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.
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-ErnstBerendt’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
Les Back that:
‘Thinking with our ears offers an opportunity to augment our critical imaginations, to comprehend our world and our encounters with it according to
multiple registers of feeling.’ 18 Almost fifteen years ago, when they edited one
of the first anthologies on sound studies, they cited Joachim-ErnstBerendt’s
concept of a ‘democracy of the senses’ as a goal to ‘broaden the senses of
sense’.19 Now, with the visual hegemony slightly de-stabilized, I continue with
this broader goal in mind for There is no soundtrack. Working with experimental media art, I
There is no soundtrack is a specific yet expansive study of sound tactics deployed in experimental media art today. It analyses how audio and visual elements interact and produce meaning, drawing from works by contemporary media artists ranging from Chantal Akerman, to Nam June Paik, to Tanya Tagaq. It then links these analyses to discussions on silence, voice, noise, listening, the soundscape, and other key ideas in sound studies. In making these connections, the book argues that experimental media art – avant-garde film, video art, performance, installation, and hybrid forms – produces radical and new audio-visual relationships that challenge and destabilize the visually-dominated fields of art history, contemporary art criticism, cinema and media studies, and cultural studies as well as the larger area of the human sciences. This book directly addresses what sound studies scholar Jonathan Sterne calls ‘visual hegemony’. It joins a growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship that is collectively sonifying the study of culture while defying the lack of diversity within the field by focusing on practitioners from transnational and diverse backgrounds. Therefore, the media artists discussed in this book are of interest to scholars and students who are exploring aurality in related disciplines including gender and feminist studies, queer studies, ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, urban studies, environmental analysis, and architecture. As such, There Is No Soundtrack makes meaningful connections between previously disconnected bodies of scholarship to build new, more complex and reverberating frameworks for the study of art, media, and sound.