Representations of the Body in Pain: Antiquities, the Enlightenment and the Pageantry of Museums
thesisposted on 18.10.2016, 00:00 authored by Mariam A. Usmani
This paper investigates visual/artistic representations of pain with a specific focus on Hellenistic sculpture from the Mediterranean world, but also inspired by a range of literary and visual works from modern film to contemporary philosophy. The experience of pain is never only one thing—physical, mental, emotional. Therefore, the representation and, by extension, the outsider’s interpretation and relation to that pain, is similarly complex. As the artist’s approach to pain may change, inclusion of the different kinds of representations is essential. Given the difficulty and the magnitude of the subject, a different kind of approach to writing was necessary. The human experience is not limited to a single time period or one particular medium. This paper, therefore, must cross over boundaries of disciplinary knowledge. The experience and representation of pain goes beyond the limitations of focusing on one single time period or geography, and cannot follow a single and narrow paradigm of pain. The methodology found in this paper is designed to be different than what is customary. It is designed to be a provocative piece exploring the many pathways to and from pain. Pain is a cornerstone of the human experience; art, in its many forms, can be regarded as windows into this human experience. Art, whether it is sculpture, poetry, photography or film, strives to be a medium by which pain can be effectively communicated. I employ the writings of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and W. B. Yeats on pain to illuminate a way to access and understand the visual representations of pain with the aid of these rich literary articulations of suffering, rather than an analysis of their literary works. Instead of deconstructing Woolf, Plath and Yeats, they are invited to sit down to the table to discuss pain and its relationship to the experience of being.