Appel à publication : « Sensuous Suffering: Pain in the Early Modern Visual Art of Europe & the Americas » (juillet 2015)

Rogier van der Weyden, Descente de croix, 1435, Madrid, Prado (détail)Pain, both physical and psychological, is readily sited in the body and the material. Because of its somatic basis, pain is an interior sensation whose external communication can stimulate both sympathetic and empathetic reactions in viewers. Renderings of its material consequences—be they ravaged bodies or tear-stained faces—in art have unique potential to engage viewers as psychosomatic entities and encourage affective responses.Contemporary interest in pain and its place in early modern culture has catalyzed contributions from scholars in diverse fields, including psychology, history, religion, and art history.

This anthology seeks to explore the phenomenon of pain in early modern culture in Europe and the Spanish and Portuguese Americas and its representation and repression in visual and performance art. Transcultural examinations are especially fruitful for understanding pain and suffering in the early modern Christian world because they illuminate the ways in which these emotive experiences were transmitted, transformed, and adapted to areas outside of Europe, and permit us to view pain and suffering in a more globalized context. In the European tradition, the preeminence of pain and its corollary, suffering, in visual culture was informed most powerfully by Christianity. As a faith of martyrdom, the Christian tradition foregrounded pain and suffering as fundamental expressions of humanity. The Christian imperative to live one’s life in imitation of Christ’s elevated the experience of physical pain and suffering to the realm of the sacred: to transcend these somatic phenomena was to ascend beyond the material and achieve union with the divine.

While the repression of pain, both internal and external, became something of a cultural ideal, the material markings of its experience was a recurrent theme in the European visual world. As Christianity spread to the Americas in the late-fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, new modes of experiencing and understanding pain and suffering came into contact with those evolving in Europe. Over the next several hundred years, discourses about emotions changed in tempo with Church reforms and societal changes, as well as with local concerns and cultural interests. While the foundations of a Christian tradition predisposed people to identify with Christ in his suffering and martyrdom—or at least encouraged it—the manners in which people availed themselves to this experience could differ based on location, social status, religious leanings, ethnic makeup, occupation, and gender. For this volume, we desire a comparative approach to pain and suffering—one that combines Western Europe and the Americas in particular—to offer an expanded field in which to understand epistemologies of emotions, physical torment, and the human condition.

We invite papers for this upcoming anthology, Sensuous Suffering: Pain in the Early Modern Visual Art of Europe and the Americas, to explore the complex dynamics of pain in visual culture of Europe and the Americas.
Please send your submission to the editors, Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank ( ) and Heather Graham ( ) by no later than July 15, 2015 .

Submissions should include a cover letter, one-page CV, and an abstract about 500 words in length.


Leave a Reply