A Cultural History of the Senses

What did the past sound like, taste like, smell like? How did it look and feel? How did people make sense of the world through their senses? These are questions which are increasingly capturing the interest of historians. A Cultural History of the Senses delves into the sensory foundations of Western civilization, taking a comprehensive period-by-period approach, which provides a broad understanding of the life of the senses from antiquity to the modern day. The volumes treat such topics as the sensory markers of gender and class, the aesthetic dimensions of material culture, religious sensibilities, the medical uses of the senses and their representation in art and literature. These investigations bring out the sensations and values which defined experience in a particular era and shaped the world view of the time. With contributions from such prominent scholars as Peter Burke, Alain Corbin, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill and Chris Woolgar, A Cultural History of the Senses sets the stage for a vital new way of understanding the past.
A Cultural History of the Senses presents an authoritative survey from ancient times to the present. This set of six volumes explores the cultural life of the senses in the West over a span of 2500 years:

  1. A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity, 500 BCE-500 CE edited by Jerry Toner (University of Cambridge, UK)
  2. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Middle Ages, 500-1450 edited by Richard Newhauser (Arizone State University, USA)
  3. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Renaissance, 1450-1650 edited by Herman Roodenburg (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
  4. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Enlightenment, 1650-1800 edited by Anne Vila (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
  5. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Empire, 1800-1920 edited by Constance Classen (McGill University, Canada)
  6. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age, 1920-2000 edited by David Howes (Concordia University, Canada)

Each volume discusses the same themes in its chapters: The Social Life of the Senses; Urban Sensations; The Senses in the Marketplace; The Senses in Religion; The Senses in Philosophy and Science; Medicine and the Senses; The Senses in Literature; Art and the Senses; and Sensory Media. This structure means that readers can either have a broad overview of a period or follow a theme through history by reading the relevant chapter in each volume.

Superbly illustrated, the full six volume set combines to present the most authoritative and comprehensive survey available on the senses in history. More information can be found here.


Conference: Visualising War

The Power of Emotions in Politics

visualising war


20th and 21st of november, Southern University of Denmark, Odense

Images of war are omnipresent in our daily lives. Online newspapers, internet TV, and round o’clock news channels provide us with pictures of war victims, military interventions, and battle fields. Even though the sheer quantity of these images threatens to make us numb and oblivious, there are still some pictures that seem to stick with us. Think about the images of the dead children allegedly poisoned gassed by Syria’s regime, the image of the burnt girl during the Vietnam War, or the atomic mushroom cloud of the Hiroshima bombing. These images evoke strong emotions in the viewer, and they seem to be inerasable from our collective consciousness.

At the conference “Visualizing War: The Power of Emotions in Politics” we would like to investigate the following questions: How do images of war engender emotions, and how do these emotions impact the practices of government and policy making? Why do some images of war speak to us whereas others are quickly forgotten? How do images represent war in comparison to narrative and verbal media? In order to find answers to these questions, the participants of the conference will analyze images of war from Antiquity to today. Not only the digital media, but also already medieval historical tapestry, historical atlases, photography of the nineteenth- and twentieth century, as well as film and literature prove that images have played a crucial role in representing war throughout history. In order to assess the emotional impact of images, the conference will enable a meeting point between the humanities and the social sciences. This encounter should contribute to a closer understanding of war images as well as shed light on the psychological dimension of governmental decisions and opinion formation. Given the omnipresence of visual representations of war in our global age, the investigation of the “emotional” power of these images in national and global politics is of great urgency.

The Aim of the Conference

The conference would provide an international forum, where scholars from the global academic community are able to exchange current research trends on the representation of war. The aim is to develop innovative scholarly approaches and knowledge about the relationship between images of war and government. In order to investigate how images of war work, how they impact the viewer, and how the visual eventually is translated into verbal expressions in terms of policy deliberations, a vital dialogue between the social sciences (political theory, international politics, psychology) and the field of the humanities (visual studies, literature, media studies) is imperative.

Practical information

Contact   Kathrin Maurer: kamau@sdu.dk, Anders Engberg-Pedersen: engberg@sdu.dk
Address   University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense
Conference Program   http://www.sdu.dk/VisualizingWar


We like to draw your attention to:

The Hurt(ful) Body Before Diderot, Pain and Suffering in Early Modern Performance and the Visual Arts (c. 1600 – 1790).

Brussels, 21-22 November 2013
Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts

The disjunctive image of pain and suffering is
today too often regarded as simply ‘emotive’, an expression like any other. The Hurt(ful) Body examines early modern and eighteenth-century visual culture at large, addressing key manifestations of the hurt and hurt-causing body and setting up a dialogue between various academic disciplines.

Keynote speakers are Jonathan Sawday (Saint Louis University) and Christian Biet (Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre – La Défense)

See for more information the website.

The hurtfull body


Application Call Moral Economies Research School

The International Max Planck Research School for Moral Economies of Modern Societies are starting a new PhD program in october 2013. It focuses on identifying which kind of values, emotions and habits inform and inspire the social formations that have emerged since the eighteenth century. The School sets out to investigate how ‘moral economies’ were composed, organized and practiced in the last three centuries.

Masterstudents who are interested can apply until the 5th of december. See for more information the flyer or visit the website.