On Suffering

edited by Nate Hinerman and Matthew Lewis Sutton
ISBN: 978-1-84888-092-4

Why do we suffer? Can there be any meaning to suffering? If so, how and in what contexts? This interdisciplinary volume explores the place of narrative in efforts to “make sense of” suffering, and investigates two fundamental positions: embracing a meta-narrative to frame the suffering, or denying the potency of a meta-narrative to address the concrete circumstances that give rise to suffering (or maintain it).


In this book, a diverse array of scholars agree that discussions of suffering must move beyond mere academic postulations that assert suffering as a phenomenological “given,” an experience so naturally inherent that no human response can augment fundamentally its impact. Such approaches too often render apathetic responses to real human tragedies. The authors here explore both the inward experience of suffering, the myriad causes of suffering, and how, in some cases, such suffering can be articulated, understood, and even overcome. Here, the dialogue becomes a debate between those embracing a meta-narrative to frame the experience of suffering, and those promoting personal narratives amid concrete historical circumstances as the key to any effort to “make sense of” suffering.

Table of Contents

Nate Hinerman and Matthew Lewis Sutton

SECTION 1: Personal Narrative and Making Sense of Suffering
The Music, Art and Ethics of Suffering
Raymond De Vries

Blues and Healing: ‘When You’re Sick Child, Oh Sometimes It Makes You Well’
John Rapson

Regarding Suffering: An Artist’s Reflections on the Perception of Suffering in Painting
Tim Lowly

Metaphysical Suffering, Metaphysics as Therapy
Amber D. Carpenter

Suffering in Silence: Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Marion on Suffering, Understanding and Language
Rashmika Pandya

Ethical Challenges When Reading Aesthetic Rape Scenes
Emy Koopman

Research on Curative Speech Acts Observed through a Long-Term Initiative Involving Young Cancer Patients and Grieving Parents in São Paulo, Brazil
Tatiana Piccardi

Suffering that Slips through Rhetorical Gaps: Colson Whitehead’s John Henry Days
Bev Hogue

SECTION 2: Communal Meta-Narrative and Making Sense of Suffering
From Suffering to Hope and Faith: The Pragmatic Value of ‘Inspirational Literature’
Madhavi Gokhale and Milind Malshe

Remembering to Forget: Memory and Suffering in 137 Mansfield Park
Colleen Weir

The Question of Suffering Confronted by Evolutionary Theology
Andrzej Dańczak

Does God Suffer? Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theology of Holy Saturday
Matthew Lewis Sutton

What is Sacrifice For? The Structure of Sacrifice in Jan Patočka’s Phenomenology
Anna Sugiyama

Making Sense of Verdun: Photography and Emotions During the First World War in France
Beatriz Pichel

The Mysterious Ways of Suffering: A Reading of C. S. Lewis Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
Maria Luísa Franco de Oliveira Falcão

Downloadable Content

You can dowload a pdf copy of the Introduction here: Download Introduction (pdf)

About the Editors

Nate Hinerman, Ph.D., is a member of the faculty in the School of Nursing and the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. He teaches and writes about death, dying, bereavement, and community-based models of hospice and palliative care.

Matthew Lewis Sutton, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, at St. John's University in New York City. He teaches and writes about Christianity specifically on the interconnections between twentieth-century Christology, Trinitarian Theology, Ecclesiology, and Spirituality.

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