Studying Suffering

In the insightful post below, Julia mentioned that her scholarly interest in death, disease, and burial might make her seem psychopathic. My interests often lie in the realm of torture, suffering, and pain, which also makes me seem a bit psychologically weird. I love working on saints, especially the virgin martyrs, who often experienced horrifying tortures.

I don’t actually think very often about why these particular areas interest me, but upon brief self-reflection, I think one of the attractions of studies such as these is the distance at which they lie from our comfortable modern lives in which we often come into very little contact with anything discomforting or painful. I am especially interested in the connection between religious belief and people’s willingness and even desire to suffer. Certainly, we see this even today, but I do see something exotic and other in suffering. I don’t think it’s merely the difference that draws me to this study, though.

There is something at stake in studying the uncomfortable parts of human life. If we can understand for what reasons medieval people purposefully suffered, perhaps we can learn something about the human psyche, even about our modern minds that are seemingly so remote from the medieval.

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About JennyB

Jenny is currently working on her master's degree in religion, literature, and culture at Harvard. She's especially interested in late medieval religious literature, including hagiography, sermons, and devotional and mystical texts. Jenny hopes to start a PhD in English after completing her master's degree in Spring 2013.
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One Response to Studying Suffering

  1. Pingback: A Scribe and His Cat | Things Medieval

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