Bibliography: Chronic Pain Reading Group

Since last autumn, I've been running a Reading Group for the discussion of texts relevant to chronic pain, and sensory disorders more generally. (For details of the Reading Group, including how to join and our meeting schedule, see here.) Below, I've provided the bibliography for each session, which works as a primer for key texts in the area of chronic pain and allied issues, including disability and illness studies. I'll be updating this page on an ongoing basis, so watch this space for more readings.

Whenever possible, I've provided links to the readings online to maximise accessibility to the materials. Unfortunately, some pieces are either only available hardcopy or behind paywalls online. If you'd like access to readings as .pdfs, please email me to join the Reading Group, and I will add you to the email list to which I send out .pdfs of our selected readings in advance of our scheduled meet-ups. 


Reading Group 1 - Statistics and Logistics of Chronic Pain in the Medical Establishment

  • Brennan, Frank, Daniel B. Carr, and Michael Cousins, ‘Pain Management: A Fundamental Human Right’, Pain Medicine, 105.1 (2007), 205-21 (online here)
  • British Pain Society, and Dr Foster Research Ltd., ‘National Pain Audit Final Report’, British Pain Society, (2012) (online here)
  • Donaldson, Liam, 150 Years of the Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer: On the State of Public Health 2008 (2008) (online here), pp. 1-5, 33-39
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Pain: Hope Through Research, NIH Publication No. 12406 (2014) (online here)
  • Tordoff, Kimberley, 'The Assessment of Chronic Pain’, in Fundamental Aspects of Pain Assessment and Management, ed. by Karina McGann (London, UK: Quay Books, 2007), pp. 51-62


Reading Group 2 - Illness Narratives, Talking Bodies, and the Fight for an Authentic Personal Story

  • Altman, Anna, ‘Every Body Goes Haywire’, n+1 (2016) (online here)
  • Ehrenreich, Barbara, Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World (London: Granta, 2009), pp. 15-44 (= ch.1 , 'Smile or Die: The Bright Side of Cancer') (Google books)
  • Eyler, Joshua, ‘The Grief of Pain’, (2015) (online here)
  • Frank, Arthur W., The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 1-25, 53-73 (Google books)
  • Frank, Arthur W., At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991), pp. 64-71, 108-114 (Google books)


Reading Group 3 - Working With, and Beyond, Elaine Scarry

  • Bustan, Smadar, ‘Voicing Pain and Suffering through Linguistic Agents: Nuancing Elaine Scarry’s View on the Inability to Express Pain’, Subjectivity, 9.4 (2016), 363-80 (paywalled online here)
  • Larocco, Steve, ‘Pain as Semiosomatic Force: The Disarticulation and Rearticulation of Subjectivity’, Subjectivity, 9.4 (2016), 343-62 (paywalled online here)
  • McIntyre, Michael, ‘Rethinking The Body in Pain’, Subjectivity, 9.4 (2016), 381-98 (paywalled online here)
  • Scarry, Elaine, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 3-23 (Google books)


Reading Group 4 - Chronic Illness and Disability

  • McRuer, Robert, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (New York: New York University Press, 2006), pp. 1-32 (Google books)
  • Patsavas, Alyson, ‘Recovering a Cripistemology of Pain: Leaky Bodies, Connective Tissue, and Feeling Discourse’, Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 8.2 (2014), 203-18 (paywalled online here)
  • Souza, Valéria M., ‘Who’s Afraid of Chronic Illness as Disability? An Entire Field, Apparently.’,, (3 February 2014) (online here)
  • Wendell, Susan, ‘Unhealthy Disabled: Treating Chronic Illnesses as Disabilities’, Hypatia, 16.4 (2001), 17-33 (paywalled online here)


