Ernst Jünger’s Literature of Pain, or the Troubles Of Detaching Mind from Feeling

Derek Hillard


Ernst Jünger’s treatment of pain, emotion, and the body in the 1930s (“On Pain”) mark a shift from his earlier treatment. Whereas the early works (Wäldchen 125, Feuer und Blut) featured more complex models of emotion, body, and mind in terms of unity and extension, the later work reveals a model of neat separation so as to allow for sacrifice and greater control of pain, affect, and technology. The early work explored the material world as an extension of the body, while “On Pain” imagines the body as a vessel. This puts it starkly at odds with embodied descriptions to be found in work of the philosophical anthropologist Helmuth Plessner as well as contemporary views in the sciences. Jünger’s attempt in “On Pain” to disembody consciousness and negate feeling is contradicted not only by the mind’s reliance on the body but also on his reliance on tropes of emotion. (DH)

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