Sensory History: A Primer

Sensory History

Tropics of Meta

Nipper

Everyone loves lists. The editors of Tropics of Meta have shown how much fun lists of scholarly books can be. Alex Cummings identifies ten books crucial to the study of media history, and Ryan Reft adds nineteen that explore U.S. military history (war and society). Both lists provide a pleasant introduction to excellent scholarship in important but sometimes misunderstood fields.

In the same spirit, here’s a gentle invitation to ease your way into another fascinating but somewhat mysterious field, sensory history. Although there is nothing new about the explicit study of the five human senses (Aristotle shaped basic ideas about the role, meaning, and uses of the senses that still pervade the Western world), sensory studies emerged only recently as an academic field of study. Since the 1990s, anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers, art historians, literary scholars and many others have produced ever more imaginative explorations of how our senses work in…

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