RobertHerrick and the five (or six) senses
Natalie K. Eschenbaum
When you descend to the lower level of the Art Museum of New South Wales,
you are greeted with an intense, pungent, but welcoming aroma. Cinnamon,
cardamom and cloves – the same spices that lured English Renaissance traders
to India – draw you into a room that houses Ernesto Neto’s installation, Just
Like Drops in Time, Nothing.1 Dozens of massive semi-transparent tubes of
stocking-like fabric hang from the ceiling, weighted down by hundreds of
pounds of ground spices. As Neto’s title prompts
This book attempts to interrogate the literary, artistic and cultural output of early modern England. Following Constance Classen's view that understandings of the senses, and sensory experience itself, are culturally and historically contingent; it explores the culturally specific role of the senses in textual and aesthetic encounters in England. The book follows Joachim-Ernst Berendt's call for 'a democracy of the senses' in preference to the various sensory hierarchies that have often shaped theory and criticism. It argues that the playhouse itself challenged its audiences' reliance on the evidence of their own eyes, teaching early modern playgoers how to see and how to interpret the validity of the visual. The book offers an essay on each of the five senses, beginning and ending with two senses, taste and smell, that are often overlooked in studies of early modern culture. It investigates Robert Herrick's accounts in Hesperides of how the senses function during sexual pleasure and contact. The book also explores sensory experiences, interrogating textual accounts of the senses at night in writings from the English Renaissance. It offers a picture of early modern thought in which sensory encounters are unstable, suggesting ways in which the senses are influenced by the contexts in which they are experienced: at night, in states of sexual excitement, or even when melancholic. The book looks at the works of art themselves and considers the significance of the senses for early modern subjects attending a play, regarding a painting, and reading a printed volume.
, is discussed in this collection by
Natalie Eschenbaum in her chapter on RobertHerrick. Herrick suggests that
‘to sensually engage with things or people is usually to infuse with them, to
melt into them, to liquefy’ (p. 115); here the double nature of the senses seems
to be invoked deliberately by Herrick in order to express the nature of desire.
Equally, the process of sense perception is bound up with the humoral condition of an individual subject. Some of the chapters in this volume are right,
conjunction of aesthetic detail and
utilitarian value in such objects as she examines how a synaesthetic approach
to the history of olfaction might contribute to sensory history.
The second section explores early modern artistic accounts of the senses
collectively, in three particular contexts. Natalie Eschenbaum’s essay investigates
RobertHerrick’s accounts in Hesperides (1648) of how the senses function during
sexual pleasure and contact. Eschenbaum argues that Herrick’s fluid depictions
of sensation respond (in a small way) to the tradition of poetic sensoria and (in a