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I'm giving this 4 stars, but that's purely on the strength of the first section of the book. I'll get my key complaint out of the way here--- the final section seems largely an afterthought, and could be a separate book. The middle section--- on warfare ---isn't as tightly reasoned as the first, key section on torture. But that section taken alone is powerful and cogent and a key text for understanding what torture does.So much of the debate over "enhanced interrogation" in the last nine years h...
Let's start with that first section, the one about torture. Essential reading, absolutely essential, thought-provoking reading, and a piece of critical theory in its best, most provocative, and most lucid tradition, that of Foucault, Adorno, and Barthes.Then we get into the section on war. Not as interesting, but still serviceable.Then there's some biblical stuff. Same.Then there's a truly appalling discourse on Marx, which is the worst sort of Marxist writing, in that it completely abandons Mar...
My main observation when reading this book was the self-awareness of the prose. Even the length and construction of the sentences is self-conscience, full of explainitory clauses and careful definitions of things that do not need to be defined. The style befits the subject matter, of course, but detracts from "The Body in Pain" as a critical synthesis. Instead, it becomes a "surviviour's text". Further, for a book that is explicitly about the body, descriptions bodily experiences are very thin.
I really wanted to learn from and appreciate this book, and gave it many charitable attempts. The premise laid out in the first chapter was gripping and promising: Scarry will examine how expressing and representing physical pain (e.g., putting words to our pain so others can understand) is a complicated, difficult process, laden with political implications. Then, Scarry will show how her account of pain sheds light on the broader phenomenon of human creation as a whole -- how we create material...
I thought I would never finish this book. Instead, it took me 20 years. I bought it and first tried to read it in the 1990s--I made it through the first section about torture but it was so taxing and distressing that I needed to take a break before reading any more, so I set it aside and didn't pick it up back.The same thing happened in the 2000s. But then someone told me that the first section is the hardest section in terms of arousing distress at the plight of others, that the other sections
This took so long to read. It is exceedingly abstract. It was suggested I needed to read chapter 1 to incorporate her argument about torture into my work on fictional and autobiographical representations of torture and incarceration. Her ideas about torture are ground-breaking. However, I recommend checking out Alexander Weheliye's critique of her suggestion that the tortured utterly lose their humanity as they lose language. He asks if a human cry doesn't express itself as an idea. Along the li...
Part one: Gold. Wordy, but is an excellent discussion of how torture breaks down not just language, but our perception of civilization all together. While her views on war are very theoretical, they still make for an interesting read. The book should have stopped there. Part two: No, thank you. Not only is it incredibly difficult to read, but the author jumps from discussions of the likes of Churchill to Moses and Marx. Scarry has failed in creating a work that is accessible to anyone without a
I am only a few chapters in and I already find this book utterly revelatory. The chapters on the medical, legal and political discourse on pain in re: torture feel far more contemporary than when the book was written, in 1985. I feel this is a necessary book, for me as a pain sufferer, and for understanding, for lack of better term, the human condition.
An academic and not workbooky look at pain. As my pain returns after some healing from the surgery, I am discouraged and need some framework for pain that is not just a series of to do lists for self improvement.This will live in bathroom, where I sit and steam to distract myself. It starts with torture... not exactly the usual bathroom book. It's no Calvin & Hobbes!
mixed bag but when it's good it is
this was mildly disappointing to say the least; or, i could have just read marx
Reading this in the dark as Saturn returns, I can’t give it the time, although every sentence deserves it.‘....many people’s experience of the medical community would bear out... the conclusion that physicians do not trust (hence, hear) the human voice, that they in effect perceive the voice of the patient as an “unreliable narrator” of bodily events, a voice which must be bypassed as quickly as possible so that they can get around and behind it to the physical events themselves.’
This has taken me MONTHS to read because it is so densely packed with profound thought, I had to split it into bite-size chunks (and I studied Philosophy of Religion at Cambridge; go figure). It's an incredible treatise on the phenomenology of pain and the external world, and how that relates to our understanding of our experience. Not for the academically faint-hearted, but if thinking about how we think about things is your bag, you should definitely give this a try.
