetts

"Not for some time have we read a more original book on an announced subject than this review of pain's locations in torture, war and wherever people would do violence to others."—The Christian Century

"An extraordinary book: large-spirited, heroically truthful. A necessary book."—Susan Sontag

"A richly original, provocative book which makes one reconsider torture, war, and creativity from a new perspective."—Anthony Storr, Washington Post Book World

"Brilliant, ambitious and controversial...an all-encompassing discourse on creativity, imagination and the distribution of power."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"In its breadth and humaneness of vision, in the density and richness of its prose, above all in the compelling nature of its argument, this is indeed an extraordinary book."—Susan Rubin Suleiman, The New York Times Book Review

"A brilliant and difficult book...Scarry's compassionate linguistics documents how [the] bridge between torturer and victim is cut."—Michael Ignatieff, The New Republic

"One of the most important books I have read this year."—Judith Fryer, University of Massachusetts

"Only by following Scarry step by step may a reader gradually discern the daringly encompassing scope of Scarry's vision on body and pain, making and unmaking. [Her] style of writing is at once profoundly personal and succinctly scholarly."—Religious Studies Review

"Scarry has written a dramatic and provocative discourse on the power of pain and man's reaction to it....The flow of the text is fluid and creative; the book is a well-disciplined example of literary thinking."—he Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine

"The book is large, ambitious, intricate and alternately illuminating, baffling and irritating....[It] is a brave book, and worth persevering with."—The Times Literary Supplement (London)

"An absolutely astonishing achievement...I believe it will change many lives, not by persuasion, but by widening the scope of consciousness. The book itself is a great act of courage, intelligence, and style."—Allen Grossman, Brandeis University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195036015
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/1/1987
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Part 1 Unmaking
Chapter 1 The Structure of Torture: The Conversion of Real Pain into the Fiction of Power 27
Chapter 2 The Structure of War: The Juxtaposition of Injured Bodies and Unanchored Issues 60
Part 2 Making
Chapter 3 Pain and Imagining 161
Chapter 4 The Structure of Belief and Its Modulation into Material Making: Body and Voice in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and the Writings of Marx 181
Chapter 5 The Interior Structure of the Artifact 278
Notes 327
Index 373
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