Three Examples in Search of a Conclusion
This chapter argues the conclusion begins by considering, in order, the following three examples: (1) Der Chinese des Schmerzes (The Chinaman of Pain, 1983), a novel by Peter Handke; (2) the famous opening to Lu Xun's collection of short stories, Nahan (A Call to Arms, 1922); (3) The recent rise in exhibitions of plasticized human bodies, which appear under the names Body Worlds and Bodies: The Exhibition. Each of these, this chapter argues, could form an endpoint to this book: the Handke philosophical, the Lu Xun geographic, and the Body Worlds material. But each of these indicates, I argue, the complex dimensionality of the history of Chinese suffering, and none of them makes for an adequate closure to a story that has not yet concluded. The chapter concludes, therefore, with a section called “Toward Sympaesthetics,” which is the book's most intense engagement with the work of Elaine Scarry. This section ultimately argues that the point is not only that sympathetic exchange and representational exchange are “like” each other (which they are), but that the set of mimetic strategies through which we read representations should be turned to the reading of sympathies as well, partly because it is the nature of sympathies to be complex and intertwined with history, and partly because this kind of sustained attention to the making of sympathy will tend to undermine the normalizing assumptions about its naturalness.
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