As much a doubter as a believer, Emily Dickinson often expressed views about God in general—and God with respect to suffering in particular. In many of her poems, she contemplates the question posed by countless theologians and poets before her: how can one reconcile a benevolent deity with evil in the world?
Examining Dickinson’s perspectives on the role played by a supposedly omnipotent and all-loving God in a world marked by violence and pain, Patrick Keane initially focuses on her poem “Apparently with no surprise,” in which frost, a “blonde Assassin,” beheads a “happy Flower,” a spectacle presided over by “an Approving God.” This tiny lyric,Keane shows, epitomizes the poet’s embattled relationship with the deity of her Calvinist tradition.
Although the problem of sufferingis usually couched in terms of natural disasters or human injustice, Dickinson found new ways of considering it. By choosing a flower as her innocent “victim,” she bypassed standard “answers” to the dilemma (suffering as justified punishment for wickedness, or as attributable to the assertion of free will) in order to focus on the problem in its purest symbolic form. Keane goes on toprovide close readings of many of Dickinson’s poems and letters engaging God, showing how she addressed the challenges posed—by her own experience and by an innate skepticism reinforced by a nascent Darwinism—to the argument from design and the concept of a benevolent deity.
More than a dissection of a single poem, Keane’s book is a sweeping personal reflection on literature and religion, faith and skepticism, theology and science. He traces the evolving history of the Problem of Suffering from the Hebrew Scriptures (Job and Ecclesiastes), through the writings of Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas, to the most recent theological and philosophical studies of the problem. Keane is interested in how readers today respond to Emily Dickinson’s often combative poems about God; at the same time, she is located as a poet whose creative life coincided with the momentous changes and challenges to religious faith associated with Darwin andNietzsche.Keane also considers Dickinson’s poems and letters in the context of the great Romantic tradition, as it runs fromMilton throughWordsworth, demonstrating how thework of these poets (perhaps surprisingly in the case of the latter)helps illuminate Dickinson’s poetry and thought.
Because Dickinson the poet was also Emily the gardener, her love of flowers was an appropriate vehicle for her observations on mortality and her expressions of doubt. Emily Dickinson’s Approving God is a graceful study that reveals not only the audacity of Dickinson’s thought but also its relevance to modern readers. In light of ongoing confrontations between Darwinism and design, science and literal conceptions of a divine Creator, it is an equally provocative read for students of literature and students of life.
How do we come to terms with what can't be forgotten? How do we bear witness to extreme experiences that challenge the limits of language?
This remarkable volume explores the emotional, political, and aesthetic dimensions of testimonies to trauma as they translate private anguish into public space. Nancy K. Miller and Jason Tougaw have assembled a collection of essays that trace the legacy of the Holocaust and subsequent events that have shaped twentieth-century history and still haunt contemporary culture. Extremities combines personal and scholarly approaches to a wide range of texts that bear witness to shocking and moving accounts of individual trauma: Toni Morrison's Beloved, Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus," Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss, Tatana Kellner's Holocaust art, Ruth Klüger's powerful memoir Still Alive, and Binjamin Wilkomirski's controversial narrative of concentration camp suffering Fragments. The book grapples with the cultural and social effects of historical crises, including the Montreal Massacre, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the medical catastrophes of HIV/AIDS and breast cancer.
Developing insights from autobiography, psychoanalysis, feminist theory and gender studies, the authors demonstrate that testimonies of troubling and taboo subjects do more than just add to the culture of confession–-they transform identities and help reimagine the boundaries of community. Extremities offers an original and timely interpretive guide to the growing field of trauma studies. The volume includes essays by Ross Chambers, Sandra M. Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Marianne Hirsch, Wayne Koestenbaum, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and others.
In Knowing the Suffering of Others, legal scholar Austin Sarat brings together essays that address suffering as it relates to the law, highlighting the ways law imagines suffering and how pain and suffering become jurisprudential facts.
From fetal imaging to end-of-life decisions, torts to international human rights, domestic violence to torture, and the law of war to victim impact statements, the law is awash in epistemological and ethical problems associated with knowing and imagining suffering. In each of these domains we might ask: How well do legal actors perceive and understand suffering in such varied domains of legal life? What problems of representation and interpretation bedevil efforts to grasp the suffering of others? What historical, political, literary, cultural, and/or theological resources can legal actors and citizens draw on to understand the suffering of others?
