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The Representation of Bodily Pain in Late
                        Nineteenth–Century English Culture$
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Lucy Bending

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198187172

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187172.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 January 2022

Pain and Language

Pain and Language

Chapter:
(p.82) 3 Pain and Language
Source:
The Representation of Bodily Pain in Late Nineteenth–Century English Culture
Author(s):

Lucy Bending

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187172.003.0004

It has become a commonplace that pain defies language and, as such, that it is unique as a sensation that cannot be described or shared: sufferers suffer alone, unable to translate their physical pains into words. This chapter looks into the arguments of those who promote this line of reasoning, most notably Virginia Woolf and Elaine Scarry, and refutes their claims both theoretically and by arguing from the rhetorical strategies of Victorian writers. The flaw in such arguments is that their proponents refuse to accept that pain can enter into language and be accommodated by its structures — whether descriptive or metaphorical — in the face of a paucity of directly expressive words for painful sensations. In response, the chapter schematizes the conventional attitudes towards physical pain, outside the realms of medicine and Christianity, that were open to the Victorian sufferer and writer.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Elaine Scarry, pain language, social conventions, physical pain, Victorian literature

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