Claire's Head and Pain: Beyond the Sign of the Weapon

  • Shane Neilson McMaster University


A difficult subject to broach in society because of its nature as complaint, pain is believed to be a difficult topic of English scholarship because of its evasion of linguistic capture. This article applies Elaine Scarry’s ideas concerning the absence of an adequate language of pain to Catherine Bush’s Claire’s Head to demonstrate that representations of pain do occur beyond the sign of the weapon. Emmanuel Levinas’s concept of the inter-human is used to extend Scarry’s ideas around the destructive “language of pain” into a more constructive, creative model. This thesis demonstrates how literary narratives can help scholars and readers, including medical practitioners, interpret pain in new ways so as to gain a better understanding of pain as a sensory and emotional experience.

Author Biography

Shane Neilson, McMaster University
Shane Neilson is a poet, literary critic, and physician. He is currently editing The Witch of the Inner Wood, a collected volume of M. Travis Lane’s long poems, due from Goose Lane Editions in 2016. He is also a PhD candidate and Vanier scholar researching the representations of pain at McMaster University.