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The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers Hardcover – 26 Jun 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (26 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199689423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199689422
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.8 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

Joanna Bourke, in The Story of Pain, provides a highly original and thought-provoking study ofthe modern experiences of pain with the potential to open up innumerable areas of inquiry in medical humanities research. (British Journal for the History of Science, Ian Miller)

This is a serious, absorbing book (John Hinton, Catholic Herald)

Joanna Bourkes brilliant study of pain shows us exactly why pain is both so very personal to each of us and so elusive to scientific description, even in the 21st century. (Sander Gilman, Irish Times)

The breadth of The Story of Pain is one of its principal strengths, as the book's fascinating and illuminating examples shift masterfully and continually across the Western world and between the 18th century and the present day ... Bourke has provided a remarkable book, which is both highly valuable in its own right and which also provides the groundwork and impetus for further study. The Story of Pain is a detailed, thought-provoking and fascinating piece of historical scholarship. (Dr. Jennifer Crane, Reviews in History)

Bourke's book is a magnificent feat of research ... As an insight into the roots of medical perspectives on pain, and why we're often so bad at tackling it, Bourke's history will help. (Gavin Francis, London Review of Books)

Bourke has interesting things to say about the language of pain ... [She] has read widely, and produced some interesting reflections on what it means to be in pain, how pain is socially structured and dealth with, as well as the limits of our contemporary embrace of chemical means of coping with pain. (Andrew Scull, The Times Literary Supplement)

The Story of Pain is a fascinating rousing story of mad and wanton cruelty: throughout human history, such shafts of compassion only occasionally and reluctantly break through. (Roger Lewis, Daily Mail)

What Bourke has given us is an extensive and beautifully organized collection of materials that will serve as an invaluable resource for researchers from many different disciplines. It is a formidable scholarly achievement, which sheds a varied and often unexpected light on one of the most pervasive and challenging aspects of human existence. (John Cottingham, Tablet)

It is a tightly argued account of pain as vital to the concerns of bioscientists and clinicians as it is to the interests of scholars of the humanities and the human sciences. (Brian Hurwitz, Times Higher Education)

This is a compelling history of a great source of human misery. (Leyla Sanai, Independent on Sunday)

[A] perceptive study. (Nature)

A serious, absorbing book (James McConnachie, Sunday Times)

Enthralling ... Drawing on philosophy, history, medicine, literature and even theology. The Story of Pain invites us to look again at a fundamental aspect of human life, and to reconsider the richness and the poverty of pain. (Richard Bennet, Lancet)

Erudite and witty ... Joanna Bourke is that rare bird, an academic who manages to combine erudite scholarship with a sharp wit and an accessible prose style. This is a bold and impressive book about an enemy that knows no historical or cultural bounds. (Salley Vickers, The Observer)

[A] riveting study, which feels timely and important. (Max Liu, The Independent)

The Story of Pain shines valuable light into a universal experience. (Nicholas Shakespeare, The Daily Telegraph)

The Story of Pain conveys sensations with wincing precision and an admirable humanity. (Simon Ings, New Scientist)

Ambitious and original. (Jonathan Rée, the guardian)

Enthralling. (Jim Young, Glycosmedia)

A book that deserves wide readership. (Church of England newspaper)

Joanna Bourke has drawn a fascinating picture of pain from a very broad perspective both in terms of time and in the sources she uses. We see how attitudes to pain have changed over the centuries and how our modern technological advances are again changing how we communicate pain and its suffering. Are we less courageous when dealing with pain than our ancestors were? asks Joanna Bourke. Astonishing what I have learnt about pain from a historian, which will be of value in my clinical work. An absorbing and thought provoking book, a must read for pain physicians. (Professor Joanna Zakrzewska, UCL)

About the Author

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of nine books, including histories of modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, and rape. Among others, she is the author of Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain, and the Great War (1996), An Intimate History of Killing (1999), Fear: A Cultural History (2005) and Rape: A History from 1860 to the Present (2007), and What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present (2011). An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize, and 'Eyewitness', her audio history of Britain, won a number of prizes, including the Gold for the Most Original Audio. She is also a frequent contributor to TV and radio shows, and a regular newspaper correspondent.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The central theme running through this book is that "pain does not arise naturally from physiological processes, but in negotiation with social worlds". Thus, pain-events are embedded in the patient's life and can only be understood, and through that understanding pain alleviated, by interpreting the "interpersonal relationships and environmental interactions between the `person-in-pain' and the people around him or her". This thesis is examined in considerable detail from the earliest times to today, starting with a chapter on how people-in-pain use metaphors to describe their condition and how this influences pain narratives, whose importance as a diagnostic tool has waxed and waned over the centuries. Similarly, there is a chapter about how physical expressions of pain, such as facial gestures, have fallen in and out of favour as useful aids to diagnosis, and another on the role of sympathy, both from friends and doctors.

A major influence in understanding and treating pain has historically been religion. In earlier centuries, and still today for many people, it was widely believed that pain was sent by God to test the faith of believers and to remind them that they were essentially sinful creatures. Enduring pain in this life would guarantee a pain-free existence in the afterlife. This belief was severely shaken by the discovery of analgesics and anesthetics. No longer did patients have to bear the distressing effects of long-term pain, or the brutal horrors of operations. The very role of pain was questioned. For example, if it was a warning sign that something was wrong, why did it have to continue long after its `usefulness' was established?
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Format: Hardcover
The evocation of the experience of pain is the fulcrum of the lever used by sufferers, carers, and physicians to understand the phenomenon of pain.

How pain is perceived by these parties is a product of the expressions used to describe pain, the etymology of which is driven by the contemporary psychosocial mores unique to each milieu.

This book employs uncompromisingly academic reasoning to explore these mores and asks what pain is? Does it exist as an external entity? Or is it endogenous? For both the sufferer and the observer the question arises: are the perceptions of- and the associated attitudes to pain unavoidably subjective?

An etymological approach to the description of pain was an unexpected inception - but then again why should it be? The words, analogies and metaphors that were used constitute the historical signposts that describe and reflect contemporary understanding of physiology and of developments in society.

But it is not only the etymology of the words used to communicate the experience of pain “as an event” that is explored in Professor Bourke’s book, but also the irrepressible need to communicate the experience of pain. The corollary of which is the changing perception by the physician as to how much of a free-flowing pain narrative really needs to be expropriated for diagnosis and treatment to be optimised; and this perception is continually changing as “scientific” diagnostic procedures evolve.

The book is not a medical history as such but an all-encompassing elucidation of the history of the interpretation of experience of pain. It explores the dynamic interconnections between language and culture that colours the perception of the sensation of pain and the cognition that ensues.
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I don't wish to add significantly to the reviews already posted of this wonderful book. However, it is unfortunate a number of errors have crept into the reference section. I have already found two whilst checking a few references e.g. reference 20 at the top of page 309 to "Trigeminal Neuralgia" is dated as 2005 when in fact it is 2009, which is quite important when you are trying to locate the reference.
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