Enlightenment senses? Eighteenth-Century Sensorium(s), Theory and Experience

Deadline for submissions: 8 March 2014

The senses mattered a great deal in the eighteenth-century. Sensibility, sympathy, and Lockean subject theory were all overwhelming concerned with the senses, and ‘The Enlightenment’ is often seen as a crucial breaking point in how we have historically understood and used our senses. Historical narratives that stress the increased value placed on the rationality of vision and the primacy of touch over the eighteenth-century - gaining prominence over the sense of smell as a method of evaluation - are much contested today. Scholars such as Foucault, Horkheimer and Adorno, and Lucien Febvre have emphasized the manifold changes in the way the senses were thought about and used during the Enlightenment. At a broader level Mark Smith has stated that

 

‘In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the senses informed the emergence of social classes, race and gender conventions, industrialization, urbanization, colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, ideas concerning selfhood and “other,” to list the most obvious developments typically associated with the “modern” era’. (Mark Smith, Sensing The Past, Berg, 2007, p.1)

 

This two-day conference aims to bring together those concerned with the social and cultural history of the senses in the period from 1650-1790 as well as those working on literary or intellectual histories of the senses in an attempt to encourage a more active dialogue between these areas. The conference aims to link ‘sensory histories’, concerned with embodied sensory experience and representation, with ‘histories of the senses’ in which the intellectual and medical understandings of the senses are foregrounded. Papers are invited that reflect on the wide variety of issues described above and their connections with notions of ‘Enlightenment’. We particularly welcome papers that seek to critique the utility of the ‘Enlightenment’ for the understanding of the senses in the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries.


Proposals are invited from across disciplines for papers of 20 minutes in length. Proposals of up to 300 words should be sent to enlightenmentsenses@kcl.ac.uk with a brief biography attached. The deadline for proposals is 08/03/2014.

 

The conference is being organised by William Tullett, Alice Marples & Marlee Newman.

 

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