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Saints & Martyrs

Pain is a curious beast.  Damage to our body activates pain receptors, which send signals to our brain.  Even in the absence of these signals, pain can be experienced, for example, phantom limb pain.  Occasions exist, too, when despite injury of our body and signals from pain receptors, we experience little or no pain.

Pain served as a focus of collaborative study by first-year undergraduates in an introductory biology course, primarily second-year students in an introductory course to the major in comparative literature, and third- and fourth-year students in a history seminar.  Presented here are exhibits created by the students as part of their 4-week collaboration.

For the project, students in multidisciplinary teams investigated the human face of pain as revealed in literature and art and the alignment of these depictions with biological understanding of pain. All students read and discussed von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs and sections from Jacob de Voragine’s Golden Legend, on the lives of saints. Biology students also read literature on pain. Complementing study of literature was analysis of artworks depicting saints and martyrs. The nine student teams developed and presented to class members a mini-exhibition of 3 or 4 artworks on the theme of pain.  The nine presentations are given here.


Exhibits Created Spring 2016 by Biology, Comparative Literature, and History Students

The Gaze

Pain and Prejudice: An Exploration of Communication in Art

Pain, Gateway to Serenity: A Brief Exhibition

Her Pain and Pleasure: Gendered Expressions of Pain, Pleasure, and Healing in Early Modern and Modern Art

Dissecting the Wound: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Dehumanization Through Depictions of Gore

Gender and the Martyred Body

Painful Fertility

Sexualized Sainthood: Gender and artistic depiction of the martyrdom of saints

Pain and Redemption