CFP: Science and the Senses in the Long Nineteenth Century (11/1/07; journal issue)

full name / name of organization: 
Laurie Garrison
contact email:

Special Issue of *Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net*
Science and the Senses (1789-1914)

According to John Locke, the senses are man's only connection to the outsid=
world. It is through sensual experience that man acquires knowledge about
that world. Marjorie Hope Nicolson in *Newton Demands the Muse *(1949) firs=
established how many philosophers and poets used the *camera obscura* as a
model for explaining the processes of human understanding; and, she stresse=
that even if the body was considered the centre of all human experience, th=
mind within it was perceived as at one remove from any original
phenomena. This
visual model for understanding the relationship between sensory perception
and the mind has been extended by Jonathan Crary in the highly
influential *Techniques
of the Observer *(1990).

Romanticists and Victorianists have responded extensively to Crary's
arguments about the various technological models of vision with the result
that visual culture and the gaze (whether masculine, scientific or
otherwise) are quite well studied in these periods. However, one of the
crucial arguments in Crary's work that is less well-responded to is the
newly scientific centring of the origin of vision=97as well as the other
senses=97within the human body. As the developing study of physiology came=
this conclusion in the early nineteenth century, it was not only the visual
sense, but also hearing, touch, taste and smell that became newly
subjective, unstable and temporal. This process had crucial implications fo=
the formation of subjectivity as well as the conceptualisation of the body

This special issue of *Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net *will explor=
two primary questions. First, how does this scientific and industrial
mechanisation of the senses influence conceptions of subjectivity? For
example, if models of perception draw on optical technologies to explain
vision and sight, does the conception of what it means to be human change
accordingly? Secondly, if sensory perception, when science locates it in th=
human body, becomes unstable, unpredictable and temporary, how might this
formulation provide a base for resistance to this mechanisation? If sensory
perception were as unstable as physiology suggested, then the codification
of the senses could only predict and control humans and societies to a
limited degree.

We hope to put the 'other' senses on par with the visual and are interested
in the interplay between the senses. Confirmed contributors include Tim
Fulford and Gavin Budge. Articles of 5,000 to 8,000 words should be sent to
Sibylle Erle (**) and Laurie Garrison ( by 1 November 2007. We do welcome queries! Pleas=
don't hesitate to get in touch.

Possible topics might include:

The senses, their representation and the aesthetic effects thereof in the
discourses on scientific, medical, cultural and literary thought

Advances and new developments in the mechanisation of the senses

On the cusp of Romanticism: the senses and their place in the Enlightenment

The senses and racial science and/or primitivism

Chemically altering the senses or sensual perception

Optics, the training and altering of vision in astronomy

The senses and the study of physiology

Artificial stimulation of the senses

Literary interpretations of any of these issues

Technologies of sound




Hysteria or neurasthenia and the senses


Dr Laurie Garrison
Research Assistant
The Lord Chamberlain's Plays Project
Department of Drama and Theatre
Royal Holloway, University of London

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Received on Tue Mar 13 2007 - 20:36:56 EST

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