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American Dolorologies

Pain, Sentimentalism, Biopolitics

Simon Strick

Publication Year: 2014

Offers a critical history of the role of pain, suffering, and compassion in democratic culture.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Writing is one of the few forms of self‑abuse in which a helping hand is sometimes necessary, says mystery novelist Walter Satterthwait. My affinity, thankfulness, and love go to the many, many helping hands, eyes, minds, and institutions who were instrumental in the shaping, refining, and getting...

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One: What Is Dolorology?

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pp. 1-18

In October 1852, one of the chief medical authorities in the emerging field of clinical obstetrics, Dr. James Young Simpson, wrote a ferocious letter to his London colleague Dr. Henry Ramsbotham. Simpson, the first medical professional to administer anesthetic agents in childbirth, made a comparison...

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Two: Sublime Pain and the Subject of Sentimentalism

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pp. 19-50

The chapters of Burke’s Enquiry, when taken only by their titles, seem composed of quotes from the motorcar pages of men’s magazines or pulp adventure novels (“Terror,” “Difficulty,” “Magnificence”), and the cosmetic advice sections of women’s magazines (“Proportion not the cause of Beauty,”...

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Three: Anesthesia, Birth pain,and Civilization

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pp. 51-92

The case of infamous nineteenth‑century surgeon J. Marion Sims, father of American gynecology and inventor of the speculum, exhibits a dolorological constellation that is of interest to this chapter. It introduces three bodies materialized through their proximity to pain: the compassionate white male...

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Four: Picturing Racial Pain

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pp. 93-146

On December 3, 1861, Frederick Douglass delivered a lecture entitled “Pictures and Progress,” discussing the popular craze for daguerreotypes and photographic portraits. While his contemporaries Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson had enthusiastically celebrated the new medium‘s “egalitarian spirit”...

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Five: Late Modern Pain

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pp. 147-168

The concluding argument concerns late modern figurations of the body in pain. Spectacles of pain have proliferated in many forms in the contemporary American public sphere—if indeed pain hasn’t become its primary and all‑pervading obsession. Confessional TV shows exchange narratives of...


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pp. 169-198

Works Cited

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pp. 199-218


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pp. 219-230

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438450230
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438450216

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 871257343
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Dolorologies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Pain -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Suffering -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • United States -- Civilization.
  • Sentimentalism.
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