Contra mortem, petimus scientiam: pain, tragedy, death and medicine in BLOK/EKO
Studies in Theatre and Performance
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
This article uses Howard Barker's play BLOK/EKO as a poetic lens through which to explore questions of pain in the twenty-first century. Like the play, it asks could poetry replace medicine? To do this it interrogates one of the text's primary themes, the annihilation of the medical profession so that the status of poetry can be enhanced. By killing all doctors, Barker offers the opportunity to think the unthinkable: he creates a world without medical interventions or analgesics in order to see if poetry 'kills the pain'. This shocking genocide creates a disruptive socio cultural platform that enables us to be temporarily estranged from our dominant, western-centric model of contemporary medicine. This article takes advantage of this estrangement and explores a space in which to reconsider medicine in general and pain in particular. Moreover, in its explorations, the article also examines the prevalent assumption that there is a mismatch between the biomedical model of pain - dominated by the body - and a humanities-based, holistic understanding of pain - which involves the whole person. It uses recent medical research on chronic pain in order to seriously consider what Barker's inversion of cultural norms might mean. And by asking what happens if poetry replaces medicine, it finds that this idea is not as preposterous as it first appears. © 2012 Intellect Ltd Article.
This is an accepted manuscript of an article published as Sarah Goldingay (2012) Contra mortem, petimus scientiam: Pain, tragedy,death and medicine in BLOK/EKO, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 32:3, 347-358. Published online by Taylor and Francis on 3rd January 2014, available online via: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/10.1386/stap.32.3.347_1
2012 , Vol. 32, pp. 347 - 358