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.
Simon Smith, Jackie Watson and Amy Kenny
What can texts, performances and artworks tell us about the senses in earlymodernEngland? The sensory experiences of subjects living some four centuries ago are to some degree lost. We cannot hope to recreate the experiences
of hearing, smelling and feeling the interior environment of a church at a
service in the 1590s, or seeing, touching and tasting the River Thames on a
boat journey in the 1640s. Today, we might encounter early modern culture
through language, sight and touch, mediated by written texts
The pleasure of reading comedies in early modern England
‘Tickling the senses with sinful delight’:
the pleasure of reading comedies
In the introduction to Shakespearean Sensations (2013), Katharine A. Craik and
Tanya Pollard foreground the degree to which early modern antitheatricalists’
anxieties about the theatre are couched in descriptions of sensory affect. They
cite Stephen Gosson’s complaint that plays’ ‘straunge consortes of melody
[...] tickle the ear’, the actors’ ‘costly apparel [...] flatter[s] the sight’, while
their ‘effeminate gesture[s] [...] ravish the sence
An examination of touching moments in dance of court and courtship
situations in earlymodernEngland and will examine how the private sensations produced were then recorded and commented upon in different written,
visual and theatrical forms. Sometimes the purpose of such records was for
practical instruction, and I will consider the importance given to the tactile in
developing a communication skill which had to be mastered by those courtiers
wanting to excel in courtly dance. From this practical understanding of the
dance technique based on touching between partners, this chapter will consider
the representation of
specifics of the way in which taste was literally and metaphorically ‘staged’.
My focus is on the precise moments at which characters are required to taste
something – foodstuffs, drink, other characters’ lips – and the ways in which
these moments supplement, reinforce or, potentially, challenge a discourse of
taste that is deployed elsewhere in the plays and in early modern culture. The
first section, ‘Tasting’, explores the divided reputation that this sense had in
earlymodernEngland, drawing on visual, medical and moral traditions. The
remainder of the essay then
Kinship, poor relief and
the welfare process in
The poor in England
Kinship, poor relief and the welfare process
Overview – the ‘problem’ of kinship
Historiographical writing on the depth and functionality of kinship
in earlymodernEngland is limited. It is also contradictory. On
the extent and depth of kinship networks, for instance, early commentators such as Peter Laslett were clear that English households
tended to be relatively small and simple and that, because of
demographic constraint (migration, ‘background
to another. Refreshingly, this awareness is heightened throughout
the chapters in this volume.
The senses in earlymodernEngland, 1558–1660
As the editors point out in their introduction, being able to recreate the
early modern sensory environment or replicate the early modern subject’s
sensory experience would be impossible and in many ways misses the point of
why we should historicize the senses. As David Howes suggests in Empire of
the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader, culture mediates the senses and vice
Antony and Cleopatra and visual musical experience
syluarum: or A naturall historie (1627), F1r.
7 William Rawley’s preface to the volume explains that, ‘true Axiomes must be drawne
from plaine Experience, and not from doubtfull; And his Lordships course is, to
make Wonders Plaine’. Bacon, A2r.
8 Bacon, F4r–v.
9 Christopher Marsh considers Bacon’s remarks in the context of earlier music theory,
in Music and Society in EarlyModernEngland (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2010), p. 40.
10 In addition to the examples considered below, see Anon., Costlie Whore, C3v;
Michael East, The fourth set of bookes
Drama, 26 (1995), 83–104 (pp. 92–93).
6 R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape (Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1994), p. 272.
7 The term soundmark is ‘derived from landmark to refer to a community sound
which is unique or possesses qualities which make it specially regarded’ (see
Schafer, pp. 271–75).
8 See Barry Truax, Acoustic Communication (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2001)
and the Special Issue of Landscape Ecology: Soundscape Ecology (11/2011).
9 Bruce Smith, The Acoustic World of EarlyModernEngland (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1999); Emily
Stewart explains, the ‘forms of their articulation and
expression in works of art give us an historical account of how such experiences […] are transformed’.4 In earlymodernEngland, most writers agreed
with Aristotle’s general assertion that knowledge happens via the senses: ‘if one
perceived nothing one would learn nothing’.5 Sensation allowed early moderns
to, quite literally, make sense of their realities.
By the time Herrick published Hesperides there was a long tradition of poetic
sensoria, or verses specifically devoted to the five senses. Examples include