In Knowing the Suffering of Others, Austin Sarat presents legal scholarship that explores these questions and puts the problem of suffering at the center of thinking about law. The contributors to this volume do not regard pain and suffering as objective facts of a universe remote from law; rather they examine how both are discursively constructed in and by law. They examine how pain and suffering help construct and give meaning to the law as we know it. The authors attend to the various ways suffering appears in law as well as the different forms of suffering that require the law’s attention.
Throughout this book law is regarded as a domain in which the meanings of pain and suffering are contested, and constituted, as well as an instrument for inflicting suffering or for providing or refusing its relief. It challenges scholars, lawyers, students, and policymakers to ask how various legal actors and audiences understand the suffering of others.
Montré D. Carodine / Cathy Caruth / Alan L. Durham / Bryan K.Fair / Steven H. Hobbs / Gregory C. Keating
/ Linda Ross Meyer / Meredith M. Render / Jeannie Suk / John Fabian Witt
Compelling, timely, and essential reading for healthcare providers, Meaning in Suffering addresses the multiplicity of meanings suffering brings to all it touches: patients, families, health workers, and human science professionals. Examining suffering in writing that is both methodologically rigorous and accessible, the contributors preserve first-hand experiences using narrative ethnography, existential hermeneutics, hermeneutic phenomenology, and traditional ethnography. They offer nuanced insights into suffering as a human condition experienced by persons deserving of dignity, empathy, and understanding. Collectively, these essays demonstrate that understanding the suffering of the "other" reveals something vital about the moral courage required to heal—and stay humane—in the face of suffering.
Winner, Nursing Research Category, American Journal of Nursing
In the late medieval era, pain could be a symbol of holiness, disease, sin, or truth. It could be encouragement to lead a moral life, a punishment for wrong doing, or a method of healing. Exploring the varied depictions and descriptions of pain—from martyrdom narratives to practices of torture and surgery—The Modulated Scream attempts to decode this culture of suffering in the Middle Ages.
Esther Cohen brings to life the cacophony of howls emerging from the written record of physicians, torturers, theologians, and mystics. In considering how people understood suffering, explained it, and meted it out, Cohen discovers that pain was imbued with multiple meanings. While interpreting pain was the province only of the rarified elite, harnessing pain for religious, moral, legal, and social purposes was a practice that pervaded all classes of Medieval life. In the overlap of these contradicting attitudes about what pain was for—how it was to be understood and who should use it—Cohen reveals the distinct and often conflicting cultural traditions and practices of late medieval Europeans. Ambitious and wide-ranging, The Modulated Scream is intellectual history at its most acute.
Currently in medicine, theories of pain regard pain and suffering as one and the same. It is assumed that if pain ceases, suffering stops. These theories are not substantiated in clinical practice, where some patients report little pain and extreme suffering and other individuals have a lot of pain and virtually no suffering. Based on the results of a scientific questionnaire, as well as evidence from and conversations with hundreds of patients, Beverley M. Clarke argues convincingly that suffering is often separate from pain, has universal measurable characteristics, and requires suffering-specific treatments that are sensitive to the patient’s individual psychology and cultural background. According to Clarke, suffering occurs when individuals who have experienced a life change because of medical issues perceive a threat to their idea of self and personhood. This kind of suffering, based on a lost “dream of self,” affects every aspect of an individual’s life. Treating the patient as a whole person—an approach that Clarke strongly advocates—is an issue overlooked in the majority of chronic care and traumatic injury treatments, focused as they are on pain reduction. Clarke believes passionately that the management of suffering in medicine is the responsibility of all health care practitioners. Until they come to identify and understand suffering as distinct from pain, the entire health care system will continue to carry the financial and moral burden of incomplete diagnoses, inappropriate referrals for care, ineffective treatment interventions, and lost human potential.
A Philosophy of Tragedy
Christopher Hamilton Reaktion Books, 2016 Library of Congress BH301.T7H36 2016 | Dewey Decimal 128
A Philosophy of Tragedy explores the tragic condition of man in modernity. Nietzsche knew it, but so have countless characters in literature: that the modern age places us squarely before the reflection of our own tragic condition, our existence characterized by utmost contingency, homelessness, instability, unredeemed suffering, and broken morality.
