A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Empire Volume 5 9780857853431, 9781474233095, 9781474233071

The 19th century was a time of new sensory experiences and modes of perception. The raucous mechanical intensity of the

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Table of contents :
Cover page
Hallftitle page
Title page
Copyright page
list of illustrations
series preface
editor’s acknowledgments
Introduction: The Transformation of Perception
CHAPTER ONE The Social Life of the Senses: The Assaults and Seductions of Modernity
CHAPTER TWO Urban Sensations: The Shifting Sensescape of the City
CHAPTER THREE The Senses in the Marketplace: Stimulation and Distraction, Gratification and Control
CHAPTER FOUR The Senses in Religion: Migrations of Sacred and Sensory Values
CHAPTER FIVE The Senses in Philosophy and Science: From the Senses to Sensations
CHAPTER SIX The Senses in Medicine: Seeing, Hearing, and Smelling Disease
CHAPTER SEVEN The Senses in Literature: Industry and Empire
CHAPTER EIGHT Art and the Senses: From the Romantics to the Futurists
CHAPTER NINE Sensory Media: The World Without and the World Within
notes on contributors
Recommend Papers

A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Empire Volume 5
 9780857853431, 9781474233095, 9781474233071

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a cultural history of the senses VOLUME 5




IN THE AGE OF EMPIRE Edited by Constance Classen


Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

www.bloomsbury.com Bloomsbury is a registered trade mark of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2014 © Constance Classen and Contributors, 2014 Constance Classen has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Editor of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the authors. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: HB: 978-0-8578-5343-1 Set: 978-0-8578-5338-7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A cultural history of the senses in the age of empire, 1800–1920 / edited by Constance Classen. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-85785-343-1 (hardback) 1. Senses and sensation—History. 2. Europe—Colonies. I. Classen, Constance, 1957– BF233.C852 2014 152.109'034—dc23 2014005104 Typeset by RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk



L ist of I llustrations


S eries P reface


E ditor’s A cknowledgments


Introduction: The Transformation of Perception Constance Classen


The Social Life of the Senses: The Assaults and Seductions of Modernity Kate Flint


Urban Sensations: The Shifting Sensescape of the City Alain Corbin


The Senses in the Marketplace: Stimulation and Distraction, Gratification and Control Erika D. Rappaport


The Senses in Religion: Migrations of Sacred and Sensory Values David Morgan


The Senses in Philosophy and Science: From the Senses to Sensations Robert Jütte



The Senses in Medicine: Seeing, Hearing and Smelling Disease David S. Barnes

25 47

69 89

113 137





The Senses in Literature: Industry and Empire Nicholas Daly



Art and the Senses: From the Romantics to the Futurists Constance Classen



Sensory Media: The World Without and the World Within Alison Griffiths


N otes


B ibliography


N otes on C ontributors


I ndex


list of illustrations

INTRODUCTION I.1 Strong men, weak women? A leader of the Women’s Suffrage Movement being arrested. I.2 Admiring the new electric lights in London. I.3 The Heaven of the Fixed Stars by Gustave Doré. I.4 The new consumer heaven: Le Bon Marché by Fréderic Lix. I.5 “Silent rows of laboring prisoners in the Middlesex House of Correction.” I.6 The trench experience.

4 9 14 14 16 22

CHAPTER ONE 1.1 Unloading Tea at the Port of London by William Bazett Murray. 1.2 Covent Garden Market by Phoebus Levin. 1.3 Women Fingering Clothes in a Street Market by Gustave Doré.

27 29 41

CHAPTER TWO 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5

An Organ Grinder in a London Courtyard by Gustave Doré. The lure of advertising: Paris Kiosk by Jean Beraud. Combing the sewers for valuables. Policing urban recesses: The Bull’s Eye by Gustave Doré. A narrow and dank Parisian street.

50 52 59 63 66




CHAPTER THREE 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels. Shoppers and traders in the covered market at Kirgate, Leeds. A hosiery stall in Berwick Street Market, London. Bon Marché department store, Paris.

74 75 77 79

CHAPTER FOUR 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5

Oriental group in Palestine Park. Jerusalem rebuilt. Printing press and distribution of tracts. Representation of Durga. Infant Siddhartha Gautama Receiving Veneration from Naga Kings, by Olga Kopetzky.

92 94 100 105 110

CHAPTER FIVE 5.1 An ophalmotrope for the study of eye movements. 5.2 A vibration microscope used to visualize sound. 5.3 Gustav Jäger in his woolen suit designed to resist contaminating odors.

125 128 131

CHAPTER SIX 6.1 The microscopic view: the late nineteenth-century bacteriologist Robert Koch at work in his laboratory. 6.2 Medical listening: Laënnec auscultates a consumptive patient, by Théobald Chartran. 6.3 Stench and squalor: Jacob’s Island, London. 6.4 Filth and fever: “A Court for King Cholera”.

139 142 147 150

CHAPTER SEVEN 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4

Portrait of William Wordsworth by Henry Wlliam Pickersgill. Portrait of Charles Baudelaire by Nadar. Portrait of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony. A book cover designed by Will Bradley.

163 175 179 182



CHAPTER EIGHT 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6

“Women’s work”: nineteenth-century Irish crochet lace. Boulevard des Capucines by Claude Monet. Salome Dancing Before Herod by Gustave Moreau. The Three Brides by Jan Toorop. Portrait of Loie Fuller by Frederick Glasser. Neo-Gothic architecture: interior of the Great Western Hall, Fonthill Abbey. 8.7 Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni.

187 190 192 193 197 201 209

CHAPTER NINE 9.1 Capturing native voices: a recording session with a Blackfoot chief. 9.2 A virtual voyage: the Mareorama. 9.3 Sensory deprivation in Newgate Prison, illustration by Gustave Doré. 9.4 New spectacles of light: Reynaud’s Théâtre Optique by Louis Poyet.

218 221 228 232

Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions there may be in the credits for the illustrations and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future editions of this book.

series preface general editor, constance classen

A Cultural History of the Senses is an authoritative six-volume series investigating sensory values and experiences throughout Western history and presenting a vital new way of understanding the past. Each volume follows the same basic structure and begins with an overview of the cultural life of the senses in the period under consideration. Experts examine important aspects of sensory culture under nine major headings: social life, urban sensations, the marketplace, religion, philosophy and science, medicine, literature, art, and media. A single volume can be read to obtain a thorough knowledge of the life of the senses in a given period, or one of the nine themes can be followed through history by reading the relevant chapters of all six volumes, providing a thematic understanding of changes and developments over the long term. The six volumes divide the history of the senses as follows: Volume 1. A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity (500 bce–500 ce) Volume 2. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Middle Ages (500–1450) Volume 3. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Renaissance (1450–1650) Volume 4. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Enlightenment (1650–1800) Volume 5. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Empire (1800–1920) Volume 6. A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age (1920–2000)


editor’s acknowledgments

Editing this book while serving as the general editor for the entire Cultural History of the Senses series has been a demanding but stimulating task. I deeply appreciate the enthusiastic support I received from the contributors to this volume, as well as from the editors of the other volumes in the series, and from all the dedicated people I worked with at Bloomsbury. I also owe much to my family for offering invaluable encouragement and advice. Funding for some of the research I undertook for this volume was provided by a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and by the Visiting Scholar Programme at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.



Introduction: The Transformation of Perception constance classen

Queen Victoria’s bedroom at Windsor Castle reeked of luxury: Elegant lounges were arranged around the apartment, covered with damask satin. A faint and delicious odor filled the room, and I seemed to sink in the soft and luxuriant carpets. Mystery, silence and enchantment prevailed . . . I walked to the bed and I found that there was an odor of cologne, attar of roses, and musk, proceeding from the counterpane, which was bordered with purple velvet and gold lace . . . Kirwan 1870: 563–4 Beside the bed “a little table of ivory, inlaid with gold and lapis lazuli” stood ready for when the queen desired to take her breakfast—coffee and veal cutlets— in bed (Kirwan 1870: 564). The rubbish- and sewage-strewn slums of London provided a very different sensory atmosphere. There some fifty men, women, and children might sleep together in a room like the one described below: All the beds in the apartment were placed upon the bare floor, and the mattresses were filled with dirty straw, which bulged out of their sides, or rugs, and gave the room a close, fetid odor. For covering, there were dirty canvas quilts, made of the same stuff from which sails or potato sacks are




fashioned . . . By reposing on the bare, cold floor, the lodger saved a penny and got his bed for three-pence instead of four-pence. Kirwan 1870: 621; see further Ch. 7 In contrast to the enchanted silence of the queen’s chamber, this bedroom of the poor was filled with “a torrent of obscenity.” Instead of the fragrance of cologne, roses and musk which permeated the former, there rose up a “hellish incense” from the filthy bodies massed together there. Breakfast, for those who could afford it, might be bread and butter and a cup of coffee or tea purchased from a street vendor. This contrast between wealth and poverty signals the heterogeneous nature of the sensory world of the nineteenth century and the difficulty of using any one set of adjectives to describe it (see Parkins 2009). For example, there is a commonplace notion of the age being one of primness and propriety, when bodies were decorously swathed and physical contact was highly restricted. However, it was also an age in which marriage licenses were viewed as an unnecessary luxury by many working people and in which women and men might toil half naked in factories and bed down promiscuously at night in lodgings such as the one described above. Even among the “respectable” middle classes there was a good deal more physicality and horse-play than their reputation for primness suggests (see Classen 2012: 187–8). This diversity of sensations and sensibilities was characteristic of an age of sharp contrasts between wealth and poverty and also of growing cross-cultural interaction and rapid social and technological change. Rather than try to present a general overview of the cultural history of the senses in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, therefore, I will introduce the subject of this volume by means of a selection of brief sensorial investigations. These will help situate the chapters to follow by suggesting the ways in which the sensory world was experienced during the period and tracing the shifts in its construction.

SOCIAL AND SENSORY CLASSIFICATIONS The social order of nineteenth-century Europe was marked by a continuation of many of the sensory stereotypes which had been used to characterize social groups since the Middle Ages. Hence, the working classes were not only considered to live in coarse, smelly environments, they were also often thought to be coarse and smelly. In fact, their supposed thick-skin and insensitivity to malodor were taken by many as proof that workers did not feel the hardness of their lot nor mind living in filth and stench. “Among the lower orders, bad



smells are little heeded; in fact, ‘noses have they but they smell not’” asserted a nineteenth-century perfumer quoting from Psalms (cited by Classen et al. 1994: 82). By shrinking in disgust from such “dirty” and “uncouth” people, the bourgeoisie expressed its fear of the sensory and social chaos they represented, at the same time as it asserted its own superior refinement (see Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7; also Stallybrass and White 1986: 139). As the “lower” sex, women of all classes were associated with the “lower” senses of touch, taste, and smell. “Women’s work” consisted of homey tasks centered on those senses: cooking, cleaning, sewing, and family care. Men, by contrast, were conceptualized as masters of sight and hearing: while women stayed at home they went out to see and oversee the world and take part in public discourse. Women were further typed as soft and weak in comparison to hard, strong men. Hence the two main arguments against women’s suffrage were that women belonged at home and that, as they were too physically weak to defend their country’s laws, they had no right to vote on them (Howes and Classen 2014). Sensory stereotyping was also employed to characterize different ethnicities. The French were said to be elegant, voluble, and frivolous. These qualities were supposedly expressed in a fondness for conversation, dance, cuisine, and dress. Spaniards, with their black garments and measured movements, by contrast, were characterized as solemn and ascetic, though given to passionate outbursts. The English were typed as blunt, practical, and materialistic: “The English perceive objects chiefly by their mere material qualities of solidity, inertness, and impenetrability . . . they do not care about the colour, taste, smell, the sense of luxury or pleasure: they require the heavy, hard, and tangible only . . .” (Hazlitt 1826: 299). Whatever the sensory traits assigned to particular European peoples, however, in general Western ideology held European sensorialities to be far above the supposedly coarse propensities of “primitive” peoples. Similarly, while white bodies (with class differences overlooked for the purpose of asserting a general racial typology) were said to have fine skins and mild odors, black bodies were associated with coarse skins and pungent odors. Thus, the author of one mid nineteenth-century treatise on racial differences proclaimed: “From the skin of the purely white race is exhaled a pure and agreeable odor, while from that of the [African] it is very strong and offensive indeed; and from his skin a great amount of this rank oder [sic] is exhaled, as it is, of course, distilled through a coarse system and unrefined, coarse-grained flesh” (Stewart 1866: 120–1). This stereotype would have found confirmation in the notorious stink of slave ships, which, due to overcrowding and poor



FIGURE I.1: Strong men, weak women? A leader of the Women’s Suffrage Movement

being arrested. Imperial War Museum.



sanitation, was so potent it might be smelt even before the ships arrived at port (Kachur 2006: 59). Such sensory typing played a key role in shaping interactions among social groups, and determining their respective roles and supposed intellectual and physical capacities. In many cases the sensory symbolism of class, gender, and race was strongly influenced by the desire of dominant groups to assert their right to power. For example, traditional Western ideology stated that coarse skin was a sign of being suited for servility. Hence, assigning coarse skins to Africans helped Westerners justify the practice of enslaving them. In the nineteenth century a dark skin color was also increasingly taken to indicate mental inferiority (see Smith 2007). This attribution was supported by a longstanding association of whiteness with purity and darkness with impurity; traditionally applied to eveything from angels and demons to white and brown bread. Incorporating such sensory symbolism lent power and seeming veracity to social and physical classifications.

THE SMELLS AND SOUNDS OF CITY LIFE Despite dramatic differences in lifestyles, there were commonalities that cut across sensory and social divides. As regards odor, the Queen’s bedroom and similar abodes of wealth may have been pleasantly fragrant, but generally, at least within cities, it was a malodorous time. This was true not only of the working-places and homes of the poor, but of many urban sites. Offices, for instance, smelled of mouldy walls and musty parchment, while courtrooms reeked of unwashed prisoners and decaying judicial wigs. (Mark Twain noted of the police court of San Francisco that it was “the infernalest smelling den on earth”—1963: 172.) The streets and waterways which traversed cities, in turn, often stank of refuse and waste (see Chapters 1, 2, and 6; Classen 2005c; Corbin 1986). There was some respite for suffering noses. In malodorous Lisbon a traveler noted that “the inhabitants scent their apartments by fumigating them with lavender and sugar . . . and you can hardly pass through a street without crossing a current of this agreeable fragrance” (“Lisbon in the years” 1825: 381). In Madrid, aromas of cinnamon and chocolate from the abundant chocolate shops perfumed the air (Inglis 1831: 74). In general, however, such agreeable odors were but pockets of fragrance in the urban miasma. It was not until the “Great Stinks” of the latter half of the century, when hot, dry summers intensified urban stench and concerns rose over its potential danger to public health, that the campaign for sanitation began to take effect. This involved the building of sewers and the institution of municipal garbage collection (see Barnes 2006).



The nineteenth century was also a noisy time. The rattling of carriages, the cries of vendors, the shouts of children, the bellowing of street organs, the barking of dogs, penetrated deep into people’s homes (Picker 2006). Some of the public noise was musical in nature, not only due to organ grinders, but also to the fact that singing and whistling were commonplace. Many of the games children played in the street involved singing. When a music-hall number became popular, one might hear it sung throughout the city, by delivery boys, house maids, office clerks, or audiences waiting for a show to start: people made the city musical. A muffling of the usual noises carried a special significance. Straw laid in the street to dull the sound of passing carriages meant that someone nearby was ill or dying. Straw in the street where I pass to-day Dulls the sound of the wheels and feet. ’Tis for a failing life they lay Straw in the street. Levy 1889: 25 Mufffled bells were a sign of mourning, or a way of making public discontent heard. Antagonism to the War of 1812 in New England led to “muffled bells, flags at half-mast, and public fasting” (Kennedy and Cohen 2012: 221). In Maria Edgeworth’s novel Patronage muffled bells are used by villagers to express their disapproval of a change in landlords (1893: 155). The pealing of bells and the firing of guns and cannons, by contrast, were used to mark public celebrations. These sounds might also be employed to dissipate miasmas and malodors linked to disease—a variation of an old belief that the ringing of church bells would drive away demons (Corbin 1998: 101). While ceremonial bell-pealing and cannon-firing would continue to provide sonic expressions of public rejoicing in the twentieth century, however, their purificatory use declined in the latter nineteenth century with the rise of new theories of contagion. Such “sensescapes” demarcated social and spatial zones and gave the era its particular feel. Changes in the sensescape, in turn, publicly signaled the passing of old ways of life and the beginning of new.

THE EXPANDING VISUAL FIELD The nineteenth-century city of smells and sounds was also, and increasingly, a city of sights. The visual field of workers, who lived enclosed in factories and



packed into dense neighborhoods of houses (which, due to various misguided taxes on windows, were singularly viewless), was severely constrained. Their sensory worlds were dominated by close sensations, whether visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, or tactile. Nonetheless, the eighteenth-century notion that sight should not be bounded, that “the eye [should have] room to range abroad” in order to “expatiate at large on the immensity of its views” (Addison 1828: 113), had considerable impact on modes of experiencing and constructing cities in the nineteenth century. Viewing the city from above, which in London usually meant from St. Paul’s Cathedral, was popular with tourists and locals alike throughout the century. Such a perspective expanded the power of vision over the city while decreasing the potency of smells and noises. However, not everyone was ready to appreciate the visual power afforded by such vistas. Thomas Carter, a tailor, flatly stated that the view from St. Paul’s gave him no pleasure. For him the vista presented but a “confused, shapeless mass” with the mighty Thames—so stirring when experienced from the ground—reduced into insignificance. However, most visitors who left behind records seem to have been impressed by the experience of looking down on the world. As buildings grew taller over the course of the century, experiences of such bird’s-eye views multiplied (Ferguson 2008: Ch. 4). Painted panoramas provided another mode of surveying the world (see Griffiths 2008: Ch. 2). One of the most frequented, a panorama of London as seen from St. Paul’s, was praised as offering an even better view of the city than St. Paul’s itself and one which, furthermore, did not require climbing up countless stairs. Panoramas, and the more theatrical dioramas, might also offer views of foreign cities, picturesque settings, or thrilling scenes. These painted scenarios complemented the other new visual offerings of the midnineteenth century, which included the three-dimensional views afforded by stereoscopes and the moving images of the zoetrope. In the mid eighteenhundreds the photographic camera—which vied with the steam engine for the title of “the most wonderful invention of the age”—began to provide an unparalleled wealth of images for private viewing. “In whatever direction you turn your peering gaze,” wrote the poet Walt Whitman in 1846 of the growing proliferation of photographic portraits, “you see naught but human faces! There they stretch, from floor to ceiling—hundreds of them” (cited in Pavlik 2008: 2). Added to these new forms of imaging the world were the visual displays provided by newly-established museums and world’s fairs (see Chapter 9). Britain’s Great Exhibition of 1851, pictured on the cover of this volume, astounded the visiting public with its sumptuous displays of mechanical



inventions, artworks, and products from around the empire and the world. Just as astounding, however, was the building in which the exhibition was housed, a glass edifice of unprecedented size which proclaimed the triumph of the unfettered eye. If one looks closely at the illustration one can see people touching, conversing, smelling flowers, but it is evident that the overwhelming sensation is intended to be one of visual splendor. The concern with opening up vistas which a number of such spectacles evidenced also manifested itself in urban design. In contrast to the dark, narrow, twisting streets of the medieval city, the modern ideal was to have bright, wide, and straight avenues. This was exemplified by the spacious layout of the capital of the fledgling United States of America. With the same ideal of urban rationalization in mind, as well as the practical goals of facilitating urban control and dispersing miasmas, the convoluted medieval core of Paris was replaced with an orderly network of straight, wide boulevards with farreaching views. The new attention to panoramic views and the organization of space was replicated in maps, with their views from above and their neatly outlined divisions. Maps provided yet another way of transforming multi-sensory environments into visual icons: “On the sheets of the map modernity could be absorbed in a single glance . . . It was a reassuring sight, in contrast to the incoherent sensory experience of the street” (Nead 2005: 13). An important technical development which added to the growing visualism of modern life was the invention of gaslight, followed at the end of the century by that of electric light (see Figure I.2). Installed on city streets and within buildings and homes, gaslight blurred the age-old sensory divide between the visuality of daytime and the tactility of nighttime. Previously, the sense of touch had furnished an essential means for orienting and occupying oneself in the dark of night. Darkness, in turn, had provided a cover for deviant tactilities, the work of the criminal and the prostitute. With gaslight the realm of touch shrank, as that of sight grew. Rather than illuminating the city evenly, as was the case with sunlight, however, gaslight gave the city glowing highlights. It reversed the relative visibility of inside and outside, as the illuminated interiors of shops, cafés, and houses came into bright prominence with nightfall. It also provided a new vision of the city as an immense tapestry of lights, a sight as fascinating as the panorama of the city during the day. “It is especially at night that London should be seen,” declared one impressed visitor in 1839, “in the magic light of millions of gas-lamps, London is superb!” (cited in Nead 2005: 88). Gaslight made it possible to say what previously would have been


FIGURE I.2: Admiring the new electric lights in London. Public domain.




something of an oxymoron: “It is especially at night that London should be seen.”

EMPIRES OF SENSATION While Spain and France lost most of their colonial possessions in the nineteenth century, for Great Britain it was the age of empire. The political and commercial empire established by the British during this period was also a sensorial empire, as the exchange of goods along trade routes produced a circulation of sensations. Among the key products imported from abroad were such sensuous substances as sugar, tea, coffee, spices, tobacco, and cotton, all of which became central to European domestic life among all classes. Both Queen Victoria and many of her working-class subjects enjoyed a cup of hot coffee or tea. In the first part of the century a number of such imported goods came from plantations worked by slaves (see Chapter 3). Slavery was not legal in Britain itself, a fact which the eighteenth-century poet William Cowper (1824: 185) imaginatively attributed to the virtues of English air and soil: Slaves cannot breathe in England, if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free; They touch our country, and their shackles fall. In other parts of the empire, however, the air was not quite so liberating, for slavery lingered on in certain countries until the mid-nineteenth century. In fact, domestic desires for highly-valued sensations fuelled both the use of slave labor and the trade in slaves themselves, who constituted an important part of the goods circulating in the global market in the early nineteenth century. Thus slaves were purchased in Africa by British merchants with calico cloth, bars of salt, or other prized goods. In the West Indies these slaves would be traded for sugar, spices, and rum, which would be sold on the market back in Britain (see Clarence-Smith 1989). William Cowper (1824: 362), as part of his poetical campaign to abolish slavery, drily described how compassion for slaves was kept in check by the desire for the “indispensable” sensations they made available: I pity them greatly, but I must be mum, For how could we do without sugar and rum? Especially sugar, so needful we see? What, give up our desserts, our coffee, and tea!



