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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.

Open Access (free)
Simon Smith
Jackie Watson
, and
Amy Kenny

Ephemeral History of Perfume: Scent and Sense in Early Modern England (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). 11 Howes, p. xi. 12 The Auditory Culture Reader, ed. by Michael Bull and Les Back (Oxford: Berg, 2003), p. 3. 13 Bull and Back, p. 2. Bull and Back adopt this extremely helpful concept of ‘a democracy of the senses’ from Joachim-Ernst Berendt’s The Third Ear: On Listening to the World, trans. by Tim Nevill (Shaftesbury: Element, 1988), p. 32. 14 Sense and the Senses in Early Modern Art and Cultural Practice, ed. by Alice Sanger and Siv Tove

in The senses in early modern England, 1558–1660