The Wound and the Witness

The Rhetoric of Torture

By Jennifer R. Ballengee

Subjects: Classics, Composition And Rhetoric Studies, Comparative Literature, Human Rights
Paperback : 9781438424927, 200 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9781438424910, 200 pages, February 2009

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Table of contents

1. The Legal Body:The Symbolic Corpse in Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone
2. The Political Body:Pain and Punishment in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus
3. The Erotic Body:Mutilation and Desire in Achilles Tatius’s Leukippe and Kleitophon
4. The Moral Body:The Figure of Suffering in Prudentius’s Peristephanon Liber
Pain and Public Opinion: The Rhetoric of Torture and the Media

Explores the rhetorical functions of torture and the witnessing of torture in both classical texts and contemporary contexts.


The Wound and the Witness offers a historically grounded approach to an urgent contemporary problem: the persistence of torture in Western culture. Drawing upon ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as contemporary media events, Jennifer R. Ballengee explores the spectacle of torture as a persuasive device. She suggests that both torture and the witnessing of torture are forms of polemical writing, carried out on the body. The analysis combines close reading and philological study with a materialist cultural approach to ancient Greek theater, early Christian accounts of martyrdom, and recent political controversies over the interrogation tactics in the U.S. government-run Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib prisons. By incorporating key classical texts by Sophocles, Achilles Tatius, and Prudentius, the author demonstrates how deeply the ancient literature resonates with contemporary issues of the body, rhetoric, and the spectacle of pain.

Jennifer R. Ballengee is Associate Professor of English and Director of Cultural Studies at Towson University.


"…challenging and intellectually capacious … A good resource for specialists in literary criticism or classical studies." — CHOICE