If a breath of English air was enough to set slaves free in England, it appeared that the taste of the fruits of their labors was sufficient to keep them enslaved elsewhere. The considerable economic benefits of slavery, however, also colluded in making the disagreeable business more palatable. At the same time as they brought home exotic sensations, which went beyond such basic goods as sugar and tea to include such manufactured products as lacquerware and cashmere shawls, the British distributed Western sensations around much of the globe. In a number of countries, Western sensorialities and sensibilities were imposed on colonial subjects. In India, for example, children in British schools not only received an English education, but also instruction in Western social norms, which often involved a refashioning of sensory practices. One English schoolmaster recounted how the reluctance among his Indian pupils to come into contact with others of a lower caste was overcome: On one occasion the boys in a class would not allow a fellow Brahman of lower subcaste to sit down with them. He was given a push [by the master] and landed in the lap of one of the high caste objectors. The two boys were then seized by their heads and their heads well rubbed together . . . From that day on there has never been any question of high caste, low caste . . .—all sitting together, playing together, or even boxing together. Tyndale-Biscoe 2005: 168 This tactile rite dramatically enacted a principle of classroom equality at the same time as it asserted British dominance over native bodies. In other countries Western sensory regimes were adopted by the peoples themselves—or at least by their elites—due to their desirable associations with progress and power. Meat-eating was promoted in largely-vegetarian Japan in the late nineteenth century in the belief that it would help the nation attain the military might of the carnivorous West. European clothing and hairstyles, in turn, were adopted as signs of a modern “civilized” identity. Emperor Meiji set the standard by exchanging his traditional robes for a Western frock coat and cutting off his topknot. It was a signal to the world that Japan meant business (Ohnuki-Tierney 2002: 63, 65). The global circulation of sensations was not simply a two-way circuit, with sensory goods and practices being exported from and imported into the West. Sensations also circulated among non-Western countries, sometimes following traditional trade routes and sometimes promoted by Western activities in the



region. The British, for example, trafficked opium from India into China (causing widespread addiction among the Chinese), in order to offset a trade imbalance created by the demand for Chinese tea, silk, and porcelain in Britain. An example of a more informal transfer of sensations concerns the introduction of the English version of Indian curry to Japan by British merchant ships during the Meiji era. Originally assumed to be Western in origin, and adopted as one more sensory sign of modernity by the Japanese, the Japanese version of English curry would become one of the most popular dishes in the country (Collingham 2006: 252). Protestant missionary activity also played an important role in promoting new ways of sensing around the world (see Chapter 4). Missionaries transported English clothing, material goods, craft practices, music, manners, and literacy, along with a new set of religious symbols and rituals, causing sensorial revolutions wherever they settled. The spread of Protestantism along British routes of trade and colonization was taken by some to signal its sacred and sensory triumph over Catholicism. “The Protestant flag floats on every ocean breeze, [while] the Catholic banner hangs limp in the incense silence of the Vatican” one exultant Protestant exclaimed (cited in Parkes 2011: 83). In Latin America, the product of Spanish imperial expansion, however, the scents, sounds, and sights of Catholicism continued to dominate religious life, even within those countries where the British had strong commercial interests.

INDUSTRIAL PERCEPTIONS The technological and industrial developments of the century brought a mechanical dimension to life at the same time as they created new sensory worlds. For the working classes the most dramatic way in which this transition was experienced was within the machine-driven factory. The following fictional description of a cotton mill by Frances Trollope conveys the painful intensity of factory life where all sensations jar and child workers are slaves to the machine: The ceaseless whirring of a million hissing wheels, seizes on the tortured ear . . . The scents that reek around, from oil, tainted water, and human filth . . . render the act of breathing a process of difficulty, disgust, and pain. All this is terrible. But what the eye brings home to the heart of those, who look round upon the horrid earthly hell, is enough to make it all forgotten . . . the dirty, ragged, miserable crew . . . the overlookers,



strap in hand, on the alert; the whirling spindles urging the little slaves who waited on them, to movements as unceasing as their own. Cited in Simmons 2007: 423 The experiential antithesis to the factory was provided by the department store, a commercial cornucopia of plenty which appeared on the scene in the latter half of the century (see Chapter 3). The factory was a site of mass production, the department store of mass consumption, and if the former was a hell for the senses, the latter was described as a paradise. It was not only the profusion of merchandise within the store that dazzled, the cascades of silk, the rainbows of ribbons, but also the amenities—restaurants, concert halls, reading rooms—together with the palatial architecture. Climbing the great curving staircase in the skylighted atrium of the Bon Marché in Paris, late nineteenthcentury shoppers could feel as though they were ascending the rings of a consumer heaven (see Figures I.3 and I.4). The fantasy worlds of sensory plenty depicted in earlier visions of paradise or in tales of the imaginary land of Cokaigne, seemed to take form and substance in the department store. Arguably, however, the department store, like the factory, was dominated by a mechanical sensibility, in which clerks and customers functioned as cogs for moving merchandise. “They were all nothing but the wheels, turned round by the immense machine” wrote Zola of the people working in his fictional department store “Au Bonheur des Dames” (1886: 119; see, however Nava 2007: Ch. 3). Whether this analogy was valid or not, the fact that many perceived it to be so testifies to the power of the assembly-line as a new model for framing the sensations of modern life. Another powerful new model for the mechanization of perception was the railway experience (see Chapter 7). Railway travel created a new sense of visual detachment, for scenes whirled by without travelers having any possibility of interacting with them. In the train, as in the factory, one subjected oneself to mechanical rhythms and requirements—there was no stopping until the machine stopped. However, railway travel also helped stimulate concerns over the living conditions of the poor as previously little-seen working-class districts came under the view of passengers. Trains provided an overland means for the rapid, mass transportation of products. This brought a greater variety of goods and sensations into local stores and markets. It further enabled certain industries, such as dairies and slaughterhouses, which had previously often been located within cities, to be removed to the outskirts and thereby erased from urban experience. Milk and meat now seemed to many to simply arrive by train, rather than by means of



FIGURE I.3: The Heaven of the Fixed Stars by Gustave Doré. Dante, The Divine Comedy, London: Cassell, 1880.

FIGURE I.4: The new consumer heaven: Le Bon Marché by Fréderic Lix. The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images.



animal bodies. Like the products of the factory, and like water, piped into modern homes, they became the stuff of technology. The machine carried, the machine clothed, and the machine fed. It was inhuman yet strangely maternal. In the late nineteenth century, the mechanical model would even come to be applied to child-rearing, with mothers advised to keep their children to strict schedules and to avoid any non-functional touching (Classen 2012: 190–1). Time itself became one more natural material, an almost tactile substance, to be subjected to mechanical control. Standardized “railway time,” required for train schedules, replaced local times based on the rising and setting of the sun. Gaslight turned night into an artificial day. Photography gave permanence to ephemeral perceptions. Museums transformed distant times and places into artifactual exhibits. Assembly lines demonstrated that the same product could be endlessly reproduced and hence exist in many places at once. Marx and Engels claimed that capitalism caused “all that was solid to melt into air” by transforming labor and goods into the irreality of “capital.” With their new sense of power over time (and space), however, the Victorians and their crosscultural counterparts might also be said to have busied themselves with the reverse accomplishment: solidifying perceptions that had previously seemed as elusive as air.

THE CIVIL SENSES The mechanization of sensation in modernity was central to the conceptualization of the state system. If the state was to operate as a manageable and productive machine, then a certain social and physical standardization of the population was required: efficient machines need made-to-measure parts. In the army this was promoted through the practice of the drill, which took individuals with disparate corporeal practices and trained them to perform the same actions at the same time at command. Drilling attained such widespread popularity in the nineteenth century that it came to form part of the routine of many social institutions, from schools to churches, and from workers’ organizations to prisons. Surrendering one’s desire for independent movement to participate in the power of a coordinated social machine held great appeal in an age awed by mechanical might and precision, and also increasingly unnerved by a sense of fragmented individualism (Classen 2012: Ch. 8). Not only the drill, but many aspects of life in modern institutions fostered a sense of mechanical regularity and order: the production lines of factories, the rows of desks in classrooms, the benches in prison workrooms, or even the displays in museums, the meticulous ordering of time, and the repetitious



monotony of labor—whether assembling products in the factory, tracing letters at school, or peeling apart tarry strands of oakum in prison. As such institutions encompassed ever greater numbers of citizens in the nineteenth century, particularly after schooling became compulsory, virtually no one remained untouched by the new social ordering. As regards the senses, in the army and the factory, as in the school, the prison, and the museum, the sense of touch was disciplined, the sense of smell suppressed, the sense of taste controlled, the sense of hearing attuned to directives, and the sense of sight habituated to perceiving the world as an assemblage of units. Perhaps the most important of these labors as regards sight was the process of becoming literate. The printed page (along with the press which produced it) has been seen by Marshall McLuhan (1962) and others as offering a formative model for the modern state. In print the fluidity of speech—and by analogy of social life—was broken down into discrete units—typed letters—which were than regrouped in neat, silent, and static rows. The comparison with the discrete but uniform bodies of children sitting in rows in classrooms or the uniformed bodies of prisoners in silent rows on work benches—all legible, as it were, to the watching eyes of their supervisors— is striking (see Figure I.5). Mastering the printed page required intensive visual training—“eye drill”—and, like state institutions themselves, fostered a gaze that dissected and reassembled. Instruction in mathematics, also fundamental

FIGURE I.5: “Silent rows of laboring prisoners in the Middlesex House of Correction.” Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life, 1862.



to the educational system, would have similarly supported a vision of the world as an assemblage of units rather than a seamless whole. Through the influence of modernizing elites, as well as that of transnational commerce, conquest, and colonization, these new social and sensory models and the institutions and industrial systems which supported them spread throughout the globe. This led to a certain homogenization of perception across cultures. Every modern nation, it seemed, required factories, railways, armies, schools, prisons, and museums, along with standardized modes for demarcating time and space. Every modern nation also needed mass media— first print, then radio and film—to disseminate the sights, sounds, and values of modernity, to encourage citizens to speak a common language, and to create common modes of framing experience (see Chapter 9). The European hierarchy of the senses, with sight and hearing associated with cognition and placed above and apart from the so-called lower senses, was likewise exported abroad where it contributed to marginalizing divergent local sensory practices and values. To this list of commonalities other cultural elements were added. Dress styles emanating from London and Paris found their way onto the backs of social elites across Europe. An English traveler noted in 1830 that: “Spain is the only country in Europe in which a national dress extends to the upper ranks,” adding, however, that “even in Spain this distinction begins to give way” (Inglis 1831: 68). Many non-Europeans followed suit. In early nineteenthcentury Lima, for example, women were swathed in traditional voluminous garments that left only one eye showing. This fashion had persisted for centuries despite being condemned by the Church for allowing women to act with anonymous impunity in the street. In the latter nineteenth century, however, the traditional coverings vanished under the influence of modern French fashions. The homogenization of sensory worlds was further assisted by a certain blurring of social categories. This process, which likewise came to be associated with modernization and progress, helped to create one social body—“the people”—out of many heterogeneous groups. Slavery was abolished in most countries over the course of the century. The working class gained improved wages and working conditions. Women were gradually and grudgingly accepted in a number of previously exclusively male spheres. Though marked social and sensory differences still existed, the result of these various developments would be more of a shared perceptual life. Along with standardization, the modern state required specialization, and this also had an effect on ways of sensing. The demand for specialization



extended beyond the differentiated skills required by different professions to include many aspects of social life. Within cities, certain sensory activities had their own dedicated spaces, such as restaurants, concert halls, art galleries, and playing fields. The modern house also supported sensory divisions, with its separate rooms for dining, sleeping, bathing, and its parlor serving for visual display, music, and conversation (see Classen 2012: 186). In order to promote a collective identity, nations further cultivated distinguishing sensory traits. This contributed to the growing interest in the nineteenth century in folk dances, musical forms, craft practices and cuisines, and how they might be preserved as popular traditions or incorporated into high-culture productions to express a national ethos. The power of sensory symbols—a song, an image, a dish—to stir and bind made them essential to ensuring the emotional allegiance of citizens to the ideal of the state. Civil senses were not only well-drilled and regulated, therefore, they also responded with patriotism to the iconic sights, sounds, and savors of the homeland.

THINKING THROUGH THE SENSES The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a time not only of new sensory experiences, but also of new theories about the senses (see Chapter 5). Three of the most influential thinkers of the era, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud each had his own take on the senses. In 1844 Marx argued that the senses were alienated and suppressed under capitalism. The emancipation of the senses, he held, could only be achieved by the abolition of private property (1959). In 1859 Darwin countered the traditional view that each creature had its own distinct and unchanging sensory capacities, with a radical concept of common origin in an ancestral organism and subsequent sensory and physical divergence (2009). At the end of the nineteenth century Freud intimated that the “lower” senses had their heyday in infancy after which their calls for attention were subdued by external social interests. Marxism and Freudian psychology both helped to promote a notion of human sensuality being repressed. This notion would become widespread in the twentieth century, along with a corresponding idea of a need for sensual and sexual liberation. Darwinism and Freudian psychology, in turn, both suggested a model of sensory evolution in which preoccupation with sensations provided by the “lower” senses, especially smell, belonged to an early stage, whether in the development of the species or in that of the individual. Freud, indeed, seems to



have partly based his theory of psychosexual stages on an evolutionary model of human development. As the human species progressed from four legs to two, so did each person go from crawling to walking. In both cases Freud noted that upright posture lifted the nose from the ground, decreasing the importance of the sense of smell, and elevated the eyes, giving a new emphasis to the sense of sight (see Howes 2003: Ch. 7). Whether from an evolutionary or psychological perspective, however, it seemed clear that the lower senses, and particularly the “animalistic” or “infantile” sense of smell, should not absorb the interest of modern, mature humans. Not surprisingly, given this viewpoint, those experimental artists of the late nineteenth century who attempted to create artworks for the sense of smell were denounced as physiological and mental degenerates by their detractors (see Chapter 8). Applied to ethnic distinctions, evolutionary theory was used to argue that the “lower races,” which supposedly represented an earlier stage in human evolution, would have a greater tactile, gustatory, and olfactory orientation than Europeans. (Darwin himself deemed smell to be “more highly developed” among “savages”; 1871: 24.) More broadly, an overall heightened sensuality was attributed to tribal peoples, who were imagined to lack the intellectual capacities of the “civilized races.” Influenced by such theories, which conveniently upheld pre-existing typologies, the anthropologists of the day often expected the “primitive” societies they studied to emphasize concrete sensory experience over abstract rational reflection (Howes 2003: 1–6). In 1898 the Torres Strait Expedition took a team of Cambridge researchers to Melanesia in search of precise data on the sensory acuity of “primitives,” as well as other information (see Chapter 9). The results of extensive testing, however, indicated that the sensory powers of the Torres Strait Islanders were about the same as those of Europeans. Not even the sense of smell was significantly different. Despite the failure to discover any definitive dividing lines between “primitive” and “civilized” senses, the written accounts of the expedition still evidenced a desire on the part of the researchers to uphold models of “savage” sensorialities. As regards the visual acuity manifested by certain Islanders in discerning the presence of birds in the bush or boats out at sea, one of the researchers noted: “Minute distinctions of this kind are only possible if the attention is predominately devoted to objects of sense, and I think there can be little doubt that such exclusive attention is a distinct hindrance to higher mental development” (cited in Richards 1997: 47). Similarly, even if the natives did not seem much better at perceiving smells, they were said to attach more meaning to them. This interest in odors was taken to be “yet another expression



of the high degree to which the sensory side of mental life is elaborated among primitive people” to the detriment of intellectual development (Myers 1903: 185). While in numerous ways the scientific theories and research of the day were put to the task of upholding traditional sensory divisions among species and among races, they also were employed to overturn them. For example, while the thought of humans and animals having a common ancestor—of the human mouth having once been a “snout” and the human hand a “paw”—was highly unsettling, it also encouraged many people to give more consideration to animal sensibilities. As Darwin himself put it, animals are “our fellow brethren in pain, disease, death, suffering, and famine—our slaves in the most laborious works, our companions in our amusements—they may partake of our origin in one common ancestor—we may all be melted together” (1958: 179). Extended to human races, the premise that differences in skin color, hair type and so on were but adaptive responses to differing environments could be used to dispel the notion that they functioned as external sensory markers of immutable moral dispositions or intellectual capacities. Research on the senses across ethnic groups, such as that carried out by the Torres Strait Expedition, in turn made it harder for commonplaces such as the superior olfactory powers of “savages” or the insensitivity of African skin to be taken as statements of scientific fact.

THE SENSES AT WAR Patriotism was an important sentiment to cultivate during the period covered by this volume, for it was a time of intense competition among Western nations for territories, resources, and political influence—competition which not infrequently resulted in war. The beginning of the period was marked by the Napoleonic Wars and the Spanish American Wars of Independence and the end by the Russian Revolution and the Great War. The intervening years were likewise pocked with wars, battles, invasions, rebellions, and revolutions, both in Europe and abroad. The sensory experience of war was one of bombardment and violence, of drudgery and privation, interspersed with moments of exhilaration and tenderness. Another characteristic sensory experience of war was that of inversion. During the 1812 occupation of Moscow, for example, churches were turned into slaughterhouses, soldiers urinated in aristocratic libraries and, their own clothes in tatters, dressed in a bizarre array of appropriated garments (Austin 2000). War produced upside-down sensations, both for combatants and for the inhabitants of occupied territories.



Such experiences affected more people than ever before during this period due to the growing size of armies and the global scale of many conflicts. They also took on new characteristics as modern technologies of transportation, weaponry, and communications, along with changes in military tactics, revolutionized the nature of warfare. The crucial role of modern technology in the warfare of the period, and the salience of machine and factory metaphors for combat, meant that, for many, war became an industrial experience. The First World War brought millions of young men from diverse countries together and exposed them to similar practices and experiences. During this war it was trench warfare in particular that dominated soldiers’ sensory impressions. The trenches offered their own kinds of inversions. They replaced living above ground with living underground, making the modern warrior the lowly antithesis to the high-riding knight of old. They replaced being active during the day with being active at night, and attending to sights with attending to sounds. One French combatant noted: “The darkness is a huge mass: you seem to be moving through a yielding substance; sight is a superfluous sense. Your whole being is concentrated on the faculty of hearing” (cited in Leed 1979: 144). A German soldier credited his musically-trained ear for enabling him to distinguish those shells which were closest and “gauge their trajectory, caliber, and speed” (cited in Leed 1979: 124). Whatever views might be had from the trenches were circumscribed views through loopholes or periscopes, or cautious glances over the top. The consciousness of smell also intensified, with odors of decaying corpses and sick and unwashed bodies filling the trenches, In his novel Verdun, Jules Romans described this malodor as almost tangible: “Every kind of foul vapour, everything least acceptable to nose and lungs, seemed to have been rolled and churned into a substance just not heavy enough to clutch with [one’s] hands” (1933: 88). The dual violence of external and internal sensations might lead to a divided consciousness. Outside oneself, there was “the shriek and boom of bullets and shells; hammering of machine-guns, shouting of captains” wrote the Futurist F. T. Marinetti of the experience of warfare. Inside “one felt the deadly microbes crawling in the suppurating wounds, devouring the flesh, undermining the thin walls of the entrails” (cited by Armstrong 1998: 96). The devastation of the landscape caused by shelling, in turn, made it seem as though war were being waged against the earth itself. The experience from below with its circumscribed sights and its intense sounds, smells, and tactile sensations contrasted with the aerial vista of the fighter pilot, which turned battlefields and cities into inaudible, inodorate, and intangible panoramas. The German pilot Ernst Boehme noted how unreal it



FIGURE I.6: The trench experience. Photograph by Ernest Brooks. Australian War Memorial, public domain.

seemed to look down on soundless explosions when flying over the front (Jean 2011: 58). Rather than attending to sounds, the fighter pilot needed to keep his target in view at all times. The taste of the war, in turn, was the new one of tinned food. At first this innovation was resisted by many soldiers due to its metallic flavor and its apparent transformation of food into an industrial product. However, eventually soldiers grew accustomed to dining out of a tin and even enjoyed the novelty of eating fruits and vegetables out of season. When the war was over and they returned home, such soldiers helped to stimulate a civilian demand for tinned foods (Bruegel 2002). The sensory effects of the war, in fact, reverberated throughout society in ways too numerous to discuss here. However, one widespread sensation produced by the conflict was that of repulsion towards warfare. In 1820, when



warring was often attributed positive virtues, Hegel wrote: “Just as the blowing of the winds preserves the sea from the foulness which would result from a continual calm, so also corruption would result for peoples under continual or indeed ‘perpetual’ peace” (2012: 93). Even after all the devastating wars of the nineteenth century, the English poet Rupert Brooke could enthusiastically write of soldiers going to war in 1914 as “swimmers into cleanness leaping” (1942: 146). In the trenches, however, the “fresh wind” of war turned out to be a fetid swamp and leaping into “cleanness” was transformed into wallowing in mud. After the First World War, in the minds of many, war became sensorially and socially foul.

CONCLUSION: NEW WORLDS OF SENSE By the start of twentieth century much of the sensory world of the early eighteen-hundreds, a world similar in many ways to that of the previous century, had passed or was passing away. Taking its place was the new sensory world created by science and technology, state institutions, global migration and trade, and changing social mores. As discussed above, these processes of modernization traveled around the globe to affect many diverse peoples. Their strongest impact, however, was perhaps felt in the Americas, which experienced extraordinary changes during the nineteenth century. At the turn of the twentieth century, for example, the former imperial outpost of Toronto was a bustling, modern city with department stores, elevators, electric tramcars, and daily newspapers. Utility poles lined the downtown streets creating new networks of electricity and communication. In 1896 the first motion picture was shown in the city and a few years later the first automobiles rumbled down its streets. Social changes were also afoot. After decades of debate, in 1918 women finally won the right to vote in federal elections. In this busy city center there would have been little to indicate the forests and marshes which had formerly covered the landscape. There would likewise have been few glimpses of the original inhabitants of the area. The land on which the city was built had been exchanged by the indigenous Missisaugas in 1787 for cash and such exotic goods as rum, gun flints, brass kettles, mirrors, and laced hats. In 1793 a party of Ojibway Indians had been present at the naming of the new settlement (then called York) and were reportedly pleased by the firing of a Royal Salute (Simcoe 2007: 105). The sensory world of the early colony had owed much to the native inhabitants and the sights, sounds, savors, and textures they provided. Such indigenous sensations would have little apparent impact on the sensescape of Toronto a century later, however.



Aside from location and climate, the new Toronto could have stood in for any progressive modern city. Much of this intercontinental sensory homogenization was due to European influences. Nonetheless, in the twentieth century the tide was turning. Technological advances, new forms of music and art, new consumer goods and social trends, were beginning to radiate out from the New World. The first longdistance telephone call was made not in Europe, but by Alexander Graham Bell between two towns near Toronto. In the early twentieth century the Ford Motor Company of Detroit not only created the enormously popular Model T automobile, it also provided a new model for assembly-line production. During the same period the Argentine tango swept Europe and Hollywood films popularized a new form of visual entertainment. Coca-Cola, invented in the United States in the late nineteenth century and based on an extract from the South American coca plant, would become one of the best-known consumer products in the world. In fact, though the original impetus for the sensory worlds of modernity may have come from Europe, many of the defining sensations of the twentieth century would emanate from the innovative cultures of the New World.


