UPDATE: [Romantic] Science and the Senses Journal Issue––Deadline Extended

full name / name of organization: 
Laurie Garrison
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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
outside world. It is through sensual experience that man acquires
knowledge about that world. Marjorie Hope Nicolson in Newton Demands the
Muse (1949) first established how many philosophers and poets used the
camera obscura as a model for explaining the processes of human
understanding; and, she stressed that even if the body was considered the
centre of all human experience, the 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 visionâ€"as well as the other
sensesâ€"within the human body. As the developing study of physiology came
to 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
for the formation of subjectivity as well as the conceptualisation of the
body itself.

This special issue of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net will
explore 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 the 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. Articles of 5,000 to
8,000 words should be sent to Sibylle Erle (sibylle.erle_at_bishopg.ac.uk)
and Laurie Garrison (lgarrison_at_lincoln.ac.uk) by 15 January 2008.

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 project
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

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Received on Thu Nov 15 2007 - 05:48:56 EST