Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A13. Numb: A Modern History of Pain

Anesthesia for surgery. Epidurals for childbirth. Aspirin for headaches. Have morphine, ether, and aspirin changed the meaning of pain in human life? Is the existence of pain necessary—or even desirable? This seminar asks whether the human experience of pain is universal, or culturally specific. We will chart important biomedical interventions as we consider the role of society and politics in determining who experiences pain, when, where, and why. We will explore the limits of the eradication of pain through contemporary debates over patients’ rights, pharmaceutical patents, euthanasia, and torture. Students will write a research paper to complete a seminar that will make writing for college painless.