Brief Description of Course: Widely understood as a bodily experience, pain appears to unfold in the interiority of one’s being. For this reason, it feels most intimate. Yet because this intimacy does not make it readily available to expression or representation, it also appears rather distant and elusive. Or, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf, love is vocal, pain virtually mute. That this paradox haunts the discourse on pain is, as any number of oral, literary, and visual works of art from Munsch’s “The Scream” and Suleri’s Meatless Days to Morrison’s Beloved and Dellaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil, would show, virtually irrefutable. Yet the fact that these texts exist, and that writing continues to be inspired by pain, also suggests that, far from being mute, pain speaks. Does pain enable or repress speech, or does it do both? If it does both, in what idiom does it do so? What might a study of (literary) works of art that thematize pain or are inspired by it disclose to us about the idiom in which such art attempt to come to terms with the etiologies, symptoms, and pathologies of pain in space and time? To pose questions of this kind to works of art that inscribe pain or memories of pain is not to cast such works as repositories of “the truth” of pain. Rather, it is to see how they, and the artists who make them, grapple with pain.
Required Reading: TBA
First Three Authors/Texts: Achebe, Things Fall Apart; Suleri, Meatless Days; Rhodes, Paper Cuts: A Memoir.
Method of Instruction: Primarily open as well as structured discussions, along with occasional lectures (pre-class preparation is vital).Method of Evaluation: Two short essays (4-5 pages max. each) (40%); one oral presentation (15-20 max.) (20%); and a final research essay (10-12 pages max.) (40%).