The Social Life of the Senses: The Assaults and Seductions of Modernity kate flint

The senses are essential to sociability. They help connect us to others, and allow us to participate in communities. At the same time, it is through our senses that communities, in the forms of crowded streets and buildings, and communal activities, can seem to overwhelm us, and challenge our autonomy and individuality in uncomfortable ways. Yet the social life of the senses is not just to be understood in relation to connectivity outside of the self. As nineteenth-century research in physiology and psychology demonstrated and explained, the senses worked actively, in combination with one another, within the individual body—creating, indeed, an important component of what constituted individuality itself. This chapter explores the concept of the “social life” of the senses in three distinct ways. It considers how the senses connected individuals to the environment that surrounded them. The busy thoroughfares of nineteenthand early twentieth-century cities continually stimulated the eye, nose and ear, refusing sensory rest to the perceiver, and making them acutely aware that their own lives were always related to the physical existence of others. Sound and smell have the power to travel into—and out of—dwellings and workplaces, 25



eroding the barrier between domestic and public existence. Appealing to the sensory imagination was a powerful tool at the disposal of social commentators. Information received through the senses, moreover, led people to make, both consciously and unconsciously, discriminations and judgments about class, ethnic identity, background, and gender—the tools through which one apprehends what Raymond Williams termed a “knowable community” (Williams 1975: 165), and through which one tries to make sense of what has become the more familiar phenomenon of the crowded, chaotic, contradictory modern world. The senses work also to connect people to wider, unseen communities than those in which one lives—communities composed of networks of production, distribution, and consumption. Merely to hold a book, for example, or to finger the fabric for a new dress, or to drink a cup of tea with sugar is to touch or taste something that has been made and transported by other hands, and in other places—sometimes very far-away places indeed. Whilst this contact must frequently have been nonconscious, the physical imprint left by human labor was something that was deliberately recalled by those—like John Ruskin, like those who participated in the Arts and Crafts movement—who repudiated the impersonality of mechanization and the suppression of individuality that mass manufacture brought with it. To draw attention to the engagement of senses in creating, wearing, or eating something is a way of drawing connections between people; to show how the senses may participate in broad and invisible networks. The senses connect us not just to our present, but to our pasts. Starting from Marx’s insight in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 that they are not merely used as organs through which to respond to the present moment, but that they are a potent source of material memories, Susan Stewart has reminded us that “such memories are material in the sense that the body carries them somatically—that is, they are registered in our consciousness, or in the case of repression, the unconscious knowledge, of our physical experiences” (Stewart 1999: 17). If mid-nineteenth-century physiologists and their popularizers would attribute this to the workings of the “nervous system,” with the “great sympathetic nerve” running down the spine, branching out into other organs, and connecting in the brain, and if modern neuroscientists explain this through the establishment of neural pathways that create habits and associations, the overall concept is the same: that sensory impressions, stored in the body, work together to establish our individual conceptualization of who we are. Finally, this chapter will consider how the senses may be said to have a busy social life of their own within any individual who is the agent of perception. G. H. Lewes, in The Physiology of Common Life wrote (anticipating William



FIGURE 1.1: Unloading Tea at the Port of London by William Bazett Murray. The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images.

James) of the “vast and powerful stream of sensation belonging to none of the special Senses, but to the System as a whole” that constitutes an individual’s experience of life (Lewes [1859] 1860: 49). As he points out, we may be pretty much unconscious of all the demands that are being made on our sensory apparatus at any one time:



While I am writing these lines the trees are rustling in the summer wind, the birds are twittering among the leaves, and the muffled sounds of carriages rolling over the Dresden streets reach my ear; but because the mind is occupied with trains of thought these sounds are not perceived, until one of them becomes importunate, or my relaxed attention turns towards them. Lewes [1859] 1860: 40 As we will see throughout this chapter, the obtrusiveness of some aspect of the external world onto an individual’s consciousness is one of the means by which one can be made uncomfortably aware of one’s embodied existence within it. But what is important to my purpose here is that Lewes was one of a number of influential thinkers whose research on the nature of perception emphasized the mutual imbrication of the senses in a person’s physiological and psychological make-up. Recognizing the importance of sensory collaboration is certainly nothing new, but a cluster of notable thinkers in the Victorian period repeatedly returned to the topic of how, precisely, the senses work in cohort with one another to produce our understanding of the world and ourselves. In what lies ahead, I will be drawing on some of these theorists, whose work bridged physiological research with the developing discipline of psychoanalysis. But I will also be making extensive use of literary texts, for the way in which a writer brings together the workings of the different senses, using language that stimulates the sensory memories and associations that we carry within our own bodies, may be said to constitute a further form of social life: one that is constituted by the imagination of the individual reader, and yet that inescapably links them to other consumers of the same text. Commentators on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century city, whether writing fiction or poetry, or trying to draw as accurate a description as possible in journalism, reports, or travelogues, endlessly commented on the visual plenitude, the mingling of odors pleasant and foul—more often than not, foul—and the constant clanging, shouting, rattling, barrel-organ-churning sounds of the streets. Artists and photographers, limited to appealing to their audience’s visual imagination in the first instance, helped chronicle this chaos. Consider, say, Phoebus Levin’s 1864 painting Covent Garden Market (see Figure 1.2). Although the composition and lighting directs the eye to focus on certain groups—the bargaining taking place just left of center, the porter with a huge basket of produce on his head on the right of the picture—the fact that there is no unifying perspective or clear sight lines mimics, through our viewing practice, the experience of having our attention pulled first in one way, then



another, as if we had actually been present. There is plenty of motion, which stops us regarding it in a contemplative way—unless we focus on the deliberately obscured group of ragged girls on the left-hand side, looking for dropped or discarded fruit or vegetables, and representing those who are more figuratively obscured in society, even as the more respectable woman in front of them, apparently buying a bunch of flowers, appears to be the object of the speculative gaze of the lounging group of men to our right. However, the painting is, necessarily, silent. It invites the spectator to supply the sounds that Charles Dickens wrote of in his essay on Covent Garden Market in Sketches by Boz: “The pavement is already strewed with decayed cabbage-leaves, broken haybands, and all the indescribable litter of a vegetable market; men are shouting, carts backing, horses neighing, boys fighting, basket-women talking, piemen expatiating on the excellence of their pastry, and donkeys braying” (Dickens [1836] 1995: 53). We have, moreover, to add in the smells: the overwhelming perfume of flowers remarked on by many visitors on the one hand, and the stench of rotting fruit and vegetables—not to mention horse and donkey manure—on the other. At least by the time Levin painted his picture, one of London’s most notorious stenches, that produced by the sewer known as the Thames (together with the composite effect of other bad or absent drainage), had significantly improved due to the work of the Metropolitan Board of Works. In the first half

FIGURE 1.2: Covent Garden Market by Phoebus Levin. Museum of London.



of the nineteenth century, even in the most fashionable districts, there were, as Henry Mayhew remarked, citing an 1849 report, “many faulty places in the sewers which abound in noxious matter, in many instances stopping up the house drains and smelling horribly” (Mayhew ([1851] 1851–61, II: 395). Friedrich Engels, visiting England between November 1844 and August 1846, was struck not just by the foul stench that emanated from slops thrown into the street—and, indeed, by the smells of London street markets—but by the “most revolting and injurious gases” emanating from inadequately buried corpses in the pauper burial ground (Engels [1845] 2009: 296). There was a frequent and sickening smell of coal gas as well, especially when the gas mains leaked; leather tanning in Bermondsey was notoriously odiferous (it used dog excrement in its process), and many other small industries emitted fumes and smoke of various kinds. Nor was this olfactory unpleasantness confined to London: it was endemic to all large cities. In Manhattan, sewage and refuse was dumped straight into the rivers, and washed back again. “In summer, at low tide,” wrote the Health Officer of the Port in 1865–6, “this filth lies frothing like yeast, setting free . . . offensive and pernicious gases and insupportable odors . . . which every breeze . . . spreads over the island” (New York Chamber of Commerce Annual Report 1865–6, quoted in Scobey 2002: 136). Smells were not alone in providing an offensive assault on the human body. As John Picker tells us in Victorian Soundscapes, during the mid century, “street sounds also came to be represented as threatening pollutants with noxious effects” (Picker 2003: 66), quoting a letter cited in Michael T. Bass’s Street Music in the Metropolis—one of many similar pieces of correspondence— that complained of this nuisance that it is “quite as destructive to health, comfort, and quiet, as bad smells, bad drainage, and the proximity of disorderly houses” (Bass 1864: 88). Other letters specified some of the problems: mock Scotsmen dancing to bagpipes; “Italian organ-grinders, blind men with screeching clarionets, boys with droning hurdy-gurdies” (Bass 1864: 59). One can add the cries of street hawkers, or the clatter of carriages, or, for those situated near railway tracks, the “shrieking, roaring, rattling” trains that Dickens, in Dombey and Son, represents as whirling along with the triumphant speed of death (Dickens [1848] 2002: 312). Later, there were the sounds of the internal combustion engine—not just cars, but buses. The Motor-Car Journal reported in July 1908 that in the previous year, 4,362 of London’s 8,507 buses had been reported as “unfit for traffic on account of noise” (“Motor Traffic in London” 1908: 435)—noise amplified in narrow streets. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, the narrator records the general “bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses,



vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; . . . the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead” (Woolf [1925] 2005: 4)—a set of sounds which, representing the inherent life of the bustling city, Clarissa Dalloway finds enlivening, almost comforting—is sliced into by the sound of a car backfiring, mistakable for “a pistol shot” (13). This sound is a structural device, joining people together synchronically in their private responses, creating social cohesion through response to an urban sound even though in sociable terms they are strangers to one another. It also links them diachronically. The First World War had left its sensory imprint on people’s nervous systems, and the extraordinary demands that it made on the senses— especially, in this novel, that of the shell-shocked Septimus Warren-Smith—is something to which I’ll return. Sensory appeals bind people together in a positive as well as in a negative way: in the sights and sounds and smell of the music hall or opera or theater or circus; in the durbars and pageants of empire—as Tim Barringer, for example, has demonstrated in his analysis of the role that the aural (especially Elgar’s music) played in the staging of the 1911 Delhi Durbar, and in its theatrical representation in London the following year (Barringer 2006). Without discounting for a moment the maddening effects of the cacophony created by street musicians—one that stimulated a crescendo of rhetorical protest that culminated in the passing, in 1864, of the less than effective Street Music Act— the thing that stands out in these protests is the way in which they are colored by class anxiety and xenophobia, and by a fear that the privacy of the home (both as a domestic sanctum and as a working space) was being violated by the heterogeneity of the streets outside. Banding together in a campaign to try and suppress noisy street supporters was one obvious way in which an identifiable social grouping could be formed through a shared reaction to an acoustic environment, but other virtual communities, operating through shared assumptions rather than in any programmatic sense, reacted to the world around them through what were, in effect, class codings, or responses rooted in other ideological biases. Janice Carlisle, in Common Scents, has shown how novelists of the 1860s played on their audience’s pre-existent associations with what one popular commentator of the time called “ambassadors from the material world” (Wilson 1856: 18). Drawing, for example, on psychologist Alexander Bain’s discussion of smell in The Senses and the Intellect (1855), she demonstrates how odors associated with labor—with mills and warehouses or beer brewing or a pastrycook’s kitchen—were deemed especially offensive (Carlisle 2004: 42). To evoke sensitivity to certain smells—as does Esther Lyon’s father, in George Eliot’s



Felix Holt, when he explains the necessity of the wax candle that’s burning by saying that his daughter “is so delicately framed that the smell of tallow is loathsome to her” (Eliot [1866] 1995: 60)—is a concise way of telling an audience about social position and ambition. Other social segments may be quietly damned through their alleged olfactory preferences, as when the increasingly environmentally aware John Ruskin sneered at the “sporting people who have learned to like the smell of gunpowder, sulphur, and gas-tar [the latter two were used to drive rabbits from their warrens] better than that of violets and thyme” (Ruskin [1872] 1903–12: 436). For Ruskin, the appeal of the natural world to the senses was necessary and restorative, and perhaps more than any other nineteenth-century writer, he repeatedly urged, and practiced, habits of visual attention. But the natural world could itself be overwhelming in its assault on the senses, even though the demands made by rural scenes might be far less toxic in their oppressiveness than those of the city. In Chapter 19 of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy evokes a typical June summer evening, “the atmosphere being in such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive that inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three senses, if not five”—a strange statement, that appears to make the objects themselves receptive, rather than acting as the source of stimuli for the human observer. Tess finds herself on the uncultivated edges of the farm garden, which “was now damp and rank with juicy grass which sent up mists of pollen at a touch; and with tall blooming weeds emitting offensive smells—weeds whose red and yellow and purple hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as that of cultivated flowers.” She moves through this vegetation “gathering cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that were underfoot, staining her hands with thistle-milk and slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked arms sticky blights which, though now-white on the apple-tree trunks, made madder stains on her skin” (Hardy [1891] 2008: 138). What is so striking about this passage is the emphasis on touch. In cities, touch—the invasion of what tiny amount of personal space that one might possess by the jostling presence of another, by the hand of a beggar on one’s arm—is rarely something to be sought out, except in private. Here, although there’s a strongly sexualized element to these oozings and adhesions, Tess’ apparent lack of awareness about where her skin ends and the excrescences of the natural world begin consolidates her supposed affinity with this world. At the same time, it both reminds and warns us of her continued capacity to move around in a kind of daze when it comes to sexual predators. If one’s sense of touch is used to define space (see Gibson 1968: 97), then Tess is both idealized and threatened through her proximity to sensual invasiveness.



As Santanu Das writes in his moving and illuminating study, Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature, “vision, sound and smell all carry the body beyond its margins; tactile experience, by contrast, stubbornly adheres to the flesh” (Das 2005: 6). The haptic experience of that war—the sucking mud, the familiarity of other people’s warm, and cold, flesh, the blood, the holding and comforting, the attempts to find one’s way in darkness or in thick clouds of mustard gas—added a newly intense dimension to the social life of the senses in the second decade of the twentieth century. It was evoked in letters, in poems, in memoirs, in novels that all try and make vivid the unprecedented nature and scale of the trauma of war, and the way in which its memories lodged themselves within the body. “Body,” indeed, becomes a doubly signifying word: the container for the individual human being; and the sense of communal existence. A bomb blast badly shakes the hut in France where Tietjen’s unit is sheltering in Ford Madox Ford’s No More Parades (Ford draws on his own First World War experience in the series of novels that make up Parade’s End). Sound no longer stays external to the body as “the drums of ears were pressed inwards, solid noise showered about the universe, enormous echoes pushed these men—to the right, to the left, or down towards the tables” (Ford [1925] 2001: 291). Emotions, memories, fear, anger rise instantly to the surface, for “an enormous crashing sound said things of an intolerable intimacy to each of those men, and to all of them as a body” (Ford [1925] 2001: 293). What is more, such sounds lodged themselves in the sensory apparatus. In that traffic-filled street in Mrs Dalloway after the car backfires, “the throb of the motor engines sounded like a pulse irregulary drumming through an entire body” to Septimus (Woolf [1925] 2005: 14). If the loud bang brought most of the passers-by together in a unity of speculation, this focused attention is almost too much to bear for the former combatant: “this gradual drawing together of everything to one centre before his eyes, as if some horror had come almost to the surface and was about to burst into flames, terrified him. The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames” (Woolf [1925] 2005: 15). “Our senses,” G. H. Lewes wrote back in 1859, “are the sentinels which guard us against the approach of danger” (Lewes [1859] 1860, II: 212). Having once been stimulated by extreme conditions, one’s neural pathways can take one straight back to the site of trauma when one responds to something which one’s perceptions code as similar, however different the context. All of this brings up crucial questions about sensory awareness and responsiveness, and about degrees of consciousness when it comes to perception and attention. Let us turn back to the large city, within which escape from sensory overload could only ever be partial. It was not just that, as we have seen,



these cities smelt horrible—and that no quarters of them were immune, since wind spreads smells. Nor was it just that they were frequently full of discordant noise: what is significant is that everyone conducted their urban social life in an atmosphere that continually called attention to itself. But it becomes hard to determine how aware people were of their olfactory or acoustic environment; how bad a smell had to be in order for people to notice it, and what unconscious mechanisms and habits they used to neutralize it; how people managed to block out all but the most startling sounds; and how much they saw without registering. Necessarily, these smells are registered individually, subjectively. A member of a different species—one that paid less attention to what they saw, and more, every moment of existence, to what they smelt—might have a quite different connection with the environment. Virginia Woolf played with this conceit in her recreation of the olfactory world of mid-century London and Florence from a dog’s point of view—or rather, through a dog’s nose, in her biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel Flush. She uses this conceit, moreover to make the point that our knowledge of sensory impressions, as humans, is mediated through language: a dog has a far more direct experience, knowing Italy “as Ruskin never knew it nor George Eliot either . . . Not a single one of his myriad sensations ever submitted itself to the deformity of words” (Woolf [1933] 1998: 87). When David Henkin writes of “city reading” in the context of antebellum New York, he also calls attention to language by showing how new kinds of public were created by the commercial signs that were fixed to a storefront or building’s side, by handbills and placards, by newspapers (sold, scattered, and read in the street), and by banknotes. He proposes that “those forms of engagement and disengagement that characterize big-city living emerged fairly early in New York around the experience of written words posted, circulated, fixed, and flashed in public view” (Henkin 1998: x). Henkin’s examples, demonstrating how print encouraged particular modes of viewing for the increasingly literate or semi-literate populations of cities in the industrializing world and its colonies, add to the knowledge of urban spectacle that is given in, say, Richard Altick’s The Shows of London (1978), which considers the metropolis from the Restoration through to the Great Exhibition of 1851, and Lynda Nead’s Victorian Babylon (2005), which not only discusses representations of crowded streets and the anxieties that were produced through proximity, but explores such phenomena as gas and electric lighting that quite literally changed how people saw. This theme is expanded upon in Christopher Otter’s The Victorian Eye (2008), which examines the ways in which urban illumination, and urban life more generally, directly impacted people’s views about observation, visibility, sociability, and privacy.



But all of these studies and examples emphasize viewing, together with noticing smells and sounds and textures—as a highly conscious, and indeed self-conscious activity. We have been accustomed to think of the nineteenth century as an age of increased spectatorship, whether we consider the development of instruments of visualization and recording and distributing what was seen, or the attention given to the act of seeing itself, and the intertwined connections visual perception entailed between physiology and psychology. The faculty of sight had long been extended through visual prostheses like the microscope or telescope, and new technologies increased knowledge of the visible: X-rays, for example, or photography, with its capacity to render up what Walter Benjamin was influentially to call the “optical unconscious” (Benjamin [1931] 1999: 510). Sound was increasingly heard through some form of amplification or electronic transmission; enhanced by the microphone, converting sound waves into electrical voltage. The carbon microphone, invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, was used in early telephones and, around the turn of the century, the radio. This enabled the creation of virtual communities, as, of course, did the invention of the phonograph. As Jonathan Sterne writes in The Audible Past, “the ability to hear in new ways was a hallmark of progress and modernity” (Sterne 2003: 168). More than making a voice reach a location where it would previously have been inaudible, Sterne explains how the telephone mediated not just sound, but space. But the other side of all this enhancement of the senses is to consider the period as an age of distraction, with urban inhabitants and visitors, in particular, either inured to the barrage of information assaulting all their senses, or deliberately numbing themselves against the insistent demands made upon their organs of perception. This was the condition of being of which Friedrich Nietzsche wrote at the end of the century, suggesting that people have their senses constantly stimulated, but possess no time to process or contemplate or evaluate the mass of sense impressions that they receive. Sensibility immensely more irritable; . . . the abundance of disparate impressions greater than ever: cosmopolitanism in foods, literatures, newspapers, forms, tastes, even landscapes. The tempo of this influx prestissimo; the impressions erase each other; one instinctively resists taking in anything, taking anything deeply, to “digest” anything; a weakening of the power to digest results from this [note the slippage from the tasting and ingestion of actual foodstuff to the metaphorical problems with assimilation]. Nietzsche 1967: 47



It becomes the task of the novelist, the journalist, the essayist or the poet to single out the details that are going to strike their audience as both representative and typical, and yet worthy of attention—even shocking—according to the rhetorical ends that they need them to serve. In doing this, they are simultaneously informing their readers, and also playing on knowledge that they already hold, however tacitly. As Henri Bergson pointed out in Matter and Memory (1908), “there is no perception which is not full of memories. With the immediate and present data of our senses, we mingle a thousand details out of our past experience” (Bergson [1908] 1988: 33). What we need to recognize and be able to explain, he goes on to say, is how perception is limited—how, rather than taking on board the whole of our environment, what we notice is in fact “reduced to the image of that which interests you” (Bergson [1908] 1988: 40). As a counter-balance to this emphasis on the sensory overload in nineteenthcentury urban communities, appeals to the senses played a major role in representing isolation, alienation, or mere detachment and lack of engagement. Wordsworth, in Book 6 of The Prelude, writes of crossing to France at the moment when Belgian and Swiss troops were preparing to follow the French, and describes how We crossed the Brabant armies on the fret For battle in the cause of Liberty. A stripling, scarcely of the household then Of social life, I looked upon these things As from a distance—heard, and saw, and felt, Was touched, but with no intimate concern. Wordsworth [1850] 1995: 6, 764–9 To use one’s senses, and to have one’s senses acted upon, is not necessarily to enter into any kind of social relationship with one’s surroundings and fellow humans—however crucial the relationship of the senses to our social existences may also be. Although writing some fifty years after Wordsworth, de Quincey described how, when entering London for the first time, he felt as though he were being sucked in by a powerful vortex, experiencing “trepidation” (he deliberately employs it in its Latin sense of trepidatio, a sense of being buffeted around and feeling agitated) that “increases both audibly and visibly at every half mile, pretty much as one may suppose the roar of Niagara and the thrilling of the ground to grow upon the senses in the last ten miles of approach, with the wind in its favor, until at length it would absorb and extinguish all other sounds whatsoever.” And then, one particular circumstance



forces itself upon the dullest observer, in the growing sense of his own utter insignificance. Every where else in England, you yourself, horses, carriage, attendants, (if you travel with any,) are regarded with attention, perhaps even curiosity; at all events, you are seen. But after passing the final posthouse on every avenue to London, for the latter ten or twelve miles, you become aware that you are no longer noticed: nobody sees you; nobody hears you; nobody regards you; you do not even regard yourself. In fact, how should you, at the moment of first ascertaining your own total unimportance in the sum of things?—a poor shivering unit in the aggregate of human life. De Quincey [1853] 1862: 182–3 The emphasis here is not so much on looking, but on being looked at; not so much on hearing as on having sound forced upon one. To be aware of eyes and motion that exists outside one’s own body is, here, to be rendered without deliberate sensory agency, and hence to be significantly diminished. The pioneering sociologist Georg Simmel, in an 1907 article in which he writes of the “sociology of the senses” in relation to modernity, is precise in his recognition of how they “lead us into the human subject as its mood and emotion [we observe a face, hear a voice] and out to the object as knowledge of it” (Simmel [1907] 1997: 111). And yet, for all their power to connect us to others, we are ultimately alone in our subjective apperception of our surroundings. As Simmel goes on to say, as if echoing De Quincey, the conditions of modern life exacerbate this sense of isolation: The modern person is shocked by innumerable things, and innumerable things appear intolerable to their senses which less differentiated, more robust modes of feeling would tolerate without any such reaction. The individualizing tendency of modern human beings and the greater personalization and freedom of choice of a person’s commitments must be connected to this. With his or her sometimes directly sensual and sometimes aesthetic mode of reacting, the person cannot immediately enter into traditional unions or close commitments in which no one enquires into their personal taste or their personal sensibility. And this inevitably brings with it a greater isolation and a sharper circumscribing of the personal sphere. Simmel [1907] 1997: 118–19 This sensory dispossession is linked to a recurrent phenomenon in dystopian and apocalyptic fictions, which frequently pivot on the idea of the sole survivor



or solo journeyer, deprived of social contact, in a world that refuses to offer up consolation. In this writing, we frequently encounter what we might term the anti-social life of the senses. A writer may explicitly call on our understanding and expectations of the work that the senses can perform in order to emphasize absent or failed connections, and create an atmosphere of bleak environmental and emotional desolation. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the “soundlessness” as Tess walked in the summertime orchard “impressed her as a positive entity rather than as the mere negation of noise” (Hardy [1891] 2008: 138), a promise only intensified as the sound of Angel Clare strumming his harp wafts towards her. But other writers invoke the lack of aural stimulus as something far more ominous. When Keats, in “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” wants to evoke the intense melancholia of the knight’s wandering, he not only kills off the vegetation, but deprives the ear of natural consolatory sounds: “The sedge has wither’d from the lake / And no birds sing” (Keats [1820] 2009: 273). The one remaining human who wanders through the desolate Italian landscapes of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) refuses, at first, to believe that he is the only being left on earth. “The world was not dead, but I was mad” he tells himself. To be mad is to have senses that don’t function properly. “I was deprived of sight, hearing, and sense of touch; I was labouring under the force of a spell, which permitted me to behold all sights of earth, except its human inhabitants” (Shelley [1826] 1994: 449). But at least Mary Shelley’s “last man” has the pallid consolation of beautiful landscapes, even of birdsong, even if, on this plague-swept planet, there is no one with whom to share them— for the beauty, and history, and emotions that one’s senses open up to one are, Shelley implies, essentially things that bring people together, and one’s isolation is magnified when this proves impossible. By the end of the century, to be isolate is to find oneself in an ecological disaster zone, too. In Richard Jefferies’ After London ([1885] 1886), the protagonist Felix paddles his canoe into unknown territory. He sees birds flying in the opposite direction; paddles between weedy banks where the sedges seem brown and withered, though it’s early summer. It’s a landscape that owes a good deal to the grey barren plain (or industrial wasteland) of Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” and the “black eddy” that the knight has to cross (Browning [1855] 1997: 198). In the novel, the water of what should be a pure lake turns dark and black and oily: He leant over, and dipped up a little in the palm of his hand; it did not appear black in such a small quantity, it seemed a rusty brown, but he became aware of an offensive odour. The odour clung to his hand, and he



