Speaking Pain in Victorian Literature and Culture


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project argues that Victorian writers consistently describe pain in terms that run counter to our usual assumptions that pain is essentially private, prior to or even resistant to language, and unavailable to doubt. Instead, they offer a model of pain that refuses to imagine the subject as prior to the social, that resists the reduction of pain to a medical or physiological problem, and so too negates any too-clear distinction between physical and emotional suffering. Such invocations insist on pain as an ethical and a political problem rather than simply a medical or even a psychological one. In addition, they call attention to pain’s literary dimension, revolving as they do around the nature, limitations, and resources of language.