Elaine Scarry's magisterial The Body in Pain (1985) set the agenda for decades to come in relation to thinking about the experience of pain. As Rachel Ablow points out, although Scarry is by training a Victorian critic, her work, focused as it is on the contemporary infliction of torture, did not address Victorian culture. Its central premises were nonetheless drawn, she suggests, from nineteenth-century philosophy, in particular the development of earlier notions of sympathy, and of attempts to use “emotional response as an engine of social change” (135). In Victorian Pain, Ablow follows Lucy Bending and the more recent work of historian Joanna Bourke in focusing on specific nineteenth-century formations of the experience of pain. Where Ablow differs from these studies is in the philosophical rigor she brings to the task, as she ranges across work by John Stuart Mill, Harriet Martineau,...
SALLY SHUTTLEWORTH is professor of English literature at the University of Oxford. Her books include The Mind of the Child: Child Development in Literature, Science and Medicine, 1840–1910 (2010) and the coauthored Anxious Times: Medicine and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2019), which grew out of the European Research Council project she directed, “Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives.”
Sally Shuttleworth; Painful Subjects. Novel 1 August 2020; 53 (2): 275–279. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-8309623
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