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.
Sidney, Mary Wroth both represented the ways in which melancholy was
believed to affect the senses, and exploited the connection between melancholy
and creativity, locating her writing in contemporary debates surrounding the
The essays in this section offer 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
sexualexcitement, or even when melancholic
Women performers and the law in the ‘long’ Edwardian period
. Billing argued
that if Salome was, as he believed, ‘a grossly immoral play, and one
which persons of a healthy mind and wishing to remain healthy would
do well not to witness’, then ‘moral perverts, with their perversions lying
dormant, might be led by seeing pantomimic acts of sadism [referring to
Salome’s sexualexcitement as she bites the lips of the dead Jokanaan] to
practice them themselves, and that in enacting this, Allan was “committing an act of sadism” herself’. Allan responded that she had not written
the play. ‘But’, Billing went on, ‘ you are acting the
Melissa Dickson, Emilie Taylor-Brown and Sally Shuttleworth
contemporary anxieties surrounding the effects on public health of modern technologies and the shocks and strains they imposed.
Similarly, concerns were being raised by British and French doctors in the 1860s surrounding the sexualexcitement supposedly being induced in female users of the sewing machine.
In such diagnoses, it is clear that definitions and perceptions of disease actively inform and are informed by their broader social contexts in terms of class, race