From the Annales school to phenomenology, French historians and intellectuals have pioneered insights into interpreting the evidence of the senses. This year’s theme invites proposals for papers and panels from a wide variety of historians who may be concerned with the five human senses, or who study other senses – the sense of place, of time, of belonging, or ‘sixth’ senses that are less obvious and tangible. Scholars working in all periods have studied the senses as a way to reconstruct the experiential dimensions of the past or as a way of thinking about the nature of historical evidence and writing. Sight and sound, seeing and hearing, taste, smell and touch, these are all the focus of important new veins of research in medical, literary, social and cultural history. But the senses also inspire wider reflections on political processes, cultural practices and the way in which different generations of French men and women have attempted to understand and describe their world.
Papers and panel proposals are particularly welcome from scholars who have found the senses – either individually, or in conjunction with one another – to be a vital point of reflection as they grapple with topics in French history. Papers might deal with one of the five senses as a mode of knowledge; analyse the conflicts and the hierarchies among the sensory faculties; or explore cognate terms like ‘common sense’, ‘sentiment’ or ‘sensation’. In short, ‘history and the senses’ should, we hope, inspire a wide range of intellectual, social, political and cultural reflections from different disciplinary perspectives.
Three receptions will be held through the conference, each contributing to our exploration of the conference theme. On the first evening we are hosted by Durham Cathedral with a reception featuring canapés inspired by the recent discovery of 12th-century recipes in Durham’s medieval library, followed by an after-hours tour of Durham Cathedral, one of the finest Norman buildings in Europe. On the second evening, the rich early modern textual collections in Durham’s Palace Green Library will be on display; and after the formal close of the conference, those staying on overnight in Durham will be offered a viewing of special exhibitions at the Bowes Museum, an extraordinary nineteenth-century building inspired, in its design and in the collections it contains, by a luxuriant taste for French arts and French history.
As ever, the society extends a warm invitation to all scholars of French history, and papers and panels are invited on themes other than the main conference theme. Generous subsidy of postgraduates is offered. Proposals should consist of a one-page CV and an abstract of not more than 300 words, in a single document, preferably in PDF format. Panel proposals should also consist of a single document. The deadline for submission of proposals is 10 January 2014.
William Reddy, Duke University
Sophia Rosenfeld, Virginia University
Christophe Prochasson, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
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