Christopher Hamilton examines the works of philosophers, writers, and playwrights to offer a stirring account of our tragic condition, one that explores the nature of philosophy and the ways it has understood itself and its role to mankind. Ranging from the debate over the death of the tragedy to a critique of modern virtue ethics, from a new interpretation of the evil of Auschwitz to a look at those who have seen our tragic state as inherently inconsolable, he shows that tragedy has been a crucial part of the modern human experience, one from which we shouldn’t avert our eyes.
In Prophetic Politics, Philip J. Harold offers an original interpretation of the political dimension of Emmanuel Levinas’s thought. Harold argues that Levinas’s mature position in Otherwise Than Being breaks radically with the dialogical inclinations of his earlier Totality and Infinity and that transformation manifests itself most clearly in the peculiar nature of Levinas’s relationship to politics.
Levinas’s philosophy is concerned not with the ethical per se, in either its applied or its transcendent forms, but with the source of ethics. Once this source is revealed to be an anarchic interruption of our efforts to think the ethical, Levinas’s political claims cannot be read as straightforward ideological positions or principles for political action. They are instead to be understood “prophetically,” a position that Harold finds comparable to the communitarian critique of liberalism offered by such writers as Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor. In developing this interpretation, which runs counter to formative influences from the phenomenological tradition, Harold traces Levinas’s debt to phenomenological descriptions of such experiences as empathy and playfulness.
Prophetic Politics will highlight the relevance of the phenomenological tradition to contemporary ethical and political thought—a long-standing goal of the series—while also making a significant and original contribution to Levinas scholarship.
It’s right there in the Book of Job: “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Suffering is an inescapable part of the human condition—which leads to a question that has proved just as inescapable throughout the centuries: Why? Why do we suffer? Why do people die young? Is there any point to our pain, physical or emotional? Do horrors like hurricanes have meaning?
In Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering, Scott Samuelson tackles that hardest question of all. To do so, he travels through the history of philosophy and religion, but he also attends closely to the real world we live in. While always taking the question of suffering seriously, Samuelson is just as likely to draw lessons from Bugs Bunny as from Confucius, from his time teaching philosophy to prisoners as from Hannah Arendt’s attempts to come to terms with the Holocaust. He guides us through the arguments people have offered to answer this fundamental question, explores the many ways that we have tried to minimize or eliminate suffering, and examines people’s attempts to find ways to live with pointless suffering. Ultimately, Samuelson shows, to be fully human means to acknowledge a mysterious paradox: we must simultaneously accept suffering and oppose it. And understanding that is itself a step towards acceptance.
Wholly accessible, and thoroughly thought-provoking, Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering is a masterpiece of philosophy, returning the field to its roots—helping us see new ways to understand, explain, and live in our world, fully alive to both its light and its darkness.
Once called "America's greatest actress," renowned for the passion and power of her performances, Clara Morris (1847-1925) has been largely forgotten. A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage is the first full-length study of the actress's importance as a feminist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Detailing her daunting health problems and the changing tastes in entertainment that led to her retirement from the stage, Barbara Wallace Grossman explores Morris's dramatic reinvention as an author. During a second robust career, she published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and nine books—six works of fiction and three memoirs.
Grossman draws on the fifty-four-volume diary that Morris kept from 1868 until 1924, as well as on the manuscript fragments and notes of journalist George T. MacAdam, who died in 1929 before completing the actress's biography. Grossman provides a dramatic account of Morris's life and work from her troubled early years, through an unhappy marriage, morphine addiction, and invalidism, to the challenges of touring, the decline of her artistic reputation, and the demands of the writing career she pursued so tenaciously. A Spectacle of Suffering reveals how Morris, even after experiencing blindness and the loss of her home, livelihood, and family, did not succumb to despair and found comfort in the small pleasures of her circumscribed life.
A Spectacle of Suffering recovers an important figure in American theatre and ensures that Morris will be remembered not simply as an actress but as a respected writer and beloved public figure, admired for her courage in dealing with adversity. The book, which is enhanced by twenty-four illustrations, is the only published biography of Clara Morris. It is as much a tribute to the power of the human spirit as it is an effective means of exploring American theatre and society in the Gilded Age.
Still Here, Still Now
Robert Pack University of Chicago Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS3566.A28S75 2008 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Robert Pack is one of America’s most eminent nature poets, and his virtuoso talents are on glorious display in Still Here, Still Now, his nineteenth volume of verse. With styles ranging from lyric to narrative, and themes stretching from biblical concerns to meditations on contemporary science, Pack’s poetry is composed in strongly rhythmic cadences and a diction that is direct and accessible. In four different sections of thematically and stylistically divergent verse, Still Here, Still Now delivers many of the elements of Pack’s poetry readers have come to admire and expect—both the humorous and the elegiac.