could not remove it, to his great disgust. It was like nothing he had ever smelt before, and not in the least like the vapour of marshes Jefferies [1885] 1886: 366 On land, he finds himself treading on crumbling bones; rendered semi-delirious by noxious vapor; stumbling on heaps of blackened coins. “He had penetrated into the midst of that dreadful place, of which he had heard many a tradition: how the earth was poison, the water poison, the air poison, the very light of heaven, falling through such an atmosphere, poison” (Jefferies [1885] 1886: 378); in other words, he realized that the “deserted and utterly extinct city of London was under his feet” (Jefferies [1885] 1886: 378). This stagnant, toxic desolation is the end point of human negligence and greed that characterized the worst of contemporary urban conditions. The nineteenth- and early twentieth-century city, in its contemporary form, was hardly a static environment, however, despite the bleak future that could be projected onto it. This was true in a figurative, as well as a literally bustling sense. It was a nexus of trade, linking individual consumers to unseen networks of labor. Three fictional examples—all taken from Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South ([1855] 2008)—illustrate this. First, consider the shawls that Margaret Hale carries into her aunt’s London drawing room, “snuffing up their spicy Eastern smell” as she does so. “She touched the shawls gently as they hung around her, and took pleasure in their soft feel and their brilliant colours” (Gaskell [1855] 2008: 9). Although they are not her own—they form part of her cousin Edith’s trousseau—the pleasure that she takes in them helps to establish her, very early in the novel, as someone who is sensitive to beauty, whose senses are attuned to her immediate surroundings, and who—despite her own relatively modest position within the middle class—appreciates a certain amount of luxury. Understandably, the northern mill town of Milton—a thinly disguised Manchester—to which her family moves comes as something of a shock to her sensibilities. Yet she still takes care with domestic appearances. At a tea party, the table is laid with “a white table-cloth, on which flourished the cocoa-nut cakes, and a basket piled with oranges and ruddy American apples, heaped on leaves” (Gaskell [1855] 2008: 79). Smell, touch, sight, and (implied) taste: the senses here connect an individual not just to proximate humans—the teatime guests—but to the edible products of empire (the coconuts almost certainly came from the West Indies) and to transatlantic imports. The senses that are brought into play on this social occasion are joined, however unconsciously, to those belonging to the people who first picked or handled or wove the objects in question. Let’s consider one more



example from North and South. Jostled in the streets of Milton, Margaret finds that the working girls would “comment on her dress, even touch her shawl or gown to ascertain the exact material” (Gaskell [1855] 2008: 71). She experiences the fingering of her dress material by mill operatives in an uneasy way. It’s at once an invasion of personal space, and yet can be read as a form of engagement, on their part, with her social world and its accoutrements on an almost professional basis. At the very least, contact with the fabric is a form of mediation between their inquisitive fingers and her actual body. In other contexts, touching the body could also insert one into other, more institutionalized networks. In the field of medicine, for example, “feeling the pulse, sounding the chest”—as well as looking for signs of health or disease “peering into the eyes, inspecting the tongue and throat”—let alone using the speculum—became routines of physical inspection that legitimized the close sensory contact of one human with another (Porter 1993: 179). Or women could feel their bodies not just touched, but squeezed and compressed, by the corsets that constrained them, particularly once the hour-glass waist came into fashion in the 1830s, a trend accentuated, until the end of the century, and the increasing demand for freer, “rational” dress, by tight-lacing. To be touched, to be compressed by clothing: this is something that’s at once intimate, but that connects one with a larger world that assesses and places one according to one’s adherence to, or disconnect from, fashionable norms. Part of the strangeness of the street jostling for Margaret is the fact that the clothing was touched once it was on her person—as opposed to bolts of cloth being stroked and held for weight in a drapers, say—and not just appraised visually. But she came to understand that the mill girls’ motivation was one of rough friendliness—“There was such a simple reliance on her womanly sympathy with their love of dress”—and quite different from the scrutiny of workmen, “who commented not on her dress, but on her looks” (Gaskell [1855] 2008: 71). After all, as the shawl episode suggested at the start, assessing fashion, and fashionability, was common currency in the world in which she had moved in the past. As Margaret Beetham points out in her study of women’s magazines, for women to look at how women presented themselves was to engage in a practice of social definition based on surface judgments. Dress “was no longer a simple signifier of status and femininity, but a complex language in which class, wealth, age, marital position, season and time of day were all significant. As with the minutely regulated behavior which constituted etiquette, so fashion depended on minute differences of material, cut or decoration” (Beetham 1996: 99). And yet, circumstances entail adaptation. Edith tries to wear her



FIGURE 1.3: Women Fingering Clothes in a Street Market by Gustave Doré. Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage, London: Grant & Co., 1872.

shawl on a picnic in India, but gives up the unequal struggle with the heat, finds herself “smothered, hidden, killed with my finery . . . so I made it into a capital carpet for us all to sit down upon” (Gaskell [1855] 2008: 235). This provides a clear example of what Arjun Appadurai has termed “the commodity situation in the social life of any ‘thing’ . . . the situation in which its exchangeability (past, present, or future) for some other thing is its socially



relevant feature” (Appadurai 1986: 13, italics in original). The impress of heat on the body of an over-clothed individual; the sense of the prickling of fibre and sweat against skin—the sensory apparatus of the reader is stimulated in order not just to make us visualize a new social function for this piece of fabric (less exotic back in India, it can now be sat upon), but in order to evoke the discomforts of India’s climate. Etiquette itself may also be seen as a social regulation of the senses. In many manuals aimed at the rising middle classes on both sides of the Atlantic, the reader is invited to imagine a socially normative gaze and ear being turned upon them (albeit one couched, very often, in the tones of an intimate confidante). Thus the anonymously authored Habits of Good Society, first published in London in 1860 and much reprinted, advises, for example, that a young lady shouldn’t begin to sing “in society”—that is, in the parlor after dinner, say—too soon, since “it is objectionable to hear a learner, whose performance speaks of the school room; it is far worse, however, to be condemned to listen to a voice that is passed, of which the best notes are cracked and feeble” (Habits [1860] 1863: 264–5). At the same time, the performer should always remember that she is being observed, and to control the movements of her body and hands, and her expression—some “make alarming faces, protrude the under jaw, or what is worse assume an affected smile” (Habits [1860] 1863: 266). Above all, the dinner table is a place of scrutiny. Not only must one be careful about how one helps oneself to food, or chews it, one must pay attention to what one might be touching unawares: “when not engaged in eating,” the reader is advised, “let not your fingers find employment in making pellets of bread, or in playing with the table furniture . . . Never rest your elbows on the table, nor lay your arm upon it, nor touch your nose, or, hair, or make any disagreeable noises with your mouth or nose” (Abell 1855: 110, 157). To borrow Jonathan Sterne’s formulation, “as gradations of social difference became ever finer and more contingent, physical space and decorum, which had previously been issues only among social equals, became a more general concern” (Sterne 2003: 168). Building on Norbert Elias’ reasoning in The Civilising Process about the ways in which repression and mediation are crucial to the establishment of the codes we live by in modern life, he argues for the importance of controlling and ordering sensory transmission if we are to maintain, so far as possible, those distinctions that allow us to maintain our personal and social identity. If overt guides to etiquette became less commonly circulated in the early twentieth century, fiction is full of markers that link the senses with taste and class in a way calculated to stimulate a response in the



reader that is based on their own internalized registers of propriety and social placement. The audience of E. M. Forster’s Howards End (1910) seems expected to know exactly what the shabby, but culturally striving clerk Leonard Bast sounded like when he played Grieg on the piano “badly and vulgarly” (Forster [1910] 2000: 46), just as being shown the appearance of the dinner that he shares with the slatternly Jacky (“They began with a soup square, which Leonard had just dissolved in some hot water. It was followed by the tongue—a freckled cylinder of meat, with a little jelly at the top, and a great deal of yellow fat at the bottom—ending with another square dissolved in water [jelly: pineapple], which Leonard had prepared earlier in the day” (Forster [1910] 2000: 46) is calculated to stimulate some dismal recollections of taste. When it comes to the consumption of food, aesthetics, taste, and smell are, of course, inseparable (Gigante 2005). Matthew Kaiser has written eloquently about how Walter Pater “returns aesthetic judgment to the mouth” (Kaiser 2011: 48), putting him alongside other nineteenth-century materialist thinkers who understand “that the bodily conditions of our existence—illness, vigor, hunger, satiety, destitution, ease—determine our consciousness, rather than the reverse” (Kaiser 2011: 49). Woolf imagines the dog Flush registering Italy with his senses a-quiver. “He devoured whole bunches of ripe grapes largely because of their purple smell . . . goat and macaroni were raucous smells, crimson smells” (Woolf [1933] 1998: 87). She projects onto the spaniel a synaesthetic awareness—an increasing area of fascination for nineteenthcentury psychologists, writers, artists, and aesthetic theorists alike. Synaesthesia, according to the psychologist Edmund Parish, writing in 1897, is “constant involuntary association of a certain image or (subjective) sensory impression with an actual sensation belonging to another sense . . . Thus a particular taste may call up the image or sensation of a particular colour” (Parish 1897: 223). In other words, it constitutes a form of involuntary comingling of the senses, an internal and person-specific form of socialization. In imaginative writing, it is exemplified by J. K. Huysman’s decadent Des Esseintes, finding musical equivalences for food and drink: The flavor of each cordial corresponded, Des Esseintes believed, to the sound of an instrument. For example, dry curacao matched the clarinet whose tone is penetrating and velvety; kummel, the oboe with its sonorous, nasal resonance; crème de menthe and anisette, the flute, at once honeyed and pungent, whining and sweet; on the other hand kirsch, to complete the orchestra, resonates in a way extraordinarily like the



trumpet; gin and whiskey overpower the palate with the strident blasts of their cornets and trombones. Huysmans [1884] 2009: 39 In aesthetic theory, an appeal to synaesthesia can be found in Bernard Berenson’s determination to align the impression made on the retina with tactile values, by the sculptor Adolf Hildebrand’s insistence, in The Problem of Form (1893), on the relationship between the visible and the tangible, and by Vernon Lee’s Beauty and Ugliness (1912). Lee (together with Kit Anstruther-Thomson), seeking to challenge the evolutionary-based theories of the place of the senses in aesthetics that she found in Herbert Spencer (and in his popularizer, Grant Allen), and influenced by contemporary continental thinkers (Lanzoni 2009), put aside traditional hierarchies of the senses, and considered the direct physiological changes—breath, balance, muscular tension—that take place when one stands in front of particular works of art and architecture. When we observe such works, she writes, we are not so much appreciating them objectively as we are following “the inner data of our consciousness: succession, movement, activity and their different modalities (Lee and Anstruther-Thomson 1912: 51). Lee is postulating, in other words, that crucial though our senses are—not just to aesthetic appreciation, but to our practice of living in the world—they contribute to a corporeal and mental whole that cannot be divided up into its component sensory parts. It is hard, indeed impossible, to discern what any individual sense has contributed to our awareness of time, say, or of motion. The senses come together in an individual human being. They connect us to the world, and to our modes of being within it. They are not constant in their operation, since their workings develop according to how we use them, and changing technologies ensure that they often work in a mediated form. Very often, we are not aware of the information that we assimilate through them, and that, in turn, informs our engagement with society. Back in 1859, G. H. Lewes reminded us not to confuse “perception,” of which we are aware, with “general Consciousness, which is composed of the sum of sensations excited by the incessant simultaneous action of internal and external stimuli. This forms, as it were, the daylight of our existence. We do not habitually attend to it . . .” (Lewes [1859] 1860: 47). But this may also act as a call to sensory awareness as we encounter its presence in nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury texts, and to become aware of the cultural work that is performed by the mention of a sound, a smell, a detail. In James Wood’s memorable phrase, “we are all afflicted at times with the cataracts of the quotidian.” He is writing



in particular of how “routine clouds our ability to notice what we once loved about the person we lived with” (Wood 2008: 80), but the metaphor may readily be expanded to describe the growing cloudiness and eventual blindness with which we see—and then fail even to notice—our daily surroundings. If we need an ethics of attention today, paying heed to our own environment, so, too, do we need to exercise this attention retrospectively. Analyzing the sensory and experiential evidence of the past is necessarily historically challenging, because of its subjective and relativistic nature. All the same, alertness to sensory references becomes a crucial means of assessing the markers and associations through which individuals of this period attempted to understand and mediate their own society.



Urban Sensations: The Shifting Sensescape of the City alain corbin

PART I A sensory appreciation of the city does not begin and end in the stones of its architecture, that is to say, in a nature morte or still life. It goes far beyond this materiality. A city’s sounds, odors, and movement make up its identity as much as its lines and perspectives. This was already palpable in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1857, Georges Kastner wrote that great cities have their own music that “expresses the movement and mutations of the life . . . that goes on in them, every moment of the day” (Kastner 1857: v). The urban space does not exist in itself but, rather, emerges in the interactions of those who inhabit, traverse, and explore it, imparting a multiplicity of meanings in the process. It arises from a web of simultaneous readings that constitute its many diverse landscapes. Herein lies the difficulty in constructing a sensory history of the city. Every one of its inhabitants creates, on this quotidian stage, a singular montage according to his or her perceptual habits, sensory culture, range of anxieties and safeguards, degree of surrender to nostalgia, and the dictates of the imagination (through which mythologies filter), not to mention the influence of various rhetorical traditions, prevailing aesthetic codes and scientific convictions about the nature of sensory messages. 47



Consequently, the choice and interpretation of source material poses a problem. A sensory history of the city easily risks becoming a history of rhetorical discourse on urban modernity in the nineteenth century, overlooking the social scope, even the very substance of different readings. That being said, Timothy Clark’s studies of Paris long ago demonstrated that artists—and this would be true of poets and novelists as well—have often persuaded both architects and administrators to design and build cities already sketched out in the imagination (see Clark 1984). In this regard, historians of the senses, perhaps more than in many other fields, are susceptible to anachronism. In interpreting urban sensory space, methods of inquiry are at great risk of being influenced by the observation and research techniques of recently established academic disciplines. The Tableau de Paris literary genre that emerged in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is a striking example. The genre had long been dominated by a moral perspective that privileged virtue, beauty, and genius and was tailored to an audience of men of property, apt to relish any accounts of failure to live up to their ideals. It wasn’t until much later, in the writings of Wordsworth and Balzac, that descriptions of the city ventured beyond the picturesque repertoire of sites, motifs, characters, and particular places. Authors began to study the city, describe it in its totality, even make it the central theme of the novel or poem (Benjamin 1989; Davreu 1994). In short, the historian of the nineteenth century has to be informed about the social uses of the senses specific to the period, including the beliefs and scientific convictions that shaped them, the technical innovations that altered ways of seeing, as well as the portrayal of postures and styles of movement. The increasingly widespread use of windows and mirrors, for example, transformed the presentation of self in public space, forms of visual perception, voyeuristic pleasures, and fetish objects. The evolution of sensory thresholds— patterns of tolerance and intolerance towards the range and intensity of sensations—is crucial here, as are the corresponding forms of vigilance. The development of olfactory anxieties, the shifting significance of silence, and the wavering preferences for darkness or light, all contributed to shaping the daily sensory experience of the city. As for the sources most frequently employed in this sensory history, one cannot help being struck, particularly in the case of Paris, by the over-representation of writing on themes of exteriority—exile, travel, the Bohemian life, and marginality. It is against this briefly sketched backdrop that the history of sensory appreciation in the nineteenth-century city comes into focus. From about 1800 onward, roughly, deciphering the social space became increasingly difficult. All



indications are that feelings of alterity and foreignness in response to the multifaceted, ambiguous and changing character of cities like London or Paris drove city dwellers to turn inward for the first time. The overall context was marked by a tension between two poles. On the one hand, there was a cultural conception of the city, attentive to orderly design and organization, precise limits, harmonious perspectives, the monumental backdrop, the circulation of air and water, and an eighteenth-century urban modernity instilled with a desire to make the city a center of social and civic life. Regulations pertaining to gambling, foul odors and, in Paris, prostitution, all attest to this preoccupation with order, as do the many vivid picturesque descriptions of the city. Consider, for example, the way in which the Parisian auditory space was structured. Bells maintained their multiple functions. They still served as effective auditory synchronizers, a means of transmitting information, sounding the alarm and marking festive occasions. The bell continued to provide auditory cohesion to the city. It imposed an immediate and obligatory membership and shaped the auditory landscape. Meanwhile, the sounds of regulated activity gave concrete expression to the movement and connections between people. The amplified cris de Paris, in their modern manifestation, were auditory synchronizers and signals as well. The physical rhythms and respiratory patterns of work songs, in both the city and the country, stimulated effort, set the tempo, and increased efficiency. Like the merchants’ calls, they bore witness to the continuity of tradition and the presence of a community of upstanding citizens. They helped set territorial boundaries. As social indicators, they made geographic origins easy to trace and complemented the picturesque array of glittering, colorful costumes. Above all, they encouraged certain kinds of behavior: discipline, the harmonious division of labor, and respect for others’ chants and songs. They engaged listening skills indispensable to deciphering this intense social music. In contrast to this coherence, this visual and aural readability, another city was simultaneously taking shape in both London and Paris. This city was opaque and lacking definition. It was scandalous too—primitive, organic, animal, and barbaric. Its poignant strangeness, seen from within, was captivatingly exotic, as described at length by Eugène Sue and Charles Dickens. The literature of the period was attracted to the city’s subterranean spaces, to the darkness and social chiaroscuro of caverns, to sewers and inner orifices of every kind. It wallowed in the crevices and crannies, the shadowy folds and darkest recesses of the underbelly. The city’s sub-theater of masks, conspiracies, excesses, and dealings, the sex trade in particular, was a cesspool. It bred infection and violence and gave rise to other desires and dreams, other values and norms based on force and cunning.



FIGURE 2.1: An Organ Grinder in a London Courtyard by Gustave Doré. Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage, London: Grant & Co., 1872.

FIGURE 2.1: An Organ Grinder in a London Courtyard by Gustave Doré. Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage, London: Grant & Co., 1872.

Olfactory perception holds an important place in the description of scenes such as these, as will be discussed in the second part of this chapter. The confusion of sensory messages, the absence of social readability, the suspicion of a lurking menace around every corner, and the constant exposure to rotting and fermenting waste, all put people on their guard. In this context, the sense of smell merits more serious consideration insofar as, being supposedly



the most animalistic of senses, it could detect and evade the threats posed by this organic matter, this human swamp associated with sin, sickness, and mortality. This city attracted as much as it repulsed. Grounded in an aesthetics of tragedy and social teratology, it was consistent with a Romantic sensibility. For the elites, this monstrous city was also a haven for social fugitives attuned to the supposed animal nature of the masses. Once again, the picture that emerges from an initial sociological inquiry highlights the importance of olfactory analysis. Removing the opacity of this underground city and cleaning it up implies, at once, a deodorization, a categorization of sounds and noises, and the imposition of a visual order symbolized by alignment and cleanliness. Awareness of the intermittence of places renders this perspective even more complex. Between the visually and aurally readable city, and the city abandoned to sensory confusion, alternate readings emerge depending on the time of day or night. As of the 1860s, the face of the modern city began to change. In Paris, and somewhat earlier in London, the impetus to redesign urban spaces and landmarks gave rise to cities with their own distinct character and new public and private spheres of interaction. It was the triumph of the ostentatious display of merchandise, the proliferation of store windows and, especially, international exhibitions. Maxime Du Camp’s studies of Paris (Du Camp 1869–75) suggest a shift from the city-as-organism metaphor to that of the city-machine, with its complex mechanisms. Numerous technical developments profoundly transformed the city’s sensorial space. The spread of gas lighting and electricity, modernization of the network of sewers, the proliferation of services, the refined management of circulation, the nocturnal disruption of temporal rhythms and a burgeoning nightlife, all inspired innovation (Delattre 2000; Schlör 1991). A new leisure culture also flourished, notably in the intricacies of the sex trade and entertainment, as well as in the prevalence of exhibitions and their corresponding crowds—a phenomenon that would become, from that point on, a spectacle unto itself. In the Paris of the Second Empire, the sensory transformation of the urban space was dominated by the creation and expansion of boulevards. Towards the end of the century, as Hazel Hahn (2009) has demonstrated, boulevards became the favored testing ground for the visual marketing of modernity. Walls, trusses, kiosks, urinals, advertising columns (les colonnes Morris), and, a little later, subway stations—not to mention all sorts of tramcars, omnibuses, and sandwich boards—were covered in flashy posters. Advertisers put their money on obsessive repetition, overindulging in multiple reproductions and



mise en abyme techniques. Bright colors and an ever-changing variety of marketing messages bombarded the eye, leaving no chance for reprieve. This “spectacularization” of news, fashion, novelty, and modernity led to the homogenization of the public space.

FIGURE 2.2: The lure of advertising: Paris Kiosk by Jean Beraud. The Walters Art Museum, Creative Commons License.



