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

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Oxford University Press, 1985 - Political Science - 385 pages
56 Reviews
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 bases her study on a wide range of sources: literature and art, medical case histories, documents on torture compiled by Amnesty International, legal transcripts of personal injury trials, and military and strategic writings by such figures as Clausewitz, Churchill, Liddell Hart, and Kissinger, She weaves these into her discussion with an eloquence, humanity, and insight that recall 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--confronted with it, Virginia Woolf once noted, "language runs dry"--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. Challenging and inventive, The Body in Pain is landmark work that promises to spark widespread debate.

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

User Review  - Ralowe Ampu - Goodreads

i'm intimidated for some reason about writing a review because i think this is one of the most beautiful books i've read in some time. it is about the shared reality and the boundary that is the ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Goodreads

Did not finish, put in abandoned bookshelf, got just over half way. There's a lot of interesting things to think about but the writing is superfluous and dense and I just didn't think it was worth it to finish. Read full review

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Selected pages


The Structure of Torture The Conversion of Real Pain into Fiction of Power
The Structure of War The Juxtaposition of Injured Bodies and Unanchored Issues
Pain and Imagining
The Structure of Belief and Its Modulation into Material Making Body and Voice in the JudeoChristian Scriptures and the Writings of Marx
The Interior Structure of the Artifact

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References to this book

Meanings of Life
Roy F. Baumeister
Limited preview - 1991
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About the author (1985)

Elaine Scarry is at Harvard University.

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