Making Sense: The Construction of Feeling in the Atlantic World

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Nikki Roulo and Shawn Welch
contact email: 

In The Temple (1633), George Herbert observes that “broken bones may joy,/ And tune together in a well-set song.” Here, Herbert observes the interplay between ailments that affect both the spiritual and physical senses. Senses - understood to be those faculties that acquire knowledge vis-à-vis experience - serve as a shared vocabulary informing both spiritual (i.e., transcendent, religious) and physical (i.e., materialistic, naturalistic) means of treatment. But even in our own day, such connections among theories of sense, spiritual and physical illnesses, and their treatments reconfigure what we mean by “healing” in medical discourses. 


This panel seeks to trace the connection between sense and medical practices in the Atlantic world from the early modern period into the present day. The panel will ask: How do descriptions both of illness and treatment (physical, mental, and spiritual) challenge epistemological understandings of their respective eras? In what ways do theories of sense provide a framework for understanding, for example, the phenomena of contagion and infection? How do particular theories of sense reshape corresponding discourses like medicine, epistemology, and religious experience?  


Various periods and interdisciplinary approaches are welcome. Topics include, but are not limited to: 

--Contagion, Conversion, and Religion

--Medicine and Literary Archives

--Epistemologies of the Body

--Classical and Eastern medicine

--Indigenous Medicine

--Disability and the Senses


Please send abstracts (of no more than 250 words) to Nikki Roulo at or Shawn Welch at by Mar. 1st, 2021.