Simultaneously, the auditory landscape was also undergoing a profound transformation. The songs of artisans and tradesmen were replaced by the sales pitch of peddlers and newspaper vendors. Auditory signals, though exceeding some people’s tolerance thresholds, henceforth blended into a sonorous uniformity. As the new era of horns and sirens was born, the diversity of sounds died down, and human rhythms were no longer audible. Even before the tire’s smooth tempo became the norm, a generic drone had set in, replacing the sounds and rhythms of footsteps and manual activities. The sound of the machine was omnipresent, anticipating the nervous acceleration of vehicles that would become a symbol of power. Conversation became difficult against this backdrop of constant noise. Meanwhile, any abrupt silence took on an unsettling significance, becoming a sign of malfunction in the urban machine. At the city’s center, as at the outer limits, the proliferation of interval zones—gaps, uncertain spaces, and abandoned sites—created a sensory confusion distinct from that which had prevailed in the subterranean city. The accumulation of distractions came to be perceived as a public nuisance in itself—no longer olfactory in nature, but rather, visual and auditory. In Paris, there was a new intolerance towards the sounds of bells, the barking of dogs, night-time disturbances, and any type of noisy gathering or celebration in the streets or public places. The increased mobility of men and merchandise, the sustained acceleration of movement, was an education in new perceptual experiences. The city’s center pulsated with dense crowds, an incessant coming-and-going of indifferent beings. Haste, in these intermittent gatherings, became the very definition of temporality, and the city, like the crowd, was reduced to a nebulous presence that defied analysis. The reactions, studied in turn by Georg Simmel (1989), Kevin Lynch (1960), and Richard Sennett (1974), among others, are well known: the individual confronted with the multitude of passers-by absorbed in their own private interests. This led to a new kind of inner withdrawal. Withheld communication, impersonal exchanges, a reserved and blasé individualistic manner, coupled with exactitude, all became tactics to cope with the intensity and nervousness of life in a world of rapidly changing and uninterrupted impressions. New habits developed: people began to mask their feelings in public, suppress overt hostility or premature friendliness, avoid eye-contact when not speaking to each other, and refrain from calling out to others in the street. The flâneur, whose genealogy has piqued the interest of many scholars, and whose emergence on the scene gave shape to a new form of voyeurism,



abandoned the panoramic gaze and set upon the city with a roaming eye, studying it up-close, lingering in its spaces. Flânerie, in this sense, took the form of a hunt and was linked to a new curiosity for the micro-event, the incidental, and a growing fondness for “things seen,” to borrow one of Victor Hugo’s titles. At the same time, this tendency paralleled an intensified law-andorder ideology. The flâneur paid attention to details, signs and symptoms, saw past outward appearances. Meanwhile, as the Pasteurian revolution was assuring the triumph of contagionism over miasmatism, rendering the previous olfactory vigilance unnecessary, important changes were transforming the visual field. The increased speed of vehicles gave rise to new precautions, led to refinements in lateral vision, and called for a heightened aural attentiveness to the sounds of horns. Photography made it possible to capture the moment, offering new points of view and drawing attention to the details of corners, buildings, and streets. With the omnipresence of advertising, people became accustomed to reading from a distance or simply recognizing, in passing, already decoded messages. They learned to avert their gaze, to avoid seeing or reading, to vary and shift their attentions. Urban sensory history was also characterized, during this period, by a predilection for sweeping, even Icarian, views. In Paris, Sacré-Cœur, hot-air balloons, the Eiffel Tower and, at a somewhat lower altitude, the balconies of Haussmannian architecture, provided many occasions to take in a bird’s-eye view of the city. Meanwhile, the chaotic mingling of sounds, the presence of uninterrupted background noise, continued to transform auditory perception. The city’s languages, both more complicated and simplified—due to the dwindling tradespeople’s calls—demanded ongoing aural adaptations. Henceforth, city dwellers had to establish their own points of reference, find their own places of refuge and silence, create their own sentimental geographies. Individual appropriation of the urban space, continually reshaped by the desires, anxieties, curiosities, vigilance, nostalgia, collective memories, and social mores of the time, depended, in part, on new ways of seeing—perceptual habits acquired at the theater or café-concert, in unguarded moments. Of course, the sensory space of the city was also a product of the historical imagination. In my previous studies of Paris (e.g. Corbin 1991), the city that emerges is one of blood and gratification, a whirlwind of sensual pleasures, the scene of luxury, frivolity, feasts and mayhem; a city where, paradoxically, the diminished audibility of human rhythms, the new sensitivity to auditory disturbances, and the anxiety created by fleeting silences, coincided with an occasional inclination for noise and the unbridled release of inhibitions.



As of the mid-1860s, the streets of the modern city, successively or simultaneously, gave rise to the musical ingredients of modernity. The opera, the operetta, the symphonic poem, popular songs and, in the twentieth century, jazz, all took the city as a place and source of inspiration. Meanwhile, the rural auditory landscape was transformed by the gradual mechanization of agricultural labor, particularly with the advent of harvesting and threshing machines. In certain regions, the development of cottage industry amplified the noise that had been previously limited to artisans’ shops in the village. The nineteenth century, dubbed by historian Eric Baratay “the great century of animals” (Baratay 2008), saw a proliferation of animals in the countryside, which had an even greater impact, accentuating the noise, congestion, and intensity of previously more subdued relations. Towards the end of the century, when the bicycle and eventually the automobile were making their appearance, the sensory space of many rural regions was further enriched by new forms of sociability and festivity—sports and shooting clubs, village bands, and folk ensembles. Nevertheless, the rural sensory space continued to be strongly marked by tradition. The sounds of bells, herds returning from the fields, work songs, animal calls and commands, and clucking hens, all contributed to creating a varied and uneven auditory landscape. Animal odors continued to be tolerated, physical hygiene was late to take hold, and farmyards were usually filled with manure, if not actual manure pits. All of this became increasingly intolerable to visitors hailing from the city.

PART II Anxieties over odors constituted a major preoccupation of urban dwellers of the day. Indeed, the increased attention to social odors was the major event in the history of olfaction in the nineteenth century before Pasteur’s theories triumphed. Whereas references to stenches from the earth, stagnant water, corpses, and, later, carcasses, gradually diminished, the discourse of public health and the language of novels, as well as nascent social research, spoke of smells to the point of suggesting an obsession with a human swamp. Moreover, observers no longer analyzed only the smells of hospitals, prisons, and all those sites where people confusedly crowded together to produce the undifferentiated odors of the putrid thong. A new curiosity impelled them to track down the odors of poverty in the very dens of the poor. This reorientation away from public toward private space required a complete change of strategy. “While continuing to stress the utility of broad



streets, houses with good aspects, cleanliness of villages, drainage of swampy lands, [we] state that it is not the outside wall, but the actual inhabited room itself where the greatest watch on salubriousness has to be kept,” Piorry concluded after reading the reports on epidemics in France between 1830 and 1836 (Piorry 1837: 17). Passot summarized this view brilliantly fifteen years later: “The wholesomeness of a large town is the sum of all its private habitations” (Passot 1851: 26). The new effort to monitor stench inside the dwellings of the humble was inseparable from the development, among the bourgeoisie, of a system of perceptions and a model for behavior in which olfaction was only one component, though not a minor one. The sudden awareness of the growing differentiation of society was an incentive to refine analysis of smells (see Agulhon 1977: 79). Other people’s odor became a decisive criterion.1 Charles-Léonard Pfeiffer (1949), for example, has shown what skillful detail Balzac used in La Comédie humaine to locate the status of bourgeois and petit-bourgeois, peasants or courtesans, by the odors they emitted. Once all the smells of excreta had been got rid of, the personal odors of perspiration, which revealed the inner identity of the “I,” came to the fore. Repulsed by the heavy scents of the masses—symptomatic of how hard it was for ideas of differentiated individuality to emerge in that milieu—impelled by the prohibitions on the sense of touch, the bourgeois showed that he was increasingly sensitive to olfactory contact with the disturbing messages of intimate life. The social significance of this behavior is flagrantly obvious. The absence of intrusive odor enabled the individual to distinguish himself from the putrid masses, stinking like death, like sin, and at the same time implicitly to justify the treatment meted out to them. Emphasizing the fetidity of the laboring classes, and thus the danger of infection from their mere presence, helped the bourgeois to sustain his self-indulgent, self-induced terror, which dammed up the expression of remorse. From these considerations emerged the tactics of public health policy, which symbolically assimilated disinfection and submission. “The enormous fetidity of social catastrophes,” whether riots or epidemics, gave rise to the notion that making the proletariat odorless would promote discipline and work among them (Hugo 1963, II: 513) Medical discourse went hand in hand with this evolution in sensory behavior. Shaken by anthropology and the nascent empirical sociology, medical science let some fundamental neo-Hippocratic principles fall by the way. Topography, the nature of the soil, climate, and the direction of winds gradually



ceased to be regarded as determining factors; experts emphasized more than ever the harm caused by crowding or proximity to excrement; above all, they now accorded decisive importance to the “secretions of poverty” (Passot 1851: 26).2 This was basically the conclusion of the report on the 1832 cholera morbus epidemic (quoted in Bayard 1842: 103ff.). Doctors and sociologists had just detected that a type of population existed which contributed to epidemic: the type that wallowed in its fetid mire. It is now easier to understand the persistent anxiety aroused by excrement. The ruling classes were obsessed with excretion. Fecal matter was an irrefutable product of physiology that the bourgeois strove to deny (except in terms of food; see Aron 1976). Its implacable recurrence haunted the imagination; it gainsaid attempts at decorporalization; it provided a link with organic life, as the traces of its immediate past. “We find the candor of refuse pleasing and restful to the soul,” confessed Victor Hugo, alive to the history that could be read in waste (Hugo 1963, II: 512). Parent-Duchâtelet and many others set out to explore the mechanisms of the necessary evil of urban excretion from an organicist and Augustinian viewpoint. Crossing the center of the city, they met the men who worked with filth. Excrement now determined social perceptions. The bourgeois projected onto the poor what he was trying to repress in himself. His image of the masses was constructed in terms of filth. The fetid animal, crouched in dung in its den, formed the stereotype. The bourgeois emphasis on the stench of the poor and the bourgeois desire for deodorization were therefore inseparable. This new attitude was a departure from eighteenth-century anthropologists’ fascination with the odor of bodies, which did not connect it with the state of poverty but attempted to relate it to climate, diet, profession, and temperament. These pioneers analyzed the odor of the old man, the drunkard and the gangrenous, the Samoyed and the stableboy, but rarely the poverty-stricken. The fetidity of the throng was dangerous only because of the crowding and mingling of people. At the most, Howard (1789: 25) declared that the air surrounding the poor man’s body was more contagious than the air surrounding the rich man’s, but he made no reference to a specific stench. He only implied that disinfection techniques had to be modified according to degree of wealth (which Ramel advised; see Ramel 1784: 271–2). Nevertheless, medical science in those days suggested that some individuals exhaled an animal stench. The human who had always wallowed in the depths of poverty smelled strong because his humors did not have the necessary digestion and the “degree of animalization proper to man” (Hallé 1787: 571). Therefore, if he did not have a human odor, it was not because he had regressed



but because he had not crossed the threshold of vitality that defined the species. Accordingly, portraits of madmen and some convicts reflected the model of a chained dog squatting in a trough, turning its bed into a dunghill, and dripping urine like a liquid manure sump. These portrayals gave birth to the image of the “dung-man,” impregnated with excrement, forerunner of the image of the foul-smelling laboring proletariat of the July Monarchy.3 As early as the eighteenth century, several other groups had a similar image. Foremost among these, it goes without saying, were prostitutes, typically associated with filth and whose presence diminished when refuse disappeared from the streets. In Florence, Chauvet noted that the streets were paved, drains covered, rubbish contained behind screens, “roads strewn with odoriferous flowers and leaves” (Chauvet 1797: 10); there was no longer a single prostitute to be seen. Jews also were regarded as filthy individuals. They owed their unpleasant odor, it was said, to their characteristic dirtiness. “Everywhere these Hebrews gather,” Chauvet (1797: 8) asserted, “and where they are left to administer their precinct themselves, the stench is singularly perceptible.”4 The ragpicker brought the linkage between unpleasant odor and occupation to its extreme, because his person concentrated the malodorous effluvia of excrement and corpses (Ramazzini 1777: 383). Domestic servants also smelled unpleasant, although their status and hygiene improved. In 1755 Malouin advised airing as much as possible the places where they had been (Malouin 1755: 55) In 1797 Hufeland ordered their exclusion from children’s nurseries (Hufeland 1838).5 Between 1800 and the aftermath of the great cholera morbus epidemic in 1832, the image of Job, in the guise of the dung-man, became linked to the obsession with excrement. A favorite subject of early, flattering social research was the city’s untouchables, the comrades in stench, the people who worked with slime, rubbish, excrement, and sex: sewermen, gut dressers, knackers, drain cleaners, workers in refuse dumps, and dredging gangs attracted the attention of the early pioneers of empirical sociology. I have emphasized elsewhere the immense epistemological significance of the inquiry into public prostitution in the city of Paris, which claimed Parent-Duchâtelet’s attention for nearly eight years (Corbin 1981). The archives of the conseils de salubrité confirm this special interest. In addition to the evidence on prostitutes, there are other examples. The convict wallowing in his filth was still an inexhaustible theme (see Chew 1981; Darmon 1979: 123–46). Certainly, in the eyes of contemporary theorists, this



FIGURE 2.3: Combing the sewers for valuables. Daniel Joseph Kirwan, Palace and

Hovel: Or, Phases of London Life, Hartford, CT: Belknap & Bliss, 1870.

figure of the convict had become virtually irrelevant. Nonetheless, studies of the penitentiary bear witness to a continuing reality. Dr. Cottu described his visit to a dungeon in Reims prison:



I felt I was being stifled by the horrible stench that hit me as soon as I entered . . . At the sound of my voice, which I tried to make soft and consoling, I saw a woman’s head emerge from the dung; as it was barely raised, it presented the image of a severed head thrown onto the dung; all the rest of this wretched woman’s body was sunk in excrement . . . Lack of clothing had forced her to shelter from the stringencies of the weather in her dung. Quoted in Villermé 1820: 25, 26 In 1822 alone, the ragpicker, the archetype of stench, was the subject of seventeen reports by the Conseil de Salubrité (Moléon 1818, I: 225).6 The authorities tried to move away from the city the malodorous dumps where, prior to sorting, he piled up the bones, carcasses, and all the remains collected from public highways. The council looked kindly only on collectors of “bourgeois rags”; there was no danger that these would transmit the infection of the masses. The ragpicker concentrated the odors of poverty and was impregnated with them; his stench acquired a symbolic value. Unlike Job or the putrefying convict, he did not wallow in his own dejecta; the grimacing face of the rubbish of the masses, he sat on other people’s dung. Down the rue Neuve-St.-Médard, rue Triperet, or, even more, the rue des Boulangers, individuals were to be seen dressed in rags, without shirts, stockings, or often shoes, crossing the streets whatever the weather, often going home soaked . . . laden with different products plucked from the capital’s refuse, its fetid odor seeming to be so much identified with their persons that they themselves resemble veritable walking dunghills. Can it be otherwise in view of the nature of their activity in the streets, their noses continually in dunghills? Quoted in Corbin 1986: 146 When they got home they sprawled on stinking and dirty straw amid vilesmelling refuse. Blandine Barret-Kriegel discerned an element of fascination in the shocked gaze of those who visited the poor—from Condorcet to Engels, from Villermé to Victor Hugo—for “the ragpicker’s dustbin house,” “infernal dwelling,” for “the unpleasant smell of another, more barbarous, stronger life,” the “eternal return of subterranean powers” (Barret-Kriegel 1977: 130). Accounts of behavior toward smells along with frequent references to the stenches of hell confirm that, whether it concerned excrement, prostitutes, or ragpickers, a



fascination mixed with repulsion pervaded the discourse and governed the attitude of sanitary reformers and social researchers. It almost goes without saying that homosexuals shared in the stench arising from intimacy with filth. Symbols of anality, congregating in the vicinity of latrines, they also partook of animal fetidity (see Aron and Kempf 1978: 47ff.). According to Félix Carlier, the odors of the pederast, who was addicted to heavy perfumes, showed the close relationship between the smells of musk and of excrement.7 The case of the sailor has been less closely investigated. As the ship, stockpot of every stench, quickly became the laboratory for experiments with ventilation and disinfection techniques, the individual who lived on board was to be seen as a necessarily important object of inquiry. He, after all, ran the greatest risk of falling victim to vile-smelling effluvia, as the tragic fate of the Arthur showed. Authors of manuals on maritime health were categorical: the sailor smelled unpleasant and was disgusting. “His customs are debauched; he finds supreme happiness in drunkenness; the odor of tobacco, wedded to the vapors of wine, alcohol, garlic, and the other coarse foods that he likes to eat, the perfume of his clothing often impregnated with sweat, filth, and tar make it repulsive to be near him.” The stench of the sailor, “robust and libidinous,” condemned to long continence or masturbation, added a strong spermatic secretion to the effluvia (Forget 1832: 127). Fortunately, sailors—and in this context the crew stood for the masses at large—did not have a good sense of smell. They did not share the officers’ revulsion, because they lacked delicate noses. Dr. Itard had stated that Aveyron’s savage child felt no disgust for his own excrement (Itard 1807: 88).8 The link that sanitary reformers established between stench and the relative anosmia of the masses only confirmed the bourgeoisie in their push toward deodorization. Although sailors were admitted to be keen-eyed, “hearing presents a slight difficulty” because of the uproar from storms and artillery; “the sense of smell is insensitive in that it is little exercised; the roughness of manual work makes the sense of touch very dull; the sense of taste is depraved by gluttonous and unrefined appetites” (Forget 1832: 126). In general “the sailor’s sensory organs enjoy little activity; the nerve ends seem to be hardened by rough physical work and paralyzed by lack of exercise of the intellectual faculties” (Forget 1832: 128). He would probably be unresponsive to the balsamic odors of spring flowers; far from the sights of rural nature, “his senses are no longer fine enough to analyze its charms” (Forget 1832: 135). Worn out by strong emotions, sailors were unable to experience refined feelings. The sensory inferiority, not to say disability, of the masses engendered a corresponding



poverty of ideas and of feelings. Conversely, the refinement and acute sensitivity of the officer threw the deterioration of the sailor into even sharper relief, and justified the respect shown by the crew. After the cholera morbus epidemic, when the moral calculus movement was renewed, proletarian poverty became the favorite subject of social research. Now denunciations were directed against the stench of the masses as a whole instead of against a few isolated categories symbolically identified with excrement. If servants, nurses, and porters smelled unpleasant, it was because they brought the odor of the proletariat into the bosom of the bourgeois family; this was enough to justify their exclusion, with the exception of the wet nurse (see Passot 1851: 7). The neurotic Flaubert was a privileged witness to this repulsion toward “the basement odor” that emanated from the masses. “The journey back was excellent,” he wrote to Madame Bonenfant on May 2, 1842, “apart from the stench exhaled by my neighbors on the top deck, the proletarians you saw when I was leaving. I have scarcely slept at night and I have lost my cap” (Flaubert 1959). Jacques Léonard’s linguistic analyses of medical discourse emphasize how frequently the terms wretched, dirty, slovenly, stench, and infect were used together (Léonard 1978: 1140). The unpleasant odor of the proletariat remained a stereotype for at least a quarter of a century, until the attempts at moralization, familialization, instruction, and integration of the masses began to bear fruit. Air, light, a clear horizon, the sanctuary of the garden were for the rich; dark, enclosed areas, low ceilings, heavy atmosphere, the stagnation of stenches were for the poor. The archives of the conseils de salubrité and the Constituent Assembly’s 1848 inquiry into agricultural and industrial work are the crucial texts in this endlessly recycled discourse. Several images dominated descriptions of poverty. Like the stench of certain artisans not long before, the stench of the poor man was attributed to impregnation even more than to his carelessness in disposing of all his excreta. Like earth, wood, and walls, the worker’s skin and, even more, his clothing, soaked up foul-smelling juices. In the Pompairin spinning mill, Dr. Hyacinthe Ledain wrote, the children were rickety. “Their condition is attributed to the fact that the air they breathe is unhealthy as a result of the large quantity of greasy oil used in these establishments. The clothing covering these children is so impregnated with it that the strongest, most repulsive odor can be smelled when they approach.” The Secondigny textile mill was just as unhealthy. The children were hideous. “They can be seen coming out of their workshops covered in rags impregnated with oil” (quoted in Arches 1979: 261). Jacques Vingtras felt repulsion for the lamplighter at the college at Le Puy who exhaled an odor of machine oil (Vallès 1972: 65). Again, in 1884 Dr. Arnould declared



FIGURE 2.4: Policing urban recesses: The Bull’s Eye by Gustave Doré. Blanchard

Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage, London: Grant & Co., 1872.

that the Lille poor were “inferior to the rich, not because of work, but because of their narrow, sordid shelters [the poor did not have dwellings], the uncleanliness that surrounds and penetrates them, their life in contact with filth which they have neither the time nor the means to get rid of and which even their education has not taught them to fear” (quoted in Pierrard 1965: 87). While carrying out his retrospective research into working conditions in



the north of France on the eve of the First World War, Thierry Leleu heard it said that the reel-girls, called “chirots” (a dialect form of sirops, “syrups”) because of the liquid that poured out of the machines, “had the odor of linseed gum. A girl who worked in a spinning mill could be recognized by her odor, even in the street. This odor stuck to her skin” (Leleu 1981: 661). Popular novels later conveyed this perception and the repulsion it aroused. Their descriptions of factories stress the stench and suffocating heat rather than the industrial processes (Zylberberg-Hocquard 1981: 629). The odor of rancid tobacco that impregnated workingmen’s clothing was another common theme (too vast a subject to deal with here; see Rival 1981). Everything seems to suggest that the effluvia from tobacco was tolerated to only a limited extent at the end of the eighteenth century—the ruling classes were probably more tolerant of farting and the odor from latrines. Tobacco—pipe, cigar, then cigarette—conquered public places in the first half of the nineteenth century. At first glance this phenomenon seems to run counter to the strategy of deodorization then in progress; however, some doctors still attributed disinfectant properties to smoke. Old soldiers, veterans, and halfpay officers, as well as sailors, were responsible for its spread (Burette 1840: 21). From this point on, tobacco never lost its ambiguity. Its odor signaled the arrival of the boor (see Agulhon 1977: 53; Rostan 1822, I: 546ff.); the majority of sanitary reformers denounced it. Michelet accused it of killing sexual desire and reducing women to solitude; Adolphe Blanqui demanded that women and children be forbidden to use this drug, because “it is the beginning of every disorder” (Blanqui 1849: 209; Michelet 1833–67, II: 285–7). The repulsion often assumed a sociological significance. Forget reviled the sailor’s quid; its odor impregnated his breath, hands, and clothing. It was true, he observed on a conciliatory note, that it was a form of compensation; it should therefore be tolerated. “The sailor uses tobacco as you use coffee, balls, and entertainments, as the literary man feasts on Voltaire, the scholar on an abstract problem” (Forget 1832: 294). “Tobacco is the only thing that assists the imagination of the poor,” pleaded Théodore Burette in his Physiologie du fumeur (Burette 1840: 86). But tobacco’s victory also symbolized the victory of liberalism; it bore witness to increasing male domination of social life before it actually became its instrument. Like conscription, to which its spread was largely due, tobacco was decked with “patriotic,” egalitarian qualities. It was in this context that it earned its title to nobility. “Smoking creates an equality among its confraternity . . . rich and poor rub shoulders, without being surprised by the fact, in places where tobacco is sold,” and only there (Burette



1840: 79). “The firmest support of constitutional government” (Burette 1840: 75), the July Monarchy ensured its triumph. For our purposes, it is important to note that this successful popularization occurred at exactly the time that the stench of the laboring classes was perceived as a natural act of the social landscape. The stress on the repulsive smell of the proletariat appears clearly in the accounts by doctors and visitors to the poor. This was a new intolerance. Hitherto, doctors had seemed impervious to disgust; only fear of infection appeared to motivate precautions.9 During the second third of the century, repulsion toward the smell of the masses was openly acknowledged, without any real recognition whether this represented a new intolerance or a new frankness. The patient’s domicile became a place of daily torture for the doctor. “One positively suffocates there,” Monfalcon and Polinière stated. “It is impossible to go into this center of infection; often the doctor who visits the poor cannot bear the fetid odor of the room; he writes his prescription by the door or the window” (Monfalcon and Polinière 1846: 90). Unlike his wretched clientele, the doctor no longer tolerated animal effluvia. “On entering this house,” noted Dr. Joire in 1851, I was struck by the foul-smelling odor breathed there. This odor was literally stifling and unbearable and seemed like the smell of the most fetid dung; it was particularly strong around the patient’s bed, and was also spread through the whole apartment, despite the outside air that came in through the half-open door. I could not remove from my nose and mouth the handkerchief with which I protected myself the whole time I stayed with this woman. Yet neither the inhabitants of the house nor the invalid seemed to notice the inconvenience of the miasma. Joiré 1851: 310 Adolphe Blanqui, assailed by the stench of the Lille cellars and by the odor of filthy men emanating from them, recoiled in shock at the entrances to these “ditches for men”; only in the company of a doctor or a police officer did he “hazard” descent into this hell where “human shadows” tossed and swirled (Blanqui 1849: 103, 98). Inside the workshop, on the ship’s bridge, in the sickroom, the threshold of perception, or more precisely of tolerance of smells, defined social status. Bourgeois repulsion accompanied and justified phobia about tactile contact. The patient’s stench rather than respect for feminine modesty established the use of the stethoscope (Foucault 1963: 167).



FIGURE 2.5: A narrow and dank Parisian street. Photograph by Charles Marville. The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images.

