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Modern Thought in Pain

Philosophy, Politics, Psychoanalysis

Simon Morgan Wortham

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Analyses how modern conceptions of politics, ethics, and critical thought may be re-evaluated through the question of pain

Through a series of rigorous encounters with key critical figures, this monograph argues that modern thought is, in a double sense, the thought of pain. This book investigates the idea that modern European philosophy after Kant offers less the conceptual equipment to tackle pain in explanatory terms, than an experience of thought that participates in the forms of pain and suffering about which it speaks. Perhaps surprisingly, the question of pain establishes a ground from which to examine key debates in twentieth-century European philosophy, most recently between forms of post-structuralist and ethical thinking imagined to be in crisis and the resurgence of discourses of political emancipation arising from traditions of thought associated with Marxism.

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Series Editor’s Preface
Introduction: Modern Thought in Pain
1. After Pains
2. Distress I
3. Distress II
4. Pain of Debt, or, what we owe to retroactivity
5. Survival of Cruelty
6. Grief-Substitutes, or, why Melanie Klein is so funny

About the Author

Simon Morgan Wortham is Professor of English and Pro Vice Chancellor Dean, Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University.


Simon Morgan Wortham’s Modern Thought in Pain is ambitious in scope, compellingly presented and timely. The book’s daring central premise is that pain not merely an object for thought, but is implicated in the very act of thinking.  The book forges a new way of understanding how modern ethics, psychoanalysis and aesthetics arise and are bound together through the questions posed by pain.


- Elissa Marder, Professor of French & Comparative Literature, Emory University

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