Introduction

Speakers
Constance Classen
Independent Scholar

David Howes
Concordia University

September 17, 3:00 - 5:00 PM
Room 56-114
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Discussants
Noel Jackson
Literature, MIT

Caroline Jones
History, Theory and Criticism, MIT

Convenors
Stefan Helmreich
Heather Paxson

All seminar meetings are free and open to the public — no registration is required.

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Constance Classen

Constance Classen — The History of the Senses

Medieval odours of incense, sounds of church bells ringing these are not just picturesque details of an earlier era, they are sensory keys. This talk makes use of such keys to unlock doors to other perceptual worlds, worlds that often remain unseen and ignored in conventional historical accounts.

Constance Classen is the author of Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and Across Cultures (Routledge, 1993), The Color of Angels: Cosmology, Gender and the Aesthetic Imagination (Routledge, 1998) and editor of The Book of Touch (Berg, 2005). She is currently working on a history of tactile experience from the Middle Ages to Modernity.

David Howes

David Howes — How Many Senses are There?

The categorization of the senses is a vexing problem. The closer science looks at them the more they split and multiply. When we explore the senses across cultures we find a tremendous variety of perceptual models. The inquiry seems to break down completely when notions of extrasensory perception are factored in. Or perhaps that is precisely the place to start.

David Howes teaches anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal, and is the Director of the Concordia Sensoria Research Team. He has carried out field research in the cultural life of the senses in Melanesia, Argentina and the American Southwest. His latest book is The Sixth Sense Reader (Berg, 2009).


This session of the Sensing the Unseen seminar is complete. Commentary and documentation from this session can be found on our blog.