Arguing Claims about Values ((“Elaine Scarry” again))

Elaine Scarry in her book The Body in Pain claims that “The centrality of the act of injuring in war may disappear—the centrality of the human body may be disowned—by any one of six paths” (80). She identifies these six paths as: “First, it may be omitted from both formal and casual accounts of war. Second, it may instead be redescribed and hence be as invisible as if omitted…. Third, it may be neither omitted nor redescribed and instead acknowledged to be actual injury occurring in the sentient tissue of the human body, but now held in a visible but marginal position by four metaphors [the third is broken down into four paths: by-product, road to the goal, the cost vocabulary, extension to benign occurrence]” (80). She ends by saying that “War is relentless in taking for its own interior content the interior content of the wounded and open human body” (81).

In a 3-4 page essay, write an evaluation of the author’s support or reasoning for the argument (64-76 and 80-81). Do you find any weak reasoning: dubious criteria, lack of examples, flaws in logic and reasoning, and the author’s credibility? Do you find Scarry’s argument well supported? Evaluate (support or refute) her argument.

Elaine Scarry claims that we omit “war as injuring” through six paths. If you read pp. 80-81, you’ll find her own restatement of these 6 paths like a summary. The prompt in option 1 quotes her own passage on p. 80 and p. 81. But she actually supports her point about these six paths with much detail from pp. 64-76 . We have looked over those pages in class. If you choose this option, you need to go back to reread those pages and analyze her support, based on the criteria offered in Elements of Argument, Chapter 6.

Option 2: Elaine Scarry claims that the disowning of physical pain or injury in the structure of war eventually comes out through other forms. It is kind of therapeutic by speaking bodily pain through “benign forms of creation” (that is, novel, poetry, art, music, etc.), thus relieving discomfort of the body and the suffering self. She states, “As has been suggested earlier, and as will be elaborated at some length in later chapters, in benign forms of creation, a bodily attribute is projected into the artifact (a fiction, a made thing), which essentially take over the work of the body, thereby freeing the embodied person of discomfort and thus enabling him to enter a larger realm of self-extension” (144). In other words, the war trauma (wound) ultimately leads to human creation by making real what has been omitted or misrepresented. Is her claim convincing, limited, or confusing? For the evaluation of this claim, examine her support and reasoning, pp. 144-154. Also review her point in the introduction, pp. 19-23.

Option 2 or Option 3 addresses the ultimate extension of the unsharable or inexpressible physical pain through human creation (Scarry first makes this point on pp. 19-23). The claim Scarry makes is that the human body is disowned or depersonalized in the structure of war because the body in pain (wounded body) is omitted (omitted, redescribed, or marginalized) by war. However, the unsharable pain has to come out in some other form eventually—some kind of art form for self-extension. Pain thus leads to human creation to make pain real. She articulates this claim in pp. 144-54. If you choose this option, you need to evaluate her use of support to back up her claim. ‬

Option 3: Taking up Scarry’s claim, evaluate Kurt Vonnegut’s creation of Slaughterhouse-Five from his war-witness experience. How effective or successful is Vonnegut’s creation as “self-extension” (144)? Examine the novel’s parallel plots, the use of time travel, science fiction motifs, and true history of WWII and Dresden bombing (injuries and death), using examples from the novel and/or from secondary sources (interviews, etc. See William Ramey Alden, Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut) as evidence.