This social division perceived through bodily messages also embraced the disgust inspired by teachers, schoolmasters, even professors. Paul Gerbod (1965) skillfully demonstrated that their image then was that of an antihero. These old, frustrated bachelors, whose former bourgeois pupils remembered their odor of sperm and rancid tobacco, had proved unable to fulfill their



dreams of promotion; their stench, like the stench emitted by clergy of humble descent,10 continued to betray their origins. The masses gradually came to feel the same repulsion. The new sensitivity reached that fringe of workers who spent their nights trying to escape being haunted by their involvement in manual labor. Hitherto unperceived horrors had to be endured in the process of adopting the new culture. The warm consolation of sleeping more than one to a bed had to be given up. Norbert Truquin, a railway navvy, felt his gorge rise when he breathed the odor of brandy and tobacco exhaled by his companions; forced to share his pallet, he confessed that he could no longer without repulsion tolerate contact with another man (Truquin 1977: 129).11 Modern sensibilities required physical withdrawal to cope with the sensory intensity of urban life.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Part I of this chapter is translated from the French by Carmen Ruschiensky and David Howes. Part II is reprinted with the permission of the publishers from The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination, translated from the French by Miriam Kochan, Christopher Prendergast, and Roy Porter, published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. Copyright © 1986 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and Berg Publishers Limited.



The Senses in the Marketplace: Stimulation and Distraction, Gratification and Control erika d. rappaport

In 1897 H. G. Wells published The Invisible Man, a nightmarish tale of a “mad scientist” whose quest for invisibility is successful but at the expense of his humanity. Knowledge of chemistry and physics allowed Wells’ narrator to transform himself into a flâneur, an urban rambler whose distanced vision would enable possession of the city and its inhabitants (Buck-Morss 1989). Yet, vision without visibility becomes physically painful and psychically damaging. Initially excited to explore London in his new invisible state, the invisible man is assaulted as he attempts to walk down Oxford Street, one of the world’s busiest shopping boulevards. When he “tried to get into the stream of people,” he found the crowd “too thick” to penetrate. Shoppers trod upon his heels, the street was painful underfoot, the shaft of a hansom cab dug into his shoulder blade, he is nearly run over by a perambulator, and he also realizes that on this bright day in January he “was stark naked and the thin slime of mud that covered the road was freezing” (Wells 2002: 117). A dog then picks up his scent and begins chasing the invisible man until he and the beast are 69



startled by the “blare of music” produced by a Salvation Army Band (118). The pursuit does not end there, however, since others soon notice muddy footmarks in the newly fallen snow that covered London’s streets (119). Instead of moving through the city without a trace, invisibility in the modern metropolis brought a heightened sense of embodiment.1 In its emphasis on the psychic and social impact of over-stimulating even painful metropolitan environments, The Invisible Man was a typical portrait of fin-de-siècle modernity.2 Yet the novel also moves beyond this portrayal through its exploration of the new sensual gratifications and comforts of urban commercial culture. In particular, Wells uses the department store to symbolize a sensually pleasurable modernity that is public and commercial yet also familial and interior. Immediately after the invisible man’s harrowing walk down Oxford Street, Wells leads him into one of those “big establishments where everything is to be bought . . . meat, grocery, linen, furniture, clothing, oil paintings even . . .” (Wells 2002: 122). In contrast to the street, the department store becomes a nurturing refuge and the only place where the narrator feels human. The son of a shopkeeper and former draper’s assistant, Wells escaped a career in the shop but his fictional department store betrays his familiarity with the retail world. Instead of the more typical figuring of the department store as seductive overwhelming fantasy world, Wells’ department store is a maternal space that clothes, feeds, and puts the exhausted invisible protagonist to bed. After hours, the invisible man recovers his sense of self by going shopping. He first looks for “socks, a thick comforter” and then “went to the clothing place and got trousers, a lounge jacket, an overcoat, and a slouch hat . . .” Thus dressed, he recalls, “I began to feel a human being again, and my next thought was food” (125). He then eats cold meat, warms up some coffee, enjoys chocolate, candied fruits, and white burgundy. Clothed and sated, the invisible man tries to reconstruct his face, searching for “dummy noses” and wigs and masks in the toy department. Finally he falls asleep “in a heap of down quilts” feeling “very warm and comfortable” (125). This sense of calm and relief is short-lived, however. When morning arrives, he is discovered and forced once again into the cold and alienating metropolis. The urban consuming subject thus moves between painful and pleasurable, interior and exterior, overwhelming and relaxing spaces. Since the 1980s, literary scholars and cultural historians have explored the sensual history of the department store, initially focusing on how these institutions commercialized vision and seduced customers through the eye. However, more recently scholars have expanded this sensual history and explored how department stores and cognate commercial spaces promoted an



ideology of bodily comfort and rejuvenation.3 In the same way that Wells positioned the store as a space for bodily and psychic reconstruction, nineteenthcentury store owners also claimed that their institutions protected consumers, especially wealthy women, from the sensual assaults of the street, the open air market, and the small shop. Indeed, they invited consumers to indulge in a variety of pleasurable sensual experiences, to see and touch fabrics, furniture, art, books, and decorative objects, to ingest food and drink in restaurants and tea rooms, and to recuperate and relieve their bodies in lavatories and lounges. It would be a mistake, however, to simply see the stores as the first or only venues to gratify the senses. Department stores were building on and yet also reconfiguring the pleasures of the medieval fair, the early modern shop, and urban shopping gallery. More directly, department stores adopted the innovations of the early nineteenthcentury arcade and market hall, two new types of retail spaces which became popular in part because they protected shoppers, shopkeepers, and the goods on sale from heat and cold, dirt and wetness, and the hustle and bustle of the urban marketplace. None of these institutions dominated the nineteenthcentury retail landscape and many forms of distribution did not move indoors. There was a general trend towards the separation between production and consumption, retail and wholesale, and the increasing importance of fixed shops (Adburgham 1989; Alexander 1970; Alexander and Akehurst 1999; Benson and Shaw 1992; Davis 1966; Jefferys 1954). Yet, fairs, street markets, and peddlers adapted well to population and urban growth, industrialization, and other market changes in the nineteenth century (Benson 1992; Benson and Ugolini 2003; Cronin et al. 2001; Denecke and Shaw 1992; Fontaine 1996; Phillips 1992). Cautioning against simplistic models of retail change, Victoria de Grazia reminds us that in the 1930s a half-billion dollars’ worth of goods were sold annually at the 700-year-old Leipzig Fair (2005: 186). It is useful therefore, to recognize and map out the way in which formal and informal market activities overlapped and complemented each other to form multiple intersecting “retail circuits” (Blondé et al. 2006). Region, class, gender, age, and personal experience determined where and when one shopped, what was purchased, how one paid for goods, and how one experienced the sensory aspects of the marketplace. Shopping at a small specialized dealer, a village shop, co-operative store, multiple shop, or in an arcade, market hall, or department store thus felt, looked, sounded, and even tasted differently to consumers with varying expectations and experiences.4 This chapter focuses, however, on the arcade, market hall, and department store because these institutions have received the most scholarly attention and because they



represent broader ways in which new bourgeois bodily sensibilities and practices shaped and were shaped by the nineteenth-century marketplace. * Shopping has always been a visual, tactile, oral and auditory experience. Medieval and early modern fairs, markets, and shops were noisy, smelly, crowded, and colorful places that on the surface seemed quite unlike the nineteenth-century marketplace. However, historians who have looked at the sensual experience of shopping in these earlier periods have called into question any notion of a sharp break in the nineteenth century. Some aspects of early modern commercial culture such as the Italian fair were, as Evelyn Welch proposed, “as much about viewing, touching, tasting and hearing,” as about making a profit (Welch 2006: 46). Luxury retailers in metropolitan settings also set themselves apart from rivals by creating visually appealing spaces in which both the goods and customers were on display. In early modern London, for example, the well-to-do strolled through elegant shopping streets and patronized new shopping galleries, such as the Royal Exchange. Modeled after the Antwerp Burse, the Royal Exchange was opened by Thomas Gresham in 1568 as a contained space of two floors of shops selling expensive imports, including silks, fine porcelain, silver goods, and countless rare and treasured foreign luxuries. Wealthy shoppers could also visit Westminster Hall, the New Exchange, Exeter Exchange and numerous elegant stand-alone shops. Each had a unique character, but all were parade grounds in which luxury goods and elite customers were displayed to their fullest effect (Peck 2005; Walsh 2003). In the nineteenth century, new retail spaces such as the arcade, market hall, and department store emerged alongside but did not wholly replace fairs, street markets, itinerant traders, and specialized dealers. These institutions had a very different aesthetic than outdoor markets but they shared much with early modern luxury shops and galleries. They too were protected realms that displayed goods in attractive and comfortable settings. The arcades, built between the 1820s and 1840s in Paris, London, Brussels, and other European cities, were in effect covered shopping alleys or streets that were part of what Tony Bennett has described as an “exhibitionary complex” of exhibition halls, museums, and similar institutions that opened up “objects to more public contexts of inspection and visibility” (Bennett 1988: 85). Writing about the Great Exhibition which opened in London in 1851, Thomas Richards noted as well that in these types of spaces goods were transformed into signifiers, making “it possible for people to talk expressively and excessively about commodities” (Richards 1990: 21). Anne Friedberg has similarly maintained



that these institutions “extended ‘the field of the visible’ and turned visualized experience into commodity forms” (Friedberg 1993: 15). Much of this scholarship is indebted to the interpretation of culture offered by Walter Benjamin in his famous essay “Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century.” Benjamin wrote of the arcades as symbolic of how capitalism began to transform looking, buying, and urban life during the July Monarchy. He drew from the many nineteenth-century observers who never tired of admiring, as an Illustrated Guide to Paris put it, these “glass-roofed, marble-paneled corridors extending through whole blocks of buildings” (quoted in Benjamin 1935: 3). Recent research has regarded the arcades as critical innovations that transformed shopping into a visual experience. Hazel Hahn, for example, also began her study of Parisian consumer culture in the arcades. Along with elegant shops, cafés, restaurants, advertising and the illustrated press, Hahn argued that arcades redefined urban space and instigated the development of new urban consumer identities (Hahn 2009: 15–16). Paris may have been the capital of the nineteenth century, but similar urban visual consumer cultures emerged in other European and American cities. In her study of Brussels’ commercial culture, Anneleen Arnout has also emphasized visuality, but she expands the sensual significance of the arcades which, she points out, created “the possibility of walking amid a pleasant atmosphere . . . sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the streets and from wind, rain and sun,” as well as “dust and mud” (Arnout, forthcoming). The famed Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, built in the late 1840s (see Figure 3.1), was a monument to civic reform and new bourgeois sensibilities, celebrating commerce but also eradicating “grubby” neighborhoods filled with “pokey little shops and dodgy cafes” (Arnout). Arnout importantly demonstrates, however, that sometimes consumers and/or traders rejected new luxurious and comfortable shopping spaces, turning them into monumental failures. Retail change was never an inevitable or straightforward process. In general, however, Arnout argues that the arcades provided a new enticing environment that changed consumers’ expectations about how they should feel in the city. Food shopping underwent a similar if partial transition during the early and middle years of the century. In many areas of Europe and the Americas, city officials began to contend that older open-air markets no longer met their town’s shopping needs. Food supplies did not always keep pace with population growth and this led to riots, congestion, and other public disturbances (Atkins et al. 2007). Just as importantly, however, middle-class sensibilities were changing and many now regarded street trading as dirty and dangerous, malodorous and unhygienic. The sights and smells of hawkers, beggars, and



FIGURE 3.1: The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

animals roaming and being killed in the streets affronted new ideals of respectability. The sale of second-hand clothing and rotting fish and meat also offended middle-class observers who believed that such markets were not conducive to a civilized society (Schmiechen and Carls 1999: 11–19). Street trading did not disappear but authorities passed laws to regulate or at least push out of sight what had come to be regarded as its most unsavory market practices. In Germany, France, Britain, Mexico, and the United States, for example, new attitudes towards public health and the treatment of animals led to the development of purpose-built slaughter houses (Lee 2008). The invention of refrigerated box cars also centralized meat production and moved slaughtering further away from the gaze of consumers. This process was highly contested, as Jeremy Pilcher has shown in his study of Mexican meat markets (Pilcher 2006). Butchers, city officials, consumers, and reformers challenged aspects of these changes but here as elsewhere unsightly and unpalatable aspects of production and distribution began to disappear from the marketplace. Like the slaughterhouse, the purpose-built market hall also sanitized food shopping, organizing consumers and commodities in ways that reflected



FIGURE 3.2: Shoppers and traders in the covered market at Kirgate, Leeds. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

bourgeois notions of rationality and aesthetics (see Figure 3.2). Cities and towns across Europe and the United States demonstrated civic pride and an ideology of commercial modernity by building hundreds of covered purposebuilt market halls throughout the century (Arnout, forthcoming; Lemoine 1980; Schmiechen and Carls 1999; Tangires 2003). There were many different types, but in general they were presented as convenient, pleasant, and hygienic shopping environments. Glass roofs and ornamental facades were intended to astonish and impress, but other elements grew out of the desire to shelter shopkeepers, shoppers, and consumer goods from the elements and from the rough and tumble atmosphere of the open-air market. Glass, iron, marble, glazed tiles, concrete, and other materials created well-lit and ventilated, washable and yet also monumental spaces. Many halls reached a gigantic scale. Liverpool’s St. John’s Market, completed in 1822, for example, was a two-acre stone-faced brick building with eight entrances and 116 interior supporting cast-iron pillars. The hall was divided into five shopping avenues and the outside avenues were even arranged into departments (Schmiechen and Carls 1999: 72–3). Even in smaller provincial towns, halls boasted soaring domes, grand central porticos, and entrances decorated with Doric or Ionic columns



and other more utilitarian features. Roof designs prevented direct sunlight from spoiling meat, ice cellars offered cold storage, and ventilation systems provided a comfortable atmosphere and carried away offensive smells. Some of the most lavish halls also included interior fountains, public lavatories, snack bars, restaurants and exterior shops covered in plate-glass (Schmiechen and Carls 1999: 111–12). All of these features were intended to transform food shopping into a moral, respectable, and physically comfortable experience. More research is needed on the social and gender dynamics within the market halls. However, it appears that they were designed in part to encourage middle-class women to take up the task of daily shopping, a responsibility typically left to men and domestic servants. The halls were never wholly successful in this endeavor since much food was still delivered to the household or purchased in specialized shops. By the end of the century, the halls faced competition from department stores which had also begun selling food in luxurious settings. Moreover, the halls did not exist everywhere. London, for example, had impressive wholesale markets, large open-air working-class markets, but it was not known for its market halls. In London and similar large cities street markets remained vibrant parts of urban working-class economies and cultures, despite the disgust they aroused among the middle classes (Deutsch 2010; Ross 1993: 51–3). One journalist, for example, described Chicago’s South Water Market as a maze of “barrels and boxes and gory calves, and chicken-coops, redolent with the unmistakable odor of the badly kept country barnyard and huge piles of sacked potatoes, and egg-cases, squashes, barrels of cider, and hogs cold and stiff in death” (Deutsch 2010: 24). Observers were also offended by the shoppers, delivery boys, and stall-keepers who blocked roadways and did not appear to value time and efficiency. Urban plebian women congested streets as well because it required much skill to obtain the freshest produce or cuts of meat, haggle over prices, and secure credit (Ross 1993: 51–3). Their market knowledge was critical to economic survival, but it could also be a source of pleasure. As Judith Walkowitz has recently argued, urban street markets could become stages for the expression of working-class cosmopolitanism (Walkowitz 2012: 144). In the 1920s and 1930s, for example, stylish young working women came to Berwick Street Market in Soho to shop for everything from “beef to basins, lace to lettuce,” but they especially came for the silken hose (Walkowitz 2012: 144; see Figure 3.3). Twentieth-century street markets could offer the poor a modern aesthetic and yet still disgust the wealthy, who instead patronized the grandiose new department stores that were but a few blocks away.



FIGURE 3.3: A hosiery stall in Berwick Street Market, London. Hulton Archive/Getty


Like the arcades and market halls, European and American department stores used new architectural, interior, and exterior display techniques, and advertising to organize and stimulate vision. Huge plate-glass windows, mirrors, marble, steel frame architecture, gas and electric lighting, and intense color schemes created what American historian William Leach described as “public environment[s] of desire” (Leach 1993: 40). However, as H. G. Wells implied in his novel, the stores also introduced new gustatory, auditory, and tactile experiences. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the stores opened luncheon and tea rooms, lavatories, and other soothing services designed to encourage longer shopping trips and more spending. Alluding to such amenities, owners sold the stores as places where middle-class female shoppers could recuperate from their modern over-stimulating urban lives (Rappaport 2000). Both large retailers and their critics believed that stimulation and relaxation encouraged consumerism, especially if the shopper was female. Entrepreneurs tried to arouse customers but not create disordered states such as kleptomania or other forms of consumer misbehavior (Abelson 1989; O’Brien 1983; Spiekermann 1999; Whitlock 2005).



The department store was not the only institution to commercialize the senses. Yet contemporaries did regard the big stores as at the center of broader changes in the urban environment, in social and gender relations, and in the nature of capitalism (Nord 1986). Thus, they garnered an unusual degree of positive and negative attention. The department store shared many characteristics with earlier shopping spaces, but store owners, their neighbors, city officials, social critics and shoppers all believed that the department store was a major innovation that dramatically changed the way goods were bought and sold. Earlier scholarship emphasized how the stores introduced new economic practices; and in the 1980s and 1990s, cultural historians and literary critics revealed how the stores grew out of and encouraged wider changes in urban geographies, identities, and cultures.5 Scholars likened the stores to factories or machines for selling new mass-produced industrial goods to a wealthy and confident bourgeoisie. They compared stores to theaters and other fantasy worlds where social and gender hierarchies could become unhinged and reimagined. Historians focused on the way that the stores especially appealed to bourgeois women and thus helped solidify an imagined separation between a male sphere of production and a female sphere of consumption.6 Men and working-class women occasionally shopped at these emporia, but department stores nearly always advertised themselves and were understood by others as stimulating, comforting, and gratifying middle-class women in an urban public sphere. Their sensuality defined them as feminine spaces and in this they were seen as new, threatening, and exhilarating (Rappaport 2000). The most innovative French and American stores symbolized the growing power and confidence of the bourgeoisie and the shifting sensual experience of modernity (Benson 1986; Leach 1993; Miller 1981; Tiersten 2001; Williams 1982). In his study of the Bon Marché, for example, Michael Miller asserted that the “Parisian department store of the late nineteenth century stood as a monument to the bourgeois culture that built it, sustained it, marveled at it, found its image in it” (Miller 1981: 1). The store was a mirror upon which an ascendant middle class gazed upon itself. Architecture, décor, advertising, and the display of diverse goods from all over the world turned the shop into a “sight.” As Miller explains, “Selling consumption was a matter of seduction and showmanship . . . [creating] an aura of fascination that turned buying into a special and irresistible occasion. Dazzling and sensuous, the Bon Marché became a permanent fair, an institution, a fantasy world of extraordinary proportions” (Miller 1981: 167). Iron columns and plate glass opened up interiors and allowed for large, airy, and light spaces for looking at goods



and other shoppers (see Figure 3.4). As early as the 1870s the Bon Marché, like other department stores, hired orchestras and famous singers to perform to crowds of shoppers and employees (Miller 1981: 171). The stores’ auditory appeal was typical of bourgeois leisure more broadly and something not found in traditional independent shops (Gunn 2008). Shopping was never just looking.

FIGURE 3.4: Bon Marché department store, Paris. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.



The department store and other exhibitionary institutions such as the museum, the illustrated press, and the world’s fair created a new social psychology. These spaces encouraged visitors to dream or fantasize about goods and themselves in new ways (Williams 1982: 67). Shoppers learned how to become audience and object of the gaze of others. Entrepreneurs hired artists to draw beautiful and innovative advertisements and to decorate their windows with painted backgrounds and fashionable dressed mannequins in lifelike poses. However, it was not only department stores that transformed shopping into a theatrical experience. Elite fashion designers did as well. For example, Lucile Duff-Gordon, one of Edwardian London’s most exclusive designers, claimed to have invented the fashion show because she believed that when the lights are lowered to a rosy glow, and soft music is played and the mannequins parade, there is not a woman in the audience, though she be fat and middle-aged, who is not seeing herself look as those slim, beautiful girls look in the clothes they are offering. And that is the inevitable prelude to buying clothes. Quoted in Rappaport 2000: 188 Lucile thus created an environment which enveloped the observer in a restful and luxurious sensory environment. Cultivating all the senses was important, but for Lucile and her contemporaries the eye was dominant. In general, contemporaries believed that the shopping environment had a tremendous influence on a consumer’s psyche and that the department store particularly excelled in the production of spectacle. Analyzing the fiction of Theodore Dreiser, George Gissing, and Emile Zola, Rachel Bowlby argued that “modern consumption is a matter not of basic items bought for definite needs, but of visual fascination and remarkable sights of things not found at home” (Bowlby 1985: 1). Bowlby draws much of her analysis from Emile Zola’s 1883 novel, Au bonheur des dames, or The Ladies’ Paradise. Reading Zola is a visual and seductive experience and this book’s narrative, vocabulary, and thick description replicated the material abundance of the stores. For example, in one scene that takes place in the silk department, a crowd of ladies become “pale with desire” and “overcome with the irresistible desire to jump in amidst” and “be lost” in the pile of “light silks, transparent as crystals—Nile-green, Indian-azure, Mayrose, and Danube blue. Then came the stronger fabrics: marvelous satins, duchess silks, warm tints, rolling in great waves . . . and lovely silvered silks in the midst of a deep bed of velvet of every sort—black, white, and coloured” (Zola 1992: 93). Zola is also attentive to feelings and sounds. The novel’s



heroine Denise is overwhelmed by the store’s imposing architecture, its warmth, and sounds, all of which are compared to that other monument to nineteenthcentury capitalism, the factory. The young provincial Denise first comes upon the department store after wandering through a dark and damp older Parisian neighborhood. She encounters the sparkling frontage of the Ladies’ Paradise, and is enticed by the warm and well lit “machine [that] was still roaring, active as ever, hissing forth its last clouds of steam; whilst the salesmen were folding up the stuffs, and the cashiers counting up the receipts. It was, as seen through the hazy windows, a vague swarming of lights, a confused factory-like interior.” This spectacle of “furnace-like brilliancy” and indeed the power of mass production and consumption conquer Denise (Zola 1992: 27–8). Denise’s first encounter with the emporium is not unlike that of the invisible man. The store offered her an all-enveloping sensual environment. However, once she becomes an employee in the store, she recovers her reason and in the end she ultimately conquers the store and its owner. Denise’s development holds out the possibility of resistance to the store’s seductions. She admires but is not in the end overwhelmed by the allures of mass commerce. Scholars have focused on such points of resistance in order to reveal how consumers, officials, journalists, shop assistants, and small retailers debated the meaning of mass commerce and shaped its history. This approach has revealed how the department stores and their urban surroundings grew out of complex interactions between multiple actors and attitudes (Benson 1986). Lisa Tiersten, for example, proposed that the French middle classes were very ambivalent about the vast expansion of commercial culture in the nineteenth century. Many worried that the allure of the modern marketplace was fundamentally at odds with Republican notions of civic virtue (Tiersten 2001). The journalist Ernest d’Hervilly described how a department store window stopped a female pedestrian “short, her nostrils trembling, her wide-opened eyes riveted on all the charming objects . . . She drank them in, she ate them with her glance . . . Finally, shaken with desire, she cried out, ‘I want it all, all of it!’” (quoted in Tiersten 2001: 33). Such jeremiads were not so much a reflection of lived experience but were, Tiersten argues, a means by which the French bourgeoisie worked out the uneasy relationship between their market and political cultures. The British middle and upper classes also worried that store amenities unleashed female passions and independence, thereby undercutting clear notions of class and gender difference. So, for example, when in the early 1870s London’s most innovative retailer William Whiteley opened a small refreshment room in his growing department store, a journalist writing for the



