Synopses & Reviews
"Smith's history of the sensate is destined to precipitate a revolution in our understanding of the sensibilities that underpinned the mentalities of past epochs."David Howes, author of Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory
"Mark M. Smith presents a far-ranging essay on the history of the senses that serves simultaneously as a good introduction to the historiography. If one feels in danger of sensory overload from this growing body of scholarship, Smith's piece is a useful preventive."Leigh E. Schmidt, author of Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality
"This is a masterful overview. The history of the senses has been a frontier field for a while now. Mark Smith draws together what we know, with an impressive sensory range, and encourages further work. A really exciting survey."Peter N. Stearns, author of American Fear: The Causes and Consequences of High Anxiety
"Who would ever have guessed that a book on the history of the senses--seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling--could be informative, thought-provoking, and, at the same time, most entertaining? Ranging in both time and locale, Mark Smith's Sensing the Past makes even the philosophy about the senses from ancient times to now both learned and exciting. This work will draw scholars into under-recognized subjects and lay readers into a world we simply but unwisely take for granted."Bertram Wyatt-Brown, author of Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South
"Mark M. Smith has a good record of communicating his research to a broad constituency within and beyond the academy . . . This will be required reading for anyone addressing sensory history."Penelope Gouk, author of Music, Science and Natural Magic in Seventeenth Century England
"This is a fine cultural history of the body, which takes Western and Eastern traditions and their texts quite seriously. Smith views a history of the senses not only from 'below' but places it squarely in the historical imagination. It will be of interest to a wide range of readers."Sander L. Gilman, author of Difference and Pathology
"Smith (How Race is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses) presents a controversial thesis that puts human senses in a historical context, arguing they are 'not universal but, rather, a product of place and, especially, time.' South Carolina history professor Smith directs his arguments at academics, but aims some telling shots at pop-history institutions like Civil War re-enactments and Colonial Williamsburg that inspire a 'dangerous' sense of 'unwitting faith that these are the "real" sounds or sights, smells, tastes of the past,' not just in tourists but in 'many professionals, not least... some historians.' Canvassing scholarly work over the past 30 years, Smith is critical of the dominant 'great divide theory' that privileges sight over the other senses. As such, Smith looks at the full range (one chapter for each) in politically charged historical moments, taking on, for instance, a strain of reasoning put forth by Louisiana's district attorney in Plessy v. Ferguson: 'I might not be able to see that he is black, but I can certainly smell his racial identity.' Though dry, this is an eye-, ear-, mouth- and nostril-opening primer for the relatively new field of sensory history." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“An informative and entertaining introduction to the underappreciated field of sensory history.”
“Will remind readers why the history of the senses remains one of the most exciting avenues of historical research.”
“An informative and entertaining introduction to the underappreciated field of sensory history.” Andreas Keller
Do we rely on different senses now than the ones we relied on in the past? How have our senses affected history? How have the senses themselves changed? What role have the senses played in the ways we discriminate? Exploring illuminating examples from antiquity to the twenty-first century, this lively, concise introduction to the essential, emerging field of sensory history presents a new way of looking at the past that takes the everyday, the average, and the banal as seriously as it takes the history of elites, the intellect, and the exceptional. Considering each of the five senses, Mark M. Smith explores diverse subjects: visual culture in Victorian Britain and South America, sound in nineteenth-century Australia and France, gender politics and touch in early modern Europe and in native America, "race" and olfaction in the United States and scent in ancient Christianity, and the role of taste in shaping national identity in modern China and early America.
About the Author
Mark M. Smith, Carolina Distinguished Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, is the author of several books including How Race is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses and Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South, co-winner of the Organization of American Historians' Avery O. Craven Award and the South Carolina Historical Society's Book of the Year.