Sensational Materialities: Sensory Cultures in History, Theory, and Method

Fall 2016
M 3:30pm - 5:20pm
Permission Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar will explore the sensory and material histories of (often religious) images, objects, buildings, and performances as well as the potential for the senses to spark contention in material practice. With a focus on American things and religions, the course will also consider broader geographical and categorical parameters so as to invite intellectual engagement with the most challenging and decisive developments in relevant fields.  The goal is to investigate possibilities for scholarly examination of a robust human sensorium of sound, taste, touch, scent, and sight—and even “sixth senses”—the points where the senses meet material things (and vice versa) in life and practice. Topics for consideration include the cultural construction of the senses and sensory hierarchies; investigation of the sensory capacities of things; and specific episodes of sensory contention in and among various religious traditions. In addition, the course invites thinking beyond the “Western” five senses to other locations and historical possibilities for identifying the dynamics of sensing human bodies in religious practices, experience, and ideas. The Sensory Cultures of Religion Research Group meets at 7:00 pm on Tuesdays; class participants are strongly encouraged, but not required, to attend these presentations. The research group schedule will be integrated with the syllabus.  [Course is by permission of instructor; qualified undergraduates are welcome.]

Background Expected: 

Some academic background in scholarly study of images and objects (art history or visual culture studies).

Course Requirements: 

1. Discussion leadership; reader responses; overall participation (including attendance at related Yale conference)

2. Presentation of research project

3. Final paper on the same topic as presentation

Basis of Evaluation: 

1. (as above): 30%

2. (as above): 30%

3. (as above): 40%