The senses and their representation through history are increasingly problematised as culturally dependent. The following conference focuses on the ancient world, but should offer a discussion of interest for historical psychologists and those interested in cognitive embodiment:
Sensual Reflections: Re-Thinking the Role of the Senses in the Greco-Roman World – 08-09/12/2018, Cambridge (England)
The study of the classical past is currently experiencing a spatial and sensory turn, affecting the work of classicists, classical archaeologists, ancient philosophers and historians alike. Despite the growing number of ideas and approaches developed by individual specialists, so far the attempts to develop an interdisciplinary conversation on the matter have been limited. The aim of this conference is therefore to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and to create a lively and challenging setting for discussion of new methodological approaches to ancient senses.
The conference will be divided into four sessions, each focused on specific aspects of ancient senses and their study:
(i) ‘Sensing the world’ will explore some of the theories of sense-perception put forward in antiquity. The emphasis will be placed on some of the epistemological issues that follow from the different ways in which ancient philosophers explained the relation between the perceiver and the external world, e.g. on the kind of knowledge we acquire through our senses, and the phenomenon of misperception.
(ii) ‘Sensing ruins’ will explore the possibilities offered by sensorial approaches to the study of material culture in classical antiquity. We invite contributions engaging with all the aspects of the physicality of the ancient world and its reception and welcome proposals which seek to present the material in a sensorially engaging and non-traditional way.
(iii) ‘Sensing the body’ will investigate the involvement of the senses in ancient beliefs and theories about disease and the body. This session will be particularly devoted to exploring the connections between literature, medicine and philosophy in the Greco-Roman world, by focusing on their relations with the senses and the human body.
(iv) ‘Sensing beauty’ will broaden the discussion, debating the role of the senses in early aesthetic theory. While encouraging contributions on traditional themes, e.g. mimesis and the sublime, the organizers will give priority to papers that focus specifically on the role of sensorial perception in the theorising of beauty in antiquity, and on how the ‘sensorial turn’ in classical scholarship can deepen our understanding of the early philosophical engagement with beauty and art.
Image: ‘Marble votive plaque with relief bust, possibly Serapis.’ . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY