Pain and its Meanings Symposium

Pain and its Meanings
Friday 7 December 19.00-21.00, Saturday 8 December 10.30-17.00

From the Wellcome website (

“Nearly everyone has experienced bodily pain, yet describing it is notoriously difficult. In 1930, Virginia Woolf lamented that even a schoolgirl, “when she falls in love, has Shakespeare and Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry”.

Is pain really so difficult to articulate? Or can it actually generate creative expression? If so, what do these narratives tell us about the meaning of pain? Some believe it has the power to purge sin; others interpret it as an unjust punishment. Pain can even be regarded as intrinsic to achievement – ‘no pain, no gain’.

This unique two-day symposium will bring together some of the liveliest and most widely respected creative and scholarly minds to prod, probe and discuss profound questions about the relationship between body, mind and culture. How and why do we give meaning to bodily pain?

£30 full price/£25 concessions for both days, including drinks on Friday evening and lunch, tea and coffee on Saturday. To book, please call +44 (0)20 7611 2222.

This event will start with a musical performance, a film screening, a poetry reading and a drinks reception on Friday evening, followed by talks and discussions on Saturday.

‘Pain and its Meanings’ is a collaboration between the Birkbeck Pain Project and Wellcome Collection.”


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