The first section of the book contains traditional lyrics that celebrate family ties and seek consolations for the passing of personal and evolutionary time. The poems in this group address a named or unnamed auditor in a voice of intimate engagement. Featuring the most narrative selections in the book, the second section consists of fable-like stories, rich with innuendo and implication. The characters in these poems make choices that press against the events and circumstances that challenge and define them. Embodying what Harold Bloom has called Pack’s “courage to surmount suffering,” the poems of the third section are largely devoted to biblical themes and philosophical speculations on the meaning of happiness and the uses of suffering. Here, Pack’s empathy for the human condition as well as his forebodings about the prospect of human survival are on poignant display. The final section of the book turns to Pack's abiding interest in landscape and the ways in which the place one inhabits contains and animates our individual lives.
Ripe with many years, Pack remains a vital presence in American letters. Still Here, Still Now is an affecting and graceful addition to the oeuvre of a poet whose compelling and distinct voice will continue to resonate among his loyal readers.
For self-made artist and soldier Horace Pippin—who served in the 369th all-black infantry in World War I until he was wounded—war provided a formative experience that defined much of his life and work. His ability to transform combat service into canvases of emotive power, psychological depth, and realism showed not only how he viewed the world but also his mastery as a painter. In Suffering and Sunset, Celeste-Marie Bernier painstakingly traces Pippin’s life story of art as a life story of war.
Illustrated with more than sixty photographs, including works in various mediums—many in full color—this is the first intellectual history and cultural biography of Pippin. Working from newly discovered archives and unpublished materials, Bernier provides an in-depth investigation into the artist’s development of an alternative visual and textual lexicon and sheds light on his work in its aesthetic, social, and political contexts.
Suffering and Sunset illustrates Pippin’s status as a groundbreaking artist as it shows how this African American painter suffered from but also staged many artful resistances to racism in a white-dominated art world.
The history of medicine is much more than the story of doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Seeking to understand the patient’s perspective, historians scour the archives, searching for rare personal accounts. Bringing together a trove of more than 400 family letters by Charles Dwight Willard, Suffering in the Land of Sunshine provides a unique window into the experience of sickness.
A Los Angeles civic leader at the turn of the twentieth century, Willard is well known to historians of the West, but exclusively for his public life as a booster and reformer. Willard’s evocative story offers fresh insights into several critical issues, including how concepts of gender, class, and race shape patients’ representations of their illness, how expectations of cure affect the illness experience, how different cultures constrain the coping strategies of the sick, and why robust health is such an exalted value in certain societies.
Tears and Saints
E. M. Cioran University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress B105.S79C5613 1995 | Dewey Decimal 235.2
By the mid-1930s, Emil Cioran was already known as a leader of a new generation of politically committed Romanian intellectuals. Researching another, more radical book, Cioran was spending hours in a library poring over the lives of saints. As a modern hagiographer, Cioran "dreamt" himself "the chronicler of these saints' falls between heaven and earth, the intimate knower of the ardors in their hearts, the historian of God's insomniacs." Inspired by Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, Cioran "searched for the origin of tears." He asked himself if saints could be "the sources of tears' better light."
"Who can tell?" he wrote in the first paragraph of this book, first published in Romania in 1937. "To be sure, tears are their trace. Tears did not enter the world through the saints; but without them we would never have known that we cry because we long for a lost paradise." By following in their traces, "wetting the soles of one's feet in their tears," Cioran hoped to understand how a human being can renounce being human. Written in Cioran's characteristic aphoristic style, this flamboyant, bold, and provocative book is one of his most important—and revelatory—works.
Cioran focuses not on martyrs or heroes but on the mystics—primarily female—famous for their keening spirituality and intimate knowledge of God. Their Christianity was anti-theological, anti-institutional, and based solely on intuition and sentiment. Many, such as Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross, have produced classic works of mystical literature; but Cioran celebrates many more minor and unusual figures as well.
Following Nietzsche, he focuses explicitly on the political element hidden in saints' lives. In his hands, however, their charitable deeds are much less interesting than their thirst for pain and their equally powerful capacity to endure it. Behind their suffering and their uncanny ability to renounce everything through ascetic practices, Cioran detects a fanatical will to power.
