Sensual Reading: New Approaches to Reading in Its Relations to the Senses

Sensual Reading: New Approaches to Reading in Its Relations to the Senses

Sensual Reading: New Approaches to Reading in Its Relations to the Senses

Sensual Reading: New Approaches to Reading in Its Relations to the Senses

Synopsis

Sensual Reading is a collection of essays that attempts to rearticulate the relationship between reading and the different senses as a way of moving beyond increasingly homogenized discourses of the "body" and the "subject." Contributions engage with the individual senses, with the themes of sensory richness and sensory deprivation, and with the notion of "telesensuality."

Excerpt

Sensual reading was conceived out of a sense that much contemporary theory and critical practice has coalesced into increasingly homogenized discourses of the “body” and the “subject.” The impetus for the volume was thus a desire to move beyond this homogenization, to break out of this mold, by rethinking traditional aesthetic or phenomenological approaches to the question of “sensing,” in order to rearticulate the relationship between reading and the different senses. This initially took the form of an international conference organized by the Aberdeen Critical Theory Seminar (acts), and its success convinced us that we could profitably select a number of papers and ask the authors to expand them into a collection of essays, which could then be made available to a wider public.

Linking reading and the senses is not a particularly new critical maneuver, and indeed there are a number of traditions and historical moments where this conjunction is explicitly foregrounded. (One might think most immediately of the whole empiricist tradition: the “sensualist” philosophers of the Enlightenment—Berkeley, Hume, Locke—and the almost obsessive concern in French literature and philosophy of the eighteenth century, when writers such as Condillac, Diderot, Rousseau, and Batteux endeavoured to theorize the relationship between language and the sensual apprehension of the natural world.) In fact, there are any number of possible takes on the question of the relationship between reading and the senses, once one starts to open the borders of the usual frames of reference and to allow for a greater degree of intertextual and interdisciplinary infiltration. “Sensual reading” might thus be said to encompass aesthetic theory from Democritus and Aristotle all the way through to the great German idealist tradition: Kant, Hegel, Schiller, and Goethe. (Jane Walling, for example, in her essay uses Goethe’s version of the “Book of Nature” as a paradigm for looking at Proust’s “sensual reading” of the natural . . .

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