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.
closely with questions of sensoryhierarchy, exploring how the primacy of the
visual interacts with viewers’ other sensual experiences of art: ‘in what ways,
this volume asks, were the operations of visual culture inflected with meaning
because of the value attached to hearing, smell, taste and touch?’14 Sight was
extremely important in early modern sensory configurations, but as Sanger and
Walker acknowledge, so too were the other senses, requiring a critical approach
to this period that is alert to a full range of senses.
Another question of perennial interest to
perfumer bottles are valued mostly for
that visual materiality. That they were once defined by the long-since-faded
scents they dispensed seems hard to reconcile within current cultures of
display. Exhibited in ways that render them meaningful within modern and
postmodern sensoryhierarchies and emphasize their visual materiality, these
objects’ olfactory qualities are rendered obsolete.
Emphasizing visual strategies of display makes a certain amount of sense,
given the educational goals and aesthetic objectives of most museums in Europe
and North America.15 Objects must