AbstractThe University of ManchesterSally NelsonDoctor of PhilosophyConfronting 'meaningless' suffering: from suffering-as-insult to suffering-as-ontological-impertinence2010From the personal contemporary pastoral experience of caring for dying people, and with particular attention given to the psychospiritual anguish often associated with the perceived failure of death, I argue that suffering is primarily identified in the modern West as an insult to normality, often expressed in various forms of the question: 'Why me?'. I challenge this view of 'suffering as insult' by selectively identifying and critiquing some culturally embedded views of the nature of reality, taking note of the influence on suffering persons of the dialogue between science and faith in the UK, and by introducing dialogue with the process thought of Whitehead as an alternative to traditional theistic models of God. Such a dialogue also affects the nature of the person conceived in imago dei, and so I examine the effect of replacing the rational autonomous individual with the dialogical personhood of McFadyen. I then consider the rehabilitation of suffering as a key experience of metanoia in the formation of the person. Finally I reflect on suffering in postmodernity in the light of Ricoeur's hypothesis that reality is narrative in form, and develop the argument that suffering can be understood as an 'ontological impertinence', analogous to the 'semantic impertinence' which Ricoeur attributes to the category of metaphor.