Introduction: The Body in Pain in Irish Literature and Culture
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This volume elucidates the ways the pained and suffering body has been registered and mobilised in specifically Irish contexts across more than 400 years of literature and culture. The expansive historical landscape of this collection is populated by wounded, torn and broken bodies; bodies damaged by war, by political and sexual violence, and by economic and social marginalisation; bodies ravaged by starvation and illness and destroyed by grief and death. Conversely, that same landscape features individuals and communities reconstituted and affirmed by experiences of pain: marshalling their afflictions into wider symbolic narratives (religious, political, social), suffering becomes emblematic of fuller subjecthood. There is no singular approach to what pain means: the material addressed here covers diverse cultural forms produced in response to different historical circumstances in terms that confirm our understanding of how pain—whether endured or inflicted, witnessed or remediated—is culturally coded. It is as open to ongoing redefinition as the Ireland that features in all of the essays gathered here. What unites these bodies in pain is that in one way or another all express or attempt to express their suffering, and that that suffering reflects and refracts diverse Irish experiences and subjectivities. Each chapter critically attends to pain and suffering and analyses its signifying power. Cumulatively, these essays underscore the persistent and pervasive presence of pain in the constitution of self and wider communities of belonging in Ireland as elsewhere. A shared concern is summarised by Patricia Palmer in this volume’s second chapter in a deft renewal and reversal of Fredric Jameson’s dictum ‘history is what hurts’: she suggests instead, as does so much of the work in this collection, that ‘hurts make history’.
KeywordsShame Body Social Memory Hunger Strike Great Famine Affective Exchange
Articles, Books, Pamphlets, Television Programmes and Websites
- Boddice, Rob, ed., Pain and Emotion in Modern History (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014).Google Scholar
- Nevin, Kathleen, You’ll Never Go Back (Boston: Bruce Humphries Press, 1946).Google Scholar
- Temple, John, The Irish Rebellion, or An History of the Beginnings and first Progress of the Generall Rebellion raised within the Kingdom of Ireland (London, 1646).Google Scholar