Birkbeck Main Building
University of London
Malet Street, Bloomsbury
London WC1E 7HX
The Birkbeck Pain Project & Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities present:
Pain and Old Age: Three Centuries of Suffering in Silence?
According to the British Pain Society, ‘pain is not a normal part of ageing’ (2008). Yet for generations of older people, pain was something that was intimately tied to the ageing process. For many, it was the body in pain that signalled their entry into old age. Furthermore, the elderly have not wanted to be a ‘burden’ to their families, friends, and support systems, and consequently they often endured pain with a quiet acceptance. When did this relationship between pain and old age undergo such a profound and fundamental shift? Or, did it? Were the elderly in the past always quietly accepting of the aches and pains of a physically declining body? Or did they fight against pain and the very real physical, emotional, and familial restrictions that chronic pain can impose?
This one-day conference explores the nature of pain in old age between the 18th and the 20th centuries. It explicitly does so through the lens of the humanities, rather than hard sciences. The conference strives to be wide-ranging in terms of disciplines, methodologies, and approaches. In doing so, it seeks to engage both panellists and audience in discussion, dialogue, and debate. Our aim is to facilitate new ways of thinking about both the nature of pain and what it meant to be old.
Welcome by Professor Lynne Botelho (Indiana).
Introduction by Professor Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck)
Session I: Novels and the Narrative Form
- Dr Charlotte Beyer (Gloucestershire) – Not ‘the Scenic Route’ through Pain and Old Age: Representations of Black British Characters in Andrea Levy and Joan Riley’s Novels
- Professor Kate de Medeiros (Brookdale Foundation) – Pain, Suffering and Metaphor in Narratives of Older Americans
- Dr Heike Hartung (Potsdam) and Dr Aagie Swinned (Maastricht) – Communicating Pain: Representations of Dementia in Old Age
- Professor Karen Chase (Virginia) – The Humours of Pain
Session I Questions:
Session II: Medicine and Medical Practice
- Professor Susannah Ottaway (Carleton College, Canada) – Silencing Pain in Old Age during the Long Eighteenth Century
- Professor Katherine Walker (McMaster University Canada) – Pain, Age and Surgery in England, c. 1620 – 1740
Session II Questions:
Session III: Piety and the Sense of Self
- Professor Anne Kugler (John Carroll University) – Suffering, Stoicism and Spirituality: Pain and Fear in Women’s Experience of Ageing
- Dr Erin Campbell (Victoria, Canada) – Pain, Piety and Ageing: Sacred Suffering in Early Modern Portraits of Old Women
- Daniel Slater (White Cube Gallery) – Self-Portraits of Pain and Ageing: An Understanding of European Depictions of Self over Time
Session III Questions:
Session IV: Old Age and Youth
- Professor Cynthia Port (Coastal Carolina) – “The looking glass becomes the feeling glass”: Cognitive Narratology on Empathy and Pain
- Dr Lisa Wynne Smith (Saskatchewan)- Sir Richard Newdigate, an ‘Old Gentleman persecuted by his own Son’
- Professor Denis Martin (Teeside) – Explaining Older People’s Experience of Living with Pain to Young People using a Medikidz Comic Book
Session IV Questions:
- Professor Pat Thane (KCL) – Is Growing Older Really Such a Pain?