Travis Chi Wing Lau
University of Pennsylvania
Through four single-author case studies (Jeremy Bentham, the Marquis de Sade, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Percy Bysshe Shelley), Jeremy Davies considers the interrelationship between pain and literary production in Romantic writing. Intervening in both pain studies and Romanticism, his book smartly reconsiders the Romantic period not as a bizarre break in a teleological narrative of Enlightenment progress but as a crucial period where we might historicize shifting conceptions of pain outside of the frameworks of an increasingly professionalized medical establishment. For Davies, pain represents a valuable historical topos that can enable us to “see some Romantic-period thinkers in a new light” (xiii).
One of the book’s most useful chapters is the first, which offers a concise yet comprehensive review of contemporary pain studies. While simultaneously justifying pain as an object of historical inquiry,...more