illustrated newspaper The Graphic contended that Whiteley was eradicating fatigue and hunger, the “natural” constraints on women’s shopping. In traditional shops, “after having taken their pleasure among ten thousand pretty things . . . exertion . . . induces a return to their homes.” But “under .the new system . . . [in which] fatigue and restoration go hand in hand: there need be no flagging, so long as money and credit is available.” At Whiteley’s shoppers acquire such things as soups, cutlets, omelettes, macaroni, fritters, and so forth, they revel in the accompaniments of cruets full of sherry or claret, or lilliputian bottles of champagne, what is the effect? They have not left the halls of temptation; the voice of the charmer still rings in their ears . . . They return once more to the slaughter . . . and in the wild and reckless period that follows things are done in a financial way which would make the angels weep . . . The afternoon’s excitement has . . . all the attraction of a delightful dream, with a slight dash of an orgy, leaving a lingering pleasure even over repentance. Graphic 1872, quoted in Rappaport 2000: 38 This passage moves our understanding of the sensual history of shopping beyond vision. When the stores opened restaurants, food departments, lavatories, and other services they rejuvenated bodies and transformed the feeling of being in public. The stores were in public but they did not feel like the outside world and this was very much part of their appeal, as Constance Classen has argued. Focusing on the stores’ tactile history, Classen highlighted the way in which the stores provided an “ideal climate,” which kept the dirt, noise, cold, and odors of the city at bay. They also altered the tactile nature of shopping (Classen 2012: 193). In small shops, shoppers had to ask the salesman to bring fabrics down from a shelf and out of a drawer. In department stores, customers could fondle soft, luxuriant fabrics without asking. Critics focused on this point and worried that the sensory appeal of the stores undermined pre-existing class, gender, and national identities. Criticisms looked similar wherever stores were built, but they were always filtered through local contexts. In Germany, where disapproval was shaded with anti-Semitism, department store owners tended to eschew the highly decorative facades that were associated with ephemeral foreign fashions (James 1999). Small shopkeepers were typically the most vocal critics but in England older elites and modern urban planners were also anxious that plate glass and



highly ornamental shop fronts represented vulgar, crass commercial tastes that were not in keeping with their ideal vision of urban aesthetics. These concerns shaped the redevelopment of Regent Street in fin-de-siècle London, for example. Designed in the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic wars as a luxury shopping avenue, Regent Street’s sensual appeal had declined considerably by the 1880s. Its once fashionable shops had become shabby, dark, and smelly. According to The Architect in 1881, a typical Regent Street shop had “a showy glass front and a showy mahogany counter, perhaps a showy carpet; but the ceiling is low, the lighting is bad, and the ventilation may best be expressed in plain vulgarity by the single word sweat” (quoted in Rappaport 2002: 99). When the crown, the Street’s ground landlord, proposed a neo-classical design with thick stone arches and columns rather than vast expanses of plate glass, the Street’s tenants, primarily luxury shopkeepers, complained that “the last thing which a shop requires was anything like the suggestion of sternness and cold grandeur; a shop should be alluring, attractive, essentially feminine in its characteristics” (quoted in Rappaport 2002: 102). The Street that was eventually built ignored such concerns and its commercial culture changed in ways that the tenants had predicted (Rappaport 2002: 107). All over Britain commercial spaces were shaped by similar conflicts and alliances between landlords, tenants, architects, and urban planners (Bertramsen 2003). Stores and shopping streets were typically compromises between commercial, civic, national, and artistic concerns. The scholarship on nineteenth-century commercial culture has thus moved beyond vision and increasingly focused on the way local and national politics have shaped this history. However, some of the most innovative work has examined the history of institutions such as the department store outside of Western Europe and the United States. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, department stores opened in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Antipodes, the Middle East, Africa, and South America (Hilton 2012; Reekie 1993; Russell 2004; Thompson 2000). Studies of this commercial culture have opened up new areas of research and yet also tended to reaffirm the cultural, social, and economic significance of the department store. In late nineteenth- and earlytwentieth century Beirut and other similar Middle Eastern cities, for example, both critics and consumers associated department stores with “modern” fashions and European lifestyles (Thompson 2000: 180). In Russia and China, politicians, journalists, and others also worried that the stores threatened traditional status, gender, and cultural hierarchies. Autocratic states often condemned commercial culture but instead of wholly rejecting its sensuous aspects, the authorities tried to channel bodily desires into politically



appropriate directions, harnessing them to state-building nationalist projects, for example (Gerth 2003: 209; Hilton 2012; Wiesen 2011). European imperial states saw the regulation and reform of marketplaces as critical to controlling subject populations and economies (Sen 1998; Yang 1998: 147). They also sought to regulate and reform the bodily and consumer practices of colonial subjects in ways that would benefit metropolitan economies (Rappaport 2012). Early modern Europeans tended to absorb and adopt new tastes and consumer practices that they first encountered in the colonies (Norton 2008). However, in the nineteenth-century laissez-faire economics coupled with new notions of racial difference rooted in biology profoundly shifted this dynamic. Though they continued to do so, Europeans became increasingly anxious about consuming like the “Other,” and products that were produced outside of European control and supervision (Collingham 2001). Such anxieties privileged European colonial products over other foreign goods. In Britain and other tea-drinking areas Chinese tea, formerly a delicious luxury, came to be regarded as a disgusting “adulterated” mixture of dangerous chemicals, sweat, dirt, and even toenails that fell off the bodies of Chinese teamakers (Rappaport 2006). In the late nineteenth century, these anxieties benefitted the industrializing imperial tea industry emerging in British India since its advocates never failed to mention how the Chinese were “careless” and not “overly cleanly, in the way they prepare tea for the English market” (Stables 1883: 26). At the same time that Europeans sought to contain the dangers of ingesting foreign articles, they also concentrated on remaking colonial tastes and bodily practices. However, as Tim Burke showed in his masterful study of soap consumption in colonial Zimbabwe, this never happened in ways that Europeans could control or predict (Burke 1996). As a result of this struggle over bodily practices in the empire, colonial products sometimes became powerful weapons in the struggle against slavery and imperialism. American colonists thus dumped tea into Boston Harbor and began to appreciate the taste of coffee (Breen 2004). Nineteenth-century abolitionists exhorted consumers to abstain from using slave-produced West Indian sugar (Midgley 1992; Sussman 2000). Boycotts turned consumers into active agents who acknowledged that purchasing and eating slave-produced goods linked them to cruel labor conditions on the other side of the globe. As early as 1792, William Allen, a Quaker silk manufacturer and ardent abolitionist, described the slave trade as “a chain of wretchedness, every link of which is stained with blood! And it involves with equal criminality THE AFRICAN TRADER—THE WEST INDIA SLAVE HOLDER—AND THE BRITISH CONSUMER!”7 Gandhi later argued that commodity culture in



general was a form of Western imperialism, but Indian nationalists and postcolonial states nevertheless also appropriated the tools of mass consumer culture (Trivedi 2007). In the 1950s Kwame Nkruma even described the opening of Ghana’s first department store as a sign of his country’s modernity and independence from British rule (Murillo 2010: 317). In Canada, department store advertising and display could at once celebrate a distinctive Canadian identity and remind consumers of Canada’s place in the empire and Commonwealth (Belisle 2011: 55). Consumers did not always read their shopping as political nor did many regard the big stores as sensually overwhelming. Focusing on scattered evidence left by shoppers themselves, Belisle argued in her study of Canadian stores that some women simply considered department store shopping as part of their domestic responsibilities. Young women also appreciated finding stylish items at affordable prices and they viewed “the big retailers as convenient and comfortable resting stops in which people on limited budgets could enjoy solitary moments of respite” (Belisle 2011: 145). Shoppers took full advantage of the restaurants and other services which the big stores provided and saw these large “cathedrals of commerce” as places to recharge bodies tired from the stimulation of modern life. More research on shoppers’ perceptions rather than on perceptions of shoppers is likely to reveal similarly varied and complex sensory reactions to the stores and their urban environments. One aspect of this research would be to consider how consumers gained a sense of familiarity with their surroundings and with the goods they purchased and how their personal history shaped their sensory experiences while shopping. Indeed, one distinctive feature of the nineteenth century was the growth of professional consumer expertise (Chatriot et al. 2006). Women’s magazines, guidebooks, decorators, and other experts argued that the knowledge they provided could help direct “ignorant” and easily seduced shoppers from being overwhelmed by the sensual enticements of the modern marketplace. These professionals promised to teach readers how to be fashionably dressed, how to decorate their homes, and where to lunch when out shopping. Yet, the underlying service they offered was the ability to control one’s senses when shopping (Cohen 2006; Rappaport 2000: 108–41; Tiersten 2001). Ironically then, the fear of being sensually overwhelmed by advertising, beautiful windows, and other enticements led to the proliferation of writing, reading, and thinking about consumption. The study of shopping spaces has illuminated many of the ways in which consumers’ senses were gratified, satisfied, and harnessed to the needs of the marketplace. However, more work is needed on how consumers actually



experienced the sensory aspects of shopping in different retail settings. Though the market hall and department store shared certain characteristics, and though department stores often sold food and fashions, much more work could be done on the cultural history of food shopping in general. The sensual history of food distribution more broadly would involve recognizing that beyond the shifts in the shopping environment, the mass of nineteenth-century consumers also encountered a wide range of new imported tastes such as sugary tea, coffee, and cocoa produced by new forms of intensely exploitive unfree labor (Mintz 1985; Nützenadel and Trentmann 2008). Advertising helped create these new tastes but as importantly it glamorized and legitimized the ingestion of colonial products, in effect countering the arguments made by abolitionists and others who pointed out the immorality of such new tastes (Chatterjee 2001; Ramamurthy 2003). Cookbooks, women’s magazines, and food writing were also places that promoted new tastes even while acknowledging their foreign nature. Thus in 1861 Isabella Beeton could comment in her best-selling cookbook that “the smell” of garlic “is generally considered offensive, and it is the most acrimonious in its taste of the whole of the alliaceous tribe.” She nevertheless told English cooks how important it was for Italian and French cooking, and she included it in her recipe for “Mango Chetney” (Beeton [1861] 2000). Food advertising and retailing did not always or necessarily highlight novel sensual stimulations and gratifications. Especially at the end of the century, when grocers and other shopkeepers began to sell branded and packaged goods, neither customers nor retailers could use their senses to judge the quality of goods they bought and sold. Industrialization and global sourcing stoked consumers’ anxieties about the health and hygiene of foodstuffs and as a result they often resisted innovations such as canned foods or packaged tea (Bruegel 2002; Friedberg 2004, 2009; Rappaport 2006; Strasser 1989). A French confectioner, Nicolas Appert, invented the modern canning process, but it took nearly a century for the French to learn how to eat canned food (Bruegel 2002). Similarly, the British importer John Horniman first sold pre-packaged tea as early as 1826, but grocers were reluctant to stock this “innovation” because their reputation and skill was invested in their ability to judge and blend their own teas (Rappaport 2006). In the United States, Susan Strasser has also pointed out that “few grocers who carried Uneeda Biscuits and Quaker Oats got rid of their cracker tins and oat barrels; most handled both bulk and packaged goods” (Strasser 1989: 260). It took decades of advertising and the efforts of many “food experts” to teach consumers and retailers to see packaged, branded, and advertised commodities as healthier and more



desirable than unprocessed and unwrapped bulk items. Eventually this shift was accomplished by the development of the supermarket, which first appeared in early twentieth-century America, but soon became a global phenomenon. The legacy of the arcade, market hall, and department store—the twentiethcentury supermarket—sells a huge variety of processed foods in climate controlled, pristine environments and thus was advertised as a “housewives paradise” (Deutsch 2010). Shoppers purchased intensely advertised packaged goods with fancy labels, but they no longer touched, smelled, or tasted the boxed and canned goods they placed in their shopping carts. The supermarket was dependent upon what Susanne Freidberg has labeled as the “cold revolution.” Though not an easy sell, this revolution redefined the meaning of freshness. As Friedberg put it, “Consumers stopped expecting fresh food to be just-picked or just-caught or just-killed.” Instead it meant something that would keep well in the refrigerator (2009: 48). This revolution fundamentally altered the way food is grown, transported, stored, cooked, and eaten. It has benefitted industrial, tasteless, and nutritionally lacking produce such as iceberg lettuce, which travels and keeps well in the store and refrigerator but has virtually no taste. The supermarket, like its retail predecessors, enticed consumers by displaying items in ways that encouraged them to fantasize about goods and their relationship to this material world. These institutions stimulated some sensual experiences and suppressed the unpleasant smells, tastes and sights, dirt and disease that hampered consumers’ dreams. The move from the street market to the supermarket was a varied, uneven, and contested process that was differently received and understood in diverse polities. Although historians are increasingly recognizing how all the senses were commercialized in the nineteenth century, future endeavors might focus much more on the consumer rather than the shop. We still know very little about how shoppers in the industrialized West and the global South experienced the sensuality of the marketplace. Widening our view from clothing to food is another way to delineate multiple sensual histories and move beyond vision as the dominant sense. It is perhaps not so much the differential spaces of food and clothing shopping that matters, since as we have seen these at times converge. Rather, the consumer who shopped for food in the nineteenth century was not the same person who shopped for fashions. It was often male householders and working-class servants who did this work and their sensual expectations may or may not have been markedly different than that of bourgeois women. When merchants wanted to appeal to a wealthy female clientele they nearly always rebuilt shopping spaces in ways they assumed wealthy women would find sensually alluring and physically rejuvenating. The



arcade, market hall, department store, and supermarket were thus climates thought to appeal in particular to middle-class female shoppers. The questions for scholars are how did this particular ideology of consumer comfort emerge and spread across regions and polities, why did some of these spaces work and others fail, and most importantly, how did consumers shape and react to the commercialization of their senses?


The Senses in Religion: Migrations of Sacred and Sensory Values david morgan

The European and North American enterprise in empire-building, commerce, and religious mission from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries brought Westerners into contact with a broad range of societies. The result was a series of dramatic changes in the sensuous registers of cultural life: how people imagine, feel their presence before others who are different or akin to them, how people see, dress, and eat. In the case of religion, the world was no longer organized in the polarity of Protestantism and Catholicism, which had long been adversaries in the theater of European strife. Contact with a diversity of religious traditions in the context of trade, colonization, and international struggle for territory meant an increase in missionary efforts, first by Western Christians, and second, as a result of the nationalization of colonized populations by Eastern religions. From the East came such charismatic envoys to the West as Japanese Zen master D. T. Suzuki, Hindu reformer and Vedanta scholar Swami Vivekananda, the energetic Muslim missionary from South Africa, Ahmad Deedat, and a host of gurus and evangelists from Asia and Africa who sought to redeem the West from its materialism and loss of faith. From the West, not only Christian 89



evangelists set out for Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania, but so did pilgrims in search of a new, or more ancient spirituality than the one their Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish forebears bequeathed them. The list is impressive and very long, including such figures as Eugène Delacroix, Henry Steel Olcott, Helena Blavatsky, Paul Gauguin, James Tissot, Paul Klee, and Hermann Hesse. Just these few names suggest the importance of cross-pollination from East to West for the history of the arts. This chapter will focus on individuals, groups, movements, and institutions that register change, especially movement from one place to another. Their varying engagement in empire and religion involved forms of representation and communication that directly affected the structures of sensation, imagination, and feeling that were so much part of religious life. Changes in media, in the forms of communication and sensual engagement with others and with the imagination of one’s own group and those of others, meant changing the life of feeling and the means of imagination, all of which meant changing the cultural attunement of the senses.

THE QUEST FOR AUTHENTICITY IN THE AGE OF GLOBAL MIGRATION If the majority of Europeans and North Americans who boarded ships for Africa, India, or the South Seas went to engage in trade, conduct the business of empire, or evangelize non-Christian peoples, not a few went to escape what they could of Western culture. For instance, Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) abandoned the ideal of a respectable, bourgeois life when he quit his job as a stockbroker and sought to establish an artist colony in rustic Brittany, and then another in the south of France at Arles, with Vincent van Gogh. Both efforts failed to produce a sustained community that might support the raw art that he pursued, a way of painting that would be purified by vernacular style and belief. Gauguin eventually left Europe altogether, sailing to French Polynesia in 1891. He represents in his written and published reflections on the relation of Catholicism to Polynesian myth and ritual, as well as in his artistic portrayals of Polynesian religion and Catholic imagery, the quest of the individual artist to work out his own notion of spiritual analogies between East and West. Although he failed to sell his art and his exotic, Primitivist ideal, Gauguin created a body of work and a mystique that received far greater attention after his death. His work in Tahiti and then on the Marquesas aimed at transcending traditional artistic method, conventional Christianity, and the literary content of European fine art. Instead, he integrated native subject matter with a



treatment of color and form in his compositions that preferred suggestion and intense feeling to the refined, heroic, classicizing tenor of traditional painting so prized in French salons and exhibition halls. He conveyed a sense of his aims in a letter of 1899 to an art critic who had criticized his major painting, Where do we come? What are we? Where are we going? (1898–9). Gauguin urged the critic to consider the “musical role” that color “will henceforth play in modern painting. Color, which is vibration just as music is, is able to attain what is most universal yet at the same time most elusive in nature: its inner force.” He conjured a scene on Tahiti in which he freely intermingled senses and sensations—perfumes, aroma, silence, color, breath, emotions— to suggest the condition of a dream in which metamorphosis is the rule, a state of feeling that captured the ineffable without reducing it to a meaning (Chipp 1968: 75). Gauguin was developing an aesthetic in which color played not a symbolic but rather an evocative role, igniting feeling rather than signifying meaning. Imagination was key and became the most necessary faculty for the experience of art, other cultures, nationhood, and the world. Gauguin urged fellow artists not to copy what was before them, but to transform it in memory and imagination (Chipp 1968: 60). So he tore himself away from Western society to seek inspiration in the exotic world whose religion, language, and way of life induced an altered consciousness and a new art that he might send back to France to speak sensuously to a society whose culture he found wanting. Others had no intention of leaving the West, but engaged in forms of imagination that evoked a virtual representation of the East. Several fascinating examples of this featured in an interdenominational Protestant camp at Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York. Opening in 1874, the Chautauqua Assembly was an institute for teaching Sunday school teachers in a new way. The camp immersed them in the virtual space of a miniature landscape of Palestine, grounds featuring scale models of one of the Great Pyramids, of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish tabernacle, and parties in which participants dressed in Oriental costume (see Figure 4.1). The means of instruction was multi-media, including lectures, lantern slide presentations, concerts, impersonations, tableaux vivants, and travelogues. A long article on Chautauqua in Harper’s Monthly in 1879 explained the rationale of the media and material installation as a pedagogy: By means of this collection of models, and with the aid of stereoscopic views of scenes in the Holy Land thrown in a magnified form on an immense screen at night, the student of Bible history is enabled to secure



a more vivid comprehension of Eastern life than is attainable without making a transatlantic voyage to the Orient itself . . . and some of the most entertaining and instructive evenings of the Assembly have been devoted to lectures on the manners and customs of Bible lands, illustrated by tableaux vivants representing scenes in the daily life of dwellers on what Christianity calls holy ground. Post 1879: 353–4 The tableaux vivant was a very popular Victorian form of entertainment put to use in religious settings by Protestants in the second half of the nineteenth

FIGURE 4.1: Oriental group in Palestine Park. D. H. Post, “Chautauqua,” Harper’s

New Monthly Magazine 59, no. 351, August 1879, p. 355. Photo by author.



century as a kind of didactic theatre. By posing in the gestures of figures from recognized paintings, participants performed a picture come to life. The practice helped Protestants negotiate their traditional anxiety about art in sacred settings, and the tableau vivant at Chautauqua joined the use of scale models and costume parties to create virtual spaces in which the Holy Land came to America. Virtual travel became increasingly appealing as new visual media entered the commercial marketplace. With it came the allure of presence, of being there, of glimpsing the real thing from afar. Sitting before his hearth in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oliver Wendel Holmes, Sr., gazed upon the Old City of Jerusalem in a stereographic image and felt a powerful proximity to Jesus himself: “as we look across the city to the Mount of Olives, we know that these lines which run in graceful curves along the horizon are the same that He looked upon as he turned his eyes sadly over Jerusalem” (Holmes 1861: 28). Seeing the same contours that Jesus saw meant sharing an imagined nearness or virtual presence achieved by an evocative gaze that traveled not only great distance from West to East, but also across a vast tract of time. The new media of photography, stereoscopic devices, panoramas, and fashionable visual practices such as tableaux vivants brought distant worlds of space and time near to hand, allowing Western Christians to re-imagine the world and their relation to it. For Jews in the United States and Europe, the imagination of Jerusalem was not the place where Jesus walked and prayed, but the dream of an ancient realm restored at long last. The city of David that was evoked at the end of each year’s seder meal of Pesach, or Passover, when participants toasted one another with the declaration, “Next year in Jerusalem!” and celebrated the ancient hope of the temple’s re-construction. The haggadah, a mass-produced form of service issued each year for use at Passover, included a prayer beseeching God to “rebuild the holy city (Jerusalem), in our days and lead us up thereto; and cause us to rejoice therein, that we may eat of the fruit thereof” (Form of Service 1886: 55). The text was accompanied by a half-page woodcut (see Figure 4.2) in which a dawning sun welcomes the new age by crisply etching the lines of the temple, its courtyard, and its walls. The architecture of the sanctuary rises in a symmetry that unfolds in the surrounding grid work of the glorified city. Devoid of inhabitants, this visionary Jerusalem lies just beyond the edge of reality, a glimpse into an eagerly awaited future that was conjured each Passover around the world. Grounded in the very concrete world of the present, by contrast, were the efforts of Jews, in cities like New York and Chicago, to socialize the rising numbers of Jewish immigrants arriving from Russia, Poland, and Ukraine



FIGURE 4.2: Jerusalem rebuilt. Form of Service for the Two First Nights of the Feast of Passover, New York: Lewine & Rosenbaum, 1886, p. 54. Photo by author.

