On Pain and the Origin of Language
Author: Ilit Ferber
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
We usually think about language and pain as opposites, the one being about expression and connection, the other destructive, "beyond words" so to speak, and isolating. Language Pangs challenges these familiar conceptions and offers a radical reconsideration of the relationship between pain and language in terms of an essential interconnectedness. Ilit Ferber's premise is that we cannot probe the experience of pain without taking account its inherent relation to language; and vice versa, that our understanding of the nature of language essentially depends on how we take account of its correspondence with pain. Language Pangs brings together discussions of philosophical as well as literary texts, an intersection that is especially productive in considering the phenomenology of pain and its bearing on language. Ferber explores a phenomenology of pain and its relation to language, before providing a unique close reading of Johann Gottfried Herder's Treatise on the Origin of Language, the first modern philosophical text to consider language and pain, establishing the cry of pain as the origin of language. Herder also raises important claims regarding the relationship between human and animal, questions of sympathy and the role of hearing in the expression of pain. Beyond Herder, the book grapples with the work of other profound thinkers, including Martin Heidegger, Stanley Cavell, and André Gide, and finally, Sophocles, from them weaving new insights on the experience of pain, expression, sympathy, and hearing.