Gothic Bodies: The Politics of Pain in Romantic Fiction

By Steven Bruhm | Go to book overview

Notes
Introduction
1. For an excellent study of the gender problems in sensibility, see G. J. Barker- Benfield , Culture of Sensibility. On Keats and pain, see Hermione de Almeida, Romantic Medicine.
Chapter One
1. Charles Robert Maturin would agree that observed suffering teaches us to value our own position of safety, but he would disagree that such pleasure must be far removed. In Melmoth the Wanderer, one of his villains explains:

It is actually possible to become amateurs in suffering. I have heard of men who have travelled into countries where horrible executions were to be daily witnessed, for the sake of that excitement which the sight of suffering never fails to give, from the spectacle of a tragedy, or an auto da fe, down to the writhings of the meanest reptile on whom you can inflict torture, and feel that torture is the result of your own power. It is a species of feeling of which we can never divest ourselves, -- a triumph over those whose sufferings have placed them below us, and no wonder -- suffering is always an indication of weakness, -- we glory in our impenetrability. (284-285; emphasis original)

2. Coleridge muses on a similar point in a notebook entry of January 1804:

Images in sickly profusion by & in which I talk in certain diseased States of my Stomach / Great and innocent minds devalesce, as Plants & Trees, into beautiful Diseases / Genius itself, many of the most brillant sorts of English Beauty, & even extraordinary Dispositions to Virtue, Restlessness in good -- are they not themselves, as I have often said, but beautiful Diseases -- species of the Genera, Hypochondriasis, Scrofula, & Consumption! ( Notebook Vol. I #1822)

3. Contrary to its name, however, the guillotine was not invented by Guillotin. As Dorinda Outram notes, the guillotine was already a popular tool of execution in fifteenth-century Italy, and appears frequently in art from the period. The guillotine simply became more popular in France because it was more foolproof and less messy than the axe (especially if that axe were in the hands of a reluctant executioner who might flinch at the last minute). See Outram, Body106ff.
4. Indeed, according to the OED, "guillotine" also became the late nineteenth-century name for a surgical tool used to remove the tonsils or the uvula.

-151-

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Gothic Bodies: The Politics of Pain in Romantic Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1. Pain, Politics, and Romantic Sensibility 1
  • 2 - Imagining Pain 30
  • 3. Spectacular Pain: Politics and the Romantic Theatre 59
  • Intermezzo 92
  • 4. The Epistemology of the Tortured Body 94
  • 5. Aesthetics and Anesthetics at the Revolution 120
  • Conclusion 146
  • Notes 151
  • Works Cited 165
  • Index 175
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