Synopses & Reviews
Renowned scholar Elaine Scarry's book, The Body in Pain
, has been called by Susan Sontag "extraordinary...large-spirited, heroically truthful." The Los Angeles Times
called it "brilliant, ambitious, and controversial." Now Oxford has collected some of Scarry's most provocative writing. This collection of essays deals with the complicated problems of representation in diverse literary and cultural genres--from her beloved sixth-century philosopher Boethius, through the nineteenth-century novel, to twentieth-century advertising.
qWe often assume that all areas of experience are equally available for representation. On the contrary, these essays present discussions of experiences and concepts that challenge, defeat, or block representation. Physical pain, physical labor, the hidden reflexes of cognition and its judgments about the coherence or incoherence of the world are all phenomena that test the resources of language. Using primarily literary sources (works by Hardy, Beckett, Boethius, Thackeray, and others), Scarry also draws on painting, medical advertising, and philosophic dialogue to probe the limitations of expression and representation.
Resisting Representation celebrates language. It looks at the problematic areas of expression not at the moment when representation is resisted, but at the moment when that resistance is at last overcome, thus suggesting a domain of plenitude and inclusion.
"This book of five essays both extends and modifies Scarry's earlier work on the cultural significance of the body, its literary and philosophical representations. In readings of texts ranging from pain reliever ads to the writings of Hardy, of Beckett, of Thackeray, and of Boethius, Scarry traces the ways the body has been formed and deformed by the human imagination. Her readings together offer us new ways of thinking about bodily form and mentality. Always deeply learned and provocative, this book documents a history of the body where life and thought intersect. Scarry's essays remind us that that intersection is forever complex, often turbulent." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"[Scarry's] thesis evokes instant recognition (`I should have thought of that!'), and her readings of Hardy, Beckett, Thackeray, and Boethius are elegant and convincing. Resisting Representation made me see in a new way not only the works Scarry discusses, but also other literature; for a book of criticism, I can think of no higher praise."--Harvard Review
Through her readings of texts by Hardy, Beckett, Boethius, Thackeray and others, the author examines the ability of language to accommodate conceptions of truth and cognition. She also analyzes phenomena such as physical pain and physical labour.
About the Author
Author of the renowned The Body in Pain
(Oxford, 1985), noted scholar Elaine Scarry
is Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University.