This book provides a thorough critique of the mind/body split that dominates modernist thought. Besides being a pre-eminent scholar, Elaine Scarry is also somewhat of a renaissance woman, having at somepoint or another turning herself into a leading expert on rocket trajectory or, in this case, torture techniques. This makes this read both fascinating and somewhat stomach-turning. Enjoy!
Great first section, thought-provoking, and strangely inspirational in terms of thinking about the craft of writing, i.e. making and unmaking a character's world. Had to skim the rest. Wish there was an outline of points. I felt like the rest of the book sort of went in circles and I couldn't make connections, but maybe that was just me.
Spectacularly original and insightful book on an impossible subject.
Read selected chapters.
It took me quite a long time to make my way through The Body in Pain, for several reasons. I should mention this is quite far afield from my background, I have no training in philosophy modern or otherwise, no real exposure to Marx beyond his basic historic context, and only a few fairly neutered Sunday-school versions of biblical stories still lingering back in the foggy memories of my youth. While other reviewers are critiquing the details of the substance, I have nowhere near enough context t...
The beginning of Elaine Scarry's 1985 classic, "The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World," focuses on torture, and how torture is used in warfare and other situations.At first, I was engaged by the text. I also kept expecting the author to mention rape. With each page I turned, I thought: "Okay, surely this page will at least *mention* rape, even if Scarry doesn't want to analyze it in depth." That assumption turned out to be false. The author never mentions rape. Not once. Despite...
This book can be understood in two halves, the first one is the one that really focuses on the "pain" part of the book, the second part focuses more on how the body acts and is acted upon and self actualized by humans and their societies.I loved the first part, I struggled through the second, mostly because it starts to delve deep into Hebrew scriptures and Marxism, and while it does and ok job of explaining the context, I felt a bit lost at times, like I was missing knowledge in these areas to
The Body in Pain is a philosophical text that seeks to examine the concept of pain in relation to language, and its ability to "make" and "unmake" a view of the world. I honestly believe that the introduction of this book should be required reading for every adult on the planet. The bulk of this introduction is devoted to discussing how language is ultimately insufficient in allowing a person to describe or express pain. As a chronic pain sufferer, I could never quite put into words why every do...
This is a scholarly work in the sense that the argument is evidenced with such obsessive detail that the prose is rendered extremely dry and repetitive. The author’s voice also has a kind of slippery quality which is difficult to pin down; focussed concentration is often required if meaning is to be discerned. Despite this it is full of interesting observations about a whole range of phenomena; the exegesis of the themes of embodiment, belief, and material production in the Old Testament are par...
"In the long run, we will see that the story of physical pain becomes as well a story about the expansive nature of human sentience, the felt-fact of aliveness that is often sheerly happy, just as the story of expressing physical pain eventually opens into the wider frame of invention. The elemental 'as if' of the person in pain ('felt as if'...) will lead out into the array of counterfactual revisions (pain from cold, therefore coat) entailed in making. "
Got me through my dissertation and for this alone I am forever grateful. This is academic writing that's impactful, pithy, and bright, steering clear of the greatest pitfalls of its genre (highbrow style, complicated-for-the-sake-of-it lexicon, oratory condescension, protracted philosophising) and managing instead to speak in accessible yet poetic terms about the very thing it deems inexpressible.
3.5/5It took me a while to finish this one. It's the fault of the second partThe first part about torture and war was amazing read. A lot of the information in it is worth every minute. The second part .. That was disappointing. It was so dull and just hard to read. And there were so many explanations of things that didn't need any explanation, that just made reading a punishment. I would recommend it for the first part.
It could just be me, but this book was exhilarating in the first half and an absolute slog in the second. A lot was going on in my life at the time, though. I'll revisit it in higher education, I'm sure.
I like the beginning, when the book was actually about pain, but then it strays way too much off topic for my liking. It's just not focused enough and was not what I was hoping to get when I read the title and blurb.
Inconsistent. At times penetratingly pertinent, at others frustratingly obtuse and seemingly disjointed.The chapters on Torture, God (in the Judeo-Christian tradition) and Marx were my three favorites.
Amazing take on the politics behind commercialization of pain