"Like Nietzsche, Cioran is an important religious thinker. His book intertwines God and music with passion and tears. . . . [Tears and Saints] has a chillingly contemporary ring that makes this translation important here and now."—Booklist
A veteran of the US war in Iraq commits suicide, and his brother joins with four friends in search of ways to protest the war. Together they undertake a series of small-scale bombings until an explosion claims one of their own. This grave and elegant novel is an elegy for these two deaths and the war itself.
They Dragged Them Through the Streets is a bold meditation on idealism, anger, and the American home front’s experience of today’s wars. This is an innovative work in the great tradition of war literature and a singular chronicle of one generation’s conflicts.
The American Civil War is often seen as the first modern war, not least because of its immense suffering. Yet unlike later conflicts, it did not produce an outpouring of disillusionment or cynicism, as most people continued to portray the war in highly sentimental and patriotic terms. While scholars typically dismiss this everyday writing as simplistic or naïve, Frances M. Clarke argues that we need to reconsider the letters, diaries, songs, and journalism penned by Union soldiers and their caregivers to fully understand the war’s impact and meaning.
In War Stories, Clarke revisits the most common stories that average Northerners told in hopes of redeeming their suffering and loss—stories that enabled people to make sense of their hardship, and to express their beliefs about religion, community, and personal character. From tales of Union soldiers who died heroically to stories of tireless volunteers who exemplified the Republic’s virtues, War Stories sheds new light on this transitional moment in the history of war, emotional culture, and American civic life.
This book can best be described as an extended meditation on suffering, phenomenological in method and dialectical in point of view. The angle the author takes is that of moral self-examination rather that conventional scholarly inquiry, and his aim is to think through and evaluate a fundamental claim of our culture, from Aeschylus to Solzhenitsyn, that suffering is the greatest spiritual teacher.
To bring the argument closer to home, Professor Miller focuses on the experience of crisis as the undermining of our attempts, at all costs, to keep control of our lives. This leads him to discuss topics such as the nature of vulnerability, the difference—as sketched by Heidegger—between ordinary fear and metaphysical dread, the ordinary avoidance of suffering, and the heroic willingness to embrace it exemplified by Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra.
But this is a philosophical essay, not a historical monograph, and Miller's goal is to lead the reader ever deeper in to the heart of crisis where all our illusions about control are stripped away and we forced to face, like Oedipus, the harshest reality of all: that even our existence is not something we can claim as our own. It is here, and only here, Miller claims, the issue of religious conversion can be and must be seriously faced.
This is a demanding book, as exhilarating as it is relentless in its unmasking of the evasions and duplicities with which we shore up our day-to-day lives. The late William F. Lynch, SJ, author of Christ and Apollo, called it "a profoundly moral study of man." To read it is to risk changing your life.
The nature of well-being is one of the most enduring and elusive subjects of human inquiry. Well-Being draws upon the latest scientific research to transform our understanding of this ancient question. With contributions from leading authorities in psychology, social psychology, and neuroscience, this volume presents the definitive account of current scientific efforts to understand human pleasure and pain, contentment and despair. The distinguished contributors to this volume combine a rigorous analysis of human sensations, emotions, and moods with a broad assessment of the many factors, from heredity to nationality, that bear on our well-being. Using the tools of experimental science, the contributors confront the puzzles of human likes and dislikes. Why do we grow accustomed and desensitized to changes in our lives, both good and bad? Does our happiness reflect the circumstances of our lives or is it determined by our temperament and personality? Why do humans acquire tastes for sensations that are initially painful or unpleasant? By examining the roots of our everyday likes and dislikes, the book also sheds light on some of the more extreme examples of attraction and aversion, such as addiction and depression. Among its wide ranging inquiries, Well-Being examines systematic differences in moods and behaviors between genders, explaining why women suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety than men, but are also more inclined to express positive emotions. The book also makes international comparisons, finding that some countries' populations report higher levels of happiness than others. The contributors deploy an array of methods, from the surveys and questionnaires of social science to psychological and physiological experiments, to develop a comprehensive new approach to the study of well-being. They show how the sensory pleasures of the body can tells us something about the higher pleasures of the mind and even how the effectiveness of our immune system can depend upon the health of our social relationships.