Early Modern Sensory Experiences

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The University of Oxford and the Open University are pleased to announce a new initiative that will explore early modern sensory experiences by way of an annual interdisciplinary conference.

Interest in sensory experiences of the past has grown in recent years, with scholars engaging with both interdisciplinary and anthropological approaches in order to better understand historical lived experiences. This annual conference will explore the visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory and/or olfactory elements of particular human experiences across the globe between c.1400 and c.1700.

For the first conference under this theme, papers will consider sensory experiences from a variety of perspectives,  including the following:

  • Contemporary perceptions of the senses in relation to particular human activities.
  • What different sources or artefacts reveal about intended and real sensory experiences in particular places or contexts.
  • The intersection of the different senses and the different components (tangible and ephemeral) involved in a particular human experience.
  • How sensory experiences were shaped by and in turn shaped cultural, social and economic conditions.
  • How the movement of people, objects, practices and their associated sensorial experiences gave rise to the transfer of similar, or the development of new, sensory experiences.
  • How sensory experiences varied according to gender, social class, race or other perceptions of difference.
  • How consideration of the senses might offer new insights into transcultural exchanges.


Organised by Helen Coffey, The Open University, and Leah Clark, University of Oxford.

Find out more about the Digital Humanities and Sensory Heritage Network here.