Reading Group 5: Pain, Chronic Illness, and the Perception of Time

  • Charmaz, Kathy, Good Days, Bad Days: The Self in Chronic Illness and Time (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991), pp. 167-265, in particular pp. 169-95 (Google books)
  • Godden, Richard, ‘Getting Medieval in Real Time’, postmedieval, 2 (2011), 267–77 (paywalled online here)
  • Morris, David B., ‘Intractable Pain and the Perception of Time: Every Patient Is An Anecdote’, in Evidence-Based Chronic Pain Management, ed. by Cathy Stannard, Eija Kalso and Jane Ballantyne (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010), pp. 52-58 (paywalled online here; full-text on
  • St. Pierre, Joshua, ‘Distending Straight-Masculine Time: A Phenomenology of the Disabled Speaking Body’, Hypatia, 30.1 (2015), 49-65 (paywalled online here)
  • Toombs, S. Kay, ‘The Temporality of Illness: Four Levels of Experience’, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 11.3 (1990), 227-41 (paywalled online here)


Reading Group 6: Gendered & Feminist Perspectives 

  • Hedva, Johanna, ‘Sick Woman Theory’, Mask Magazine, The Not Again Issue: Jan 2016 (online here
  • Jones, Cara E., ‘The Pain of Endo Existence: Toward a Feminist Disability Studies Reading of Endometriosis’, Hypatia, 31.3 (2016), 554-71 (paywalled online here)
  • Pitts-Taylor, Victoria, ‘I Feel Your Pain: Embodied Knowledges and Situated Neurons’, Hypatia, 28.4 (2013), 852-69 (paywalled online here)
  • Price, Margaret, ‘The Bodymind Problem and the Possibilities of Pain’, Hypatia, 30.1 (2015), 268-84 (paywalled online here)
  • Wendell, Susan, ‘Toward a Feminist Theory of Disability’, Hypatia, 4.2 (1989), 104-24 (paywalled online here)

Reading Group - 'Senses Gone Awry - Chronic Pain, Bodies, Texts, and Emotions'

Jef Safi - 'rhizome dis(re)construction . .' (Via  Flickr ;  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

Jef Safi - 'rhizome dis(re)construction . .' (Via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This bi-monthly Reading Group, based in UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies, provides a collaborative space for researchers from various disciplines to discuss theoretical understanding(s) of the senses in a state of disorder, drawing from well-established approaches and recent cutting-edge paradigms alike. Our chief focus will be on chronic pain, though works which deal with dysfunctional senses more generally will also be part of our corpus. Chronic pain is persistent, usually lasting for three months or more, does not respond well to analgesia, and does not improve after the usual healing period of any injury. The phenomenon, then, equates to sensory ‘misfiring’: the experiences of chronic-pain sufferers testify to the very real sensations provoked when normal neurological and biological functions ‘go wrong’, when the senses act seemingly according to their own ‘logic’.

What happens when the senses go awry, when sensory input no longer makes ‘sense’ to the human subject? How do those with seemingly malfunctioning senses deal with such phenomena? How does the medical establishment deal with such cases, which are often incredibly difficult to remedy? Should a ‘cure’ be the aim of medical interventions in all cases of sensory dysfunction? In what ways do senses that don’t make rational ‘sense’ challenge our ideas about the relationship(s) between the body, the mind, and our communities? These are some of the questions that will be under discussion in our meetings, guided by the selected texts under discussion.

Sessions will take place at 4-6pm on the following Thursdays during the academic year 2016-2017:

  • 24th November - please note change of location for this meeting - IAS Seminar Room 11
  • 26th January
  • 23rd March
  • 1st June
  • 27th July
  • 28th September


Sessions will take place in IAS Seminar Room 20, (First Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building), with tea and coffee provided. All postgraduate students, post-docs, and staff are welcome.

Please contact Alicia Spencer-Hall to be added to the Reading Group e-mail list and receive .pdfs of the texts under discussion. Please also don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any queries, including access requirements.

The Reading Group is intended to be an open, flexible, and collaborative forum. As such, suggestions for reading material(s) to be consulted in future sessions are enthusiastically welcomed! Texts which focus directly on chronic pain, or those which more broadly treat the topic of sensory dysfunction are equally eligible. If you would like to propose works for our discussion, or informally chair one of our meetings around a specific theme, please contact the organiser.

Update: Want to see what we've read so far? Check out the bibliography here.

Here's a poster about the Reading Group - feel free to share as you see fit!

Here's a poster about the Reading Group - feel free to share as you see fit!