around the turn of the century. Jews of German descent, whose families had been in the United States for many generations, looked with hope, but also concern, to newly arriving Jewish immigrants, recognizing the opportunity of a growing Jewish community, but also one whose success depended on the task of socializing the newcomers. The socialization consisted in no small way of the education of the senses. One author, Bertha Smith, lamented “the dread tyranny of things” that attracted the new Jews who moved into tenement houses on New York’s lower East Side and promptly filled them with the host of commodities now at their disposal. Smith and many German Jews in the city framed their task in explicitly religious terms: they needed to pursue a “mission” to “teach the gospel of simplicity in house furnishing” (Smith 1905: 83). For a generation of American Jews who were taking a more conservative religious turn away from the Reform tradition of Judaism the quest for identity meant resisting absorption into a Christian culture. One author, Esther Ruskay,



scolded Jews who “aspire to assimilation with their neighbors, and start out with disloyalty to their own religion,” exchanging Christmas presents with Christians next door, but failing to observe Jewish festivals. Such people, she declared, “do not deserve to be called Jews” and exhibit “an ignorance of racial properties and ill-breeding so rank, so utterly un-American, not to say un-Jewish, as must always place them beyond the pale of civilized notice” (Ruskay 1902: 40). Ruskay, who championed the interests of Conservative Judaism, then proceeded to tutor Jewish women readers in subjects ranging from Jewish holidays, Sabbath observance, ideals of Jewish womanhood, preparations for Passover, and the proper operation of the Jewish home. Jewish domestic manuals and cookbooks stressed cleanliness, especially in preparation for Passover, and they promoted the selection of foods prepared according to kosher prescriptions. For authors such as Ruskay, this was crucial, since it drew a clear line between her version of Jewish life and that espoused by the Reform group, which had recently captured attention when the graduating class of rabbinical students at its Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati celebrated the occasion by dining on shellfish. (Jewish dietary law, based on Leviticus 11:9–10, recognized as kosher only sea creatures with fins and scales.) Diet had always been a key indicator of Jewishness for many Jews, but a new market in advice books made food preparation and care for the home a defining characteristic for Jewish Americans. The first Jewish cookbook published in the United States appeared in 1871 in Philadelphia and offered detailed advice for the arrangement of the table, the preparation of daily meals, and the selection of properly prepared meats, vegetables, fruits, and desserts (Levy 1871). Clearly, the way to keep Jews Jewish and to properly socialize those who had lapsed or forgotten their ethno-religious identities, was through their stomachs and the operation of the household economy. Practicing Jews meant Jews who ate and lived daily life as Jews. Seeing and tasting were powerful ways of seeking out religious authenticity, but so were touching and smelling. Touch was understood to be the ancient medium for the transmission of spiritual authority in the Catholic tradition, beginning with the Apostles’ bodily embrace with Jesus, the apostolic practice of laying on hands by church elders (1 Timothy 4:14), and descending over time through the consecrating blessing of a bishop’s hand on a new priest. The Oxford Movement in the 1830s and 1840s struggled to recover the Catholic heritage of the Church of England on this and other points. For John Henry Newman (1801–90) and sympathetic colleagues at Oxford, who were also known as the Tractarians for the long series of tracts they wrote in the 1830s and 1840s, modernity and even the Reformation itself had introduced



innovations that compromised the Church’s integrity. The true Christendom was the Catholic and Apostolic Church (which eventually meant the Roman Catholic Church for Newman and several others when it became evident to them that the Anglican Church failed the test of Catholic and Apostolic authenticity). The Tractarians insisted that divine office bestowed unique power on clergy through the unbroken succession of bishops going back to the Apostolic age. A bishop and a clergyman were not self-appointed, were not social conventions, were not arbitrary signifiers agreed upon by a community. They were put in place and kept there by divine command communicated through the anointment of bishops, a practice rooted in the original selection of apostles in the early Church. Likewise, baptism was an act of genuine efficacy in regenerating the soul, not a sign with an agreed-upon significance; and the Eucharist was not a symbol or simple remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus, but his very presence consecrated and delivered in the elaborate liturgical forms of holy office. The sacraments were, in the words of one preacher of the Oxford Movement, “the scheme of mediation” that depended “on union with that personal Being in whom holiness and truth became incarnate” (Wilberforce [1850] 2006: 59). In other words, because God was incarnate in Jesus, the materiality of the sacraments was necessary as a form of conveying divine presence to operate on the soul. The idea that the sacred was a form of information would have struck Newman and other Tractarians as a rank loss of authenticity. For Newman, as for the fellow Catholic convert, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (a student of Edward Pusey, member of the Oxford Movement), the physical world was not a collection of ciphers or indifferent objects, mere instruments for the expression of human desire, but rather a medium of divine revelation. In one of his sermons, Newman spoke poetically of the world to come: To those who live by faith, every thing they see speaks of that future world; the very glories of nature, the sun, moon, and stars, and the richness and the beauty of the earth are as types and figures, witnessing and teaching the invisible things of God. All that we see is destined one day to burst forth into a heavenly bloom, and to be transfigured into immortal glory. Newman 1909: 223 Hopkins witnessed the same mystery touch the shabby bodies of communicants at mass in one of his best-known poems, Easter Communion (1865):



Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast: God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips. You striped in secret with breath-taking whips, Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced To crosses meant for Jesu’s; you whom the East With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships, You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased, God shall o’er-brim the measures you have spent With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease. Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent: Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees. Smell was a sensory experience able to join or sunder spiritual community. One result of the Oxford Movement was the recovery of greater ritualism in the Church of England over the course of the nineteenth century. The use of incense, vestments, and all manner of liturgical objects and forms were grounded in ancient traditions and maintained for their capacity to sustain the material link to the origin and to convey the spiritual power that continued to flow from it, demonstrating the Church of England’s catholic and apostolic authenticity. Advocates insisted that these were customs that unified Christendom in spite of its many differences. But for many in the Anglican hierarchy, High Church liturgy smelled of “Romanism.” Objections to such devices as incense, processions, and the use of candles came from many quarters, including Scottish Presbyterians. One writer complained of what a Presbyterian chaplain to Scottish forces stationed in India would encounter in an Anglican church there that obstructed the properly Presbyterian conduct of worship: He might find the Stations of the Cross; he might find the statue of the Virgin; he might find boxes for the confessional; he might find the incense pots which had been used at the previous service of the Anglican Church. Whether the incense were fumigatory or sacrificial it left pretty much the same scent behind, a scent very obnoxious in the nostrils of a regiment of Presbyterian soldiers. Quoted in “The loan of consecrated churches in India” 1900: 463



Objections to incense were unrelenting, resulting in a national controversy that led the archbishops in 1899 to rule against the use of incense in Anglican worship. Quite a different understanding of incense prevailed among contemporary Roman Catholics, for whom the application of oil and the use of incense were material means of consecrating and therefore making sacred items for use in worship and devotional practice. An article on the use of bells in an American Catholic journal defended the use of incense in the consecration of church bells: Incense is of frequent use in the ceremonies of the church, and implies the energy and activity of holy prayers, which when heated by the fire of divine love, rise up and penetrate to the throne of God as a sacrifice of sweet-smelling savour. And this being a principal duty to which the bell invites us, hence the free use of incense in its consecration. Weedall 1843: 620

IMAGINING CHRISTENDOM Religion helped to shape the imagination of nationhood and religious polity envisioned on a global scale in the age of empire and modernity. Of great interest is the shift from older models of embodiment that was conducted by the cultural logic of capitalism and, in the case of Protestantism, a religion that found in print circulation a new mode of Christendom, one that would reshape itself from continental Europe to a global network of Evangelical communities. If, as Benedict Anderson suggested, nationalism was the imaginative product of print capitalism, modern Protestantism’s global Christendom was the imagined community of print piety (Anderson 1983). Print enabled new forms of piety, some of which must be registered as a form of imagination, a massproduced way of imagining community that arced over national boundaries. One way of studying embodiment and sensation is to focus attention on modes of collective imagination. Whereas rival religious cultures such as Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Catholicism in the Christian world relied on richly ceremonial and multi-sensorial liturgies (integrating vestments, architecture, organ music, stained glass, and incense), Evangelicals invested heavily in print culture to do their imaginative work. The world changed in the age of empire with the rise of new political ideals, the international role of trade, and territorial expansion. Western commercial enterprises such as the East India Company pitted one European nation against another in bitter rivalry for Eastern markets. The result was an expanding



infrastructure of communication and transportation networks that shaped how East and West perceived one another. Interlaced within these networks were the travels, correspondence, and efforts of missionaries from East and West.1 The network of Evangelical Protestant missions deepened and expanded itself during the 1790s by the ambitious use of print, producing bibles and tracts and translating sacred texts into a growing variety of languages, and quickly invested in printing presses set up in the mission field to supply local needs. The new Evangelical tract tended to be shorter and written in more vernacular prose and dialogue forms in order to appeal to a larger audience. Like the earlier phase, the outlook circa 1800 looked for the imminent return of Jesus, but it applied itself with greater zeal to the reform of society, not just the revival of religion. Moral reform was part of the new age of democratic society. In order to accomplish this, great emphasis was placed on a united Evangelical effort, one that avoided the pitfalls of sectarian division. Where the East India Company and other European trading entities dealt in goods and capital, Protestant missionaries plied information—sacred information. Conveyed in the flimsy pages of tracts and booklets, this information coursed through emerging networks of arteries that linked far points of the world with hub organizations in London, Basel, Paris, Berlin, New York, and Boston. In effect, a new form of Protestant Christendom emerged, a Christendom of print, a global enterprise mediated by tracts, correspondence, and the many publications and reports of tract, Bible, moral reform, and educational associations dedicated not only to communicating information, and establishing a grid of connections that would supply diverse efforts around the world, but to re-imagining the globe in light of Protestant ambitions. A striking visualization of this new conception appeared in an illustration affixed to a certificate of membership in the American Tract Society during the 1840s (see Figure 4.3). A dense crowd of the world’s populace gathers about a printing press and two figures who distribute books and pamphlets to them. The figure standing beside the press holds the “Holy Bible” in one arm and hands out a number of booklets or tracts with the other, suggesting their equivalence in the act of dissemination. The people, whose costume suggests all manner of vocations, classes, and geographical origins, receive and avidly devour the texts, forming a reading community whose practice of reception and consumption brings them into an embodied cohort, a global community of readers. They are the new Christendom, the far-flung, asymmetrical body of consumers kept in touch by the global network of textual production and circulation. Largely oblivious of one another, the company gathers under the



FIGURE 4.3: Printing press and distribution of tracts. American Tract Society Certificate of Contribution, 1840s. Photo by author.

auspices of a common practice engaged in individual acts of consumption. It is print that constitutes their connection and reconfigures the Church into a reticular, imagined community.2 The image envisions an ideal communicative situation: the profusion of languages, the wide scatter of cultures, and the diverse historical eras are all reasons why these people cannot speak with one another. Yet the power of the tract in the mind of its promoters was its ability to span all historical and spatial divides to create a unitary, imagined Christendom of print.

EVANGELICAL PRINT AND GLOBAL MISSIONS As continental Europe unfolded in a new pattern of colonies, Protestant and Catholic Christianity reshaped itself from the ancient continental fortress of Europe to the global scatter of colonies and mission fields. One glimpses in the design of Evangelical tracts something of the new mode of uniformity that tract, Bible, mission, and Sunday school societies endorsed in para-church



movements that operated beyond the narrow dogmatic traditions of Protestant denominations. Co-founder of the Religious Tract Society in Britain, Nonconformist minister David Bogue (1750–1825) urged that the ideal tract should include nothing . . . of the shibboleth of a sect; nothing to recommend one denomination, or to throw odium on another; nothing of the acrimony of contending parties against those that differ from them: but pure, peaceful Christianity, in which the followers of the Lamb, who are looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ until eternal life, can unite with pleasure, as in one great common cause. Bogue 1799: 10 Discerning affinities between commerce and religion was not above the leading missionary spirits of the age. In 1792, Baptist William Carey explicitly regarded the two as possessing a parasitic relation. To those who objected to global missions on the basis of great distances and hardships in travel, Carey pointed to the successes of maritime exploration, commerce, and global trading companies (the East India Company might have been on his mind, even if the Company did not allow missionaries to work in its provinces, which Carey would experience when he arrived at Calcutta): “Yea, and providence seems in a manner to invite us to the trial, as a there are to our knowledge trading companies, whose commerce lies in many of the places where these barbarians dwell.” The Bible itself, Carey added, “seems to point out this method,” contending that an Old Testament passage implied “that in the time of the glorious increase of the church, in the latter days . . . commerce shall subserve the spread of the gospel.”3 Carey discerned eschatological and providential motives at work in the alignment of trade and evangelism, and he claimed to scriptural authority for the link that was fitted to the age. It would be a mistake, however, to reduce commerce and missionary activity to one another. They represent parallel cultural forms of exchange that came to structure relations between East and West. They were each at the heart of the Western colonial project since they captured two core values of modern European and American societies: capitalism and faith. Capitalism shared with Evangelical Protestantism a logic of growth, measuring its development as a direct indication of its purpose and wellbeing. Both cultural systems were designed to expand, to proliferate. In order to do so, certain conditions needed to prevail that were also parallel to one another. As capitalism needed access to markets and monetary forms of exchange, Evangelicalism needed access to



people, and forms of communication to engage them. Both identified consumers as those who could be persuaded to participate in exchange. Both thrived on exchange. And the medium of exchange came increasingly to be paper—as currency and as sacred print. It was in paper that capitalism and Evangelicalism overlapped, as the sale of print. David Bogue defined the tract as “a select portion of divine truth” that was “a cheap way of diffusing the knowledge of religion” (Bogue 1799: 3–4). He described how the tract was far more efficient than face-to-face, oral encounter since it required no symmetrical use of time and might easily slip out of the hearer’s memory. But the tract “is given away in an instant; it may be perused and re-perused at pleasure” (1799: 5). Tracts were able to be spread on every occasion—as gifts to those who call at one’s home or encounters in the street. Tracts were a crucial form of intervention in the public sphere because they might “supersede injurious publications,” that is, “profane and immoral” print, “impure songs, or foolish and vicious publications” (1799: 8). Bogue faced the challenge of Protestant clergy who insisted that preaching was the proper medium for communicating the message of the faith. The problem, however, was that not enough missionaries were available to preach the word. Bogue’s solution was to propose that the textuality of tracts be patterned on oral discourse in order to allow mass print to work in lieu of the missing missionary bodies. He and many of his Evangelical contemporaries understood print as speech, as breath, as an embodied reality that could circulate on its own terms. This substitution is clearly at work in the image of the printing press replacing Jesus’ body (see Figure 4.3). And it helps explain how tracts were sometimes enchanted and animated in stories told about their efficacy in the mission field, traveling where no missionary had gone and converting recalcitrant unbelievers or entire villages (Morgan 2007: 32–6). The ease with which Protestants combined images with their printed texts helped them replace the body of the speaker, or one might say, re-embody the older auditory culture of speech or orality in a subtle form of imbrication that gave to images a place they had never enjoyed in Protestantism. The rise of visuality in modern society owes something important to Evangelical Protestantism. Bogue boldly instructed would-be authors of tracts to make sure their efforts be “entertaining.” Plain and didactic texts will put people to sleep, he said, and waste the money and the labor of producing them. “There must be something to allure the listless to read, and this can be done only by blending entertainment with instruction” (Bogue 1799: 11). And Bogue identified the reader as a center of pleasure to be engaged by inserting him into the text he consumes. So Bogue suggested that the reader be one of the speakers in the dialogues that he reads,



whereby “he finds his own sentiments and reasonings attacked and defended: he feels every argument that is adduced, and the subject fixes itself strongly and deeply in his mind” (1799: 11). In place of “general exhortations,” Bogue recommended a reflexive prose that might lure the reader, then convict him: “When an address is particular, and directed to a specified situation, it comes home to the man’s bosom, who sees himself described; and it has a more powerful effect on his mind” (1799: 12). All of this meant turning the public hearers of an older orality into the private readers of modern print culture. Printed paper was the medium of a new spiritual economy that missionaries deployed in India in the attempt to rival the indigenous economy of images. When he arrived in Calcutta in 1830, missionary Alexander Duff (1806–78) encountered a world of images that his Scottish Protestantism had known only in the biblical accounts of ancient Israel. He published his account of the missions of India in 1839 and offered there a fascinating first-hand description of the annual festival of the goddess Durga in Calcutta. What he presents is a striking portrayal of a socially stratified visual economy of Hindu religion that was the target of missionary efforts: In going through the streets of the native city, your eye might be chiefly arrested by the profusion of images unceremoniously exposed to sale like the commonest commodity. On inquiry, you are told that wealthy natives have images of the goddess in their houses made of gold, silver, brass, copper, crystal, stone, or mixed metal, which are daily worshipped. These are stable and permanent heir-looms in a family; and are transmitted from sire to son like any other of the goods and chattels that become hereditary property. But besides these, you are next informed, that for the ceremonial purpose of a great festival, multitudes of temporary images are prepared . . . These may be made of a composition of hay, sticks, clay, wood, or other cheap and light materials. They may be made of any size, from a few inches to ten, twelve, or twenty feet in height . . . These images may be made by the worshipping parties themselves—and made so small, and of substances so little expensive, that the poorest may be provided with one as well as the richest. But if the parties do not choose to make the images themselves, they can be at no loss. There is an abundance of image-makers by profession. And, alas! in a city like Calcutta, the craft of image-making is by far the most lucrative and unfluctuating of all crafts.4 The scene was dizzying for Duff. And his disorienting odyssey in the visual economy of Hinduism only intensified when he peered through a workshop



door to witness the heart of visual production. It was there that he suddenly faced the source of his anxiety: Before, behind, on the right, and on the left—here and there, and every where, you seem encompassed with a forest of images of different sizes, and piles of limbs and bodies and fragments of images of diverse materials, finished and unfinished—in all the intermediate stages of progressive fabrication. But not only is the sense of vision affected; the ears, too, are assailed by the noise of implements busily wielded by the workmen. You step aside, and standing at the door of an image-maker’s workshop, you gaze with wonder at the novel process. You recall to remembrance some striking passages in Isaiah and other prophets, descriptive of the very spectacle then exhibited to your own eyes . . . And you may remember, too, how you once thought that such passages of sacred writ had now become altogether antiquated. In your native land, you never had seen a graven image, nor a heathen temple. Duff 1840: 247 After quoting a series of passages from Isaiah to register what was to him the striking likeness of ancient idolatry and modern India, Duff proclaimed in mock dismay that the biblical descriptions still pertained in the present age: “so boastful of the march of intelligence, and the earthly perfectibility of man; this age, so vauntful of transforming rationalism and widespreading illumination! Ah! What a shock to such Utopian reveries must be given by the spectacle now presented to your eyes, in the very heart of the metropolis of the mightiest province of the British empire!” (1840: 248). But Duff did not simply contrast the Evangelical mission in India with a scornful dismissal of Enlightenment vanity. He turned next to complain that the system of vast public festivals in India imposed an enormous limitation on British merchants because all port traffic and commercial activity was suspended during the festivals: “Apart from the tarnishing of the British character, and the ruin of immortal souls, who can estimate the thousands that are thus periodically lost and consumed by the constant recurrence of the Durga Pujah, and other heathen festivals?” (1840: 250–1). Heathen worship was bad for Christianity and bad for business. The traffic of images needed to be replaced by the traffic of pious print and British trade. The “forest of images” needed to be pulped to manufacture a flurry of Protestant print. This economic transposition was undertaken by British Protestants who collected the images of Hindu deities from converts and sent them to London



for display in the London Missionary Society’s museum in the empire’s capital. Dubbed “trophies of Christianity,” the figures were reproduced in religious periodicals such as Missionary Sketches, which was published by the Missionary Society. The cover of the seventh issue, October 1819, showed nine such figures gathered in Bengal, including Vishnu, Ganesha, Krishna, Shiva, and Jugganatha. In 1820 the periodical featured Durga (see Figure 4.4), the goddess whose

FIGURE 4.4: Representation of Durga. Missionary Sketches, no. 12, April 1820, cover.

Photo by author.



festival in Calcutta Alexander Duff was to describe a decade later. Collected and removed from their previous owners’ devotions and shrines, the gods were deployed in a new taxonomy. Formerly idols, they were now the trophies of a vanquished colonial religion and subjugated culture. As curiosities on exhibit in London, the objects were material proof of the advance of Christian civilization, a highly controlled sensory contact with a world of belief made safe to behold behind the museum’s glass pane. An article accompanying the cover illustration adduced the image of Durga and the accounts of frenzied crowds, human sacrifice, and immolated widows as evidence that “the religion of the Hindoos . . . is a compound of falsehood and cruelty” (“Account of the Hindoo goddess Doorgá” 1820: 3). Hindu sacred stories “make no hesitation in giving tongues to stones and transforming trees into armed men.” For the Missionary Society such acts of animation were worse than fiction: “This may be allowed in a romance and in fables, but the modern Hindoos are silly enough to believe, most gravely, that all this is the very truth” (1820: 3). The account ends with affirming the economy of pious print triumphant over the false gods, pointing out to readers that the purpose of “publishing the present Sketch, and such like accounts, is to excite your compassion and prayers in behalf of the heathen, and your zeal and activity in furnishing pecuniary aid for the purpose of sending to them the blessings of the Gospel” (1820: 3). If stones and trees were to speak, the Evangelicals appear to insist, they will only properly do so in the place of missionaries, as lithographs bearing scriptural illustrations and printed pages bearing the Christian Gospel.

THE CULTURAL LOGIC OF MODERNITY: BEYOND CHRISTIANITY We find a widely drawn battle line over sensation and religion taking shape in the nineteenth century between Protestants and Western-influenced reformers in Buddhism and Hinduism, on the one hand, and Catholics and more traditionally minded Hindus, on the other. The use of ritual forms, images, devotional objects, incense, and special clothing were some of the topics of intense debate between the two broadly defined parties. Missionaries in India and China commonly likened indigenous religionists to Roman Catholics, and imported comparable invective in their critique of “heathenism,” especially with regard to image worship, the use of incense, candles, and ritualistic forms of invocation (Pennington 2005: 68–9; Reinders 2004: 105). As Evangelical missionaries entered India in the 1790s, they applied a new attitude, a kind of hard-sell approach that William Carey and his Baptist



colleagues cultivated in Bengal. This approach was characterized by an argumentative style that presumed to attack the indigenous religion, citing what it claimed were conceptual weaknesses and inconsistencies in the attempt to provoke interlocutors in debate that might result in the demonstration of Christianity’s superiority. Tracts and sermons of this sort were deliberately launched in bazaars and marketplaces, at shrines, pilgrimage sites, near temples, or beside cult images. Such were the crossroads where people gathered or passed in the traffic of daily life—often the very sites targeted for the acquisition of goods and conduct of business by both indigenous and Western merchants. It is not clear how successful the media strategies of missionaries were. If we want to measure the effect of their efforts by numbers of conversions, the results were spotty at best. Christianity remains a tiny religion in India and China today, though it did take root across Asia, and it certainly experienced broader success on the African continent. What is indisputable, however, is the prestige of the colonial religion as something to emulate, especially with regard to methods. For example, Buddhists in Sri Lanka, Hindus in Calcutta and Madras, and later Muslims in South Africa and India, adapted the communication technologies and strategies of missionaries to their own purposes.5 Printed catechisms, tracts, schoolbooks, and later broadcasts on radio, television, satellite, and the internet were applied to spread the news of Buddhist dharma, Hindu shastra, and Muslim da’wa. The aim was not only to create a public discourse of one religion or another, but to create media in which teaching, learning, worship, devotion, ritual practice, prayer, and fellowship might take place. The response of colonized peoples took various directions, but it usually included the appropriation of Western media practices. A few significant examples in nineteenth-century India will show the range of response and its significance for religion and sensory culture. Rammohun Roy (1772–1833), a Bengali Brahmin and reformer who is regarded by many Indians as the “father of modern India,” was an influential advocate of reform grounded in Westernization.6 In political, religious, and social reform, Roy followed the British example and was a tireless publicist, even founding newspapers and a press to conduct his work on a large public scale. Roy attracted the displeasure of orthodox Hindus who took sharp issue with his denunciation of image worship and were upset by his attending Unitarian worship.7 His answer captured the theological space in which he was able to join with Western Unitarians for a few years of intercultural worship and thought: “Because the prayers read, worship offered, and sermons preached in the Unitarian place of worship remind me of the infinitely wise Rule of this infinite universe, without ascribing to him as Churchmen do, fellow-creators



or co-operators equal in power and other attributes,” and because, among other things, “Unitarians reject polytheism and idolatry under every sophistical modification” (1978: 201–2). Roy eventually determined to invest his effort in something appealing to a more indigenous basis and founded the Brahmo Samaj in 1828. This was a society devoted to the worship of a distinctly monotheistic and immaterial deity. The words of its indenture strike an inclusive, but also iconoclastic note. The purpose of the society was to provide a place of public meeting in which “no graven image, statue or sculpture, carving, painting, picture, portrait or the likeness of anything shall be admitted . . . [and in which] no sacrifice, offering or oblation of any kind or thing shall ever be permitted” (Roy 1978: 216). Religious reform meant a significant shift in the sensory regime of Hindu worship. The Brahmo Samaj rejected the role of images or “idols” in the worship of deities, found the festivals associated with temple worship offensive and distasteful, and argued for a rigorous monotheism as the heart of Hindu religion. All of these features of his reform shifted the sensory regime of temple worship to a more philosophical and ethical basis that comported with British Unitarianism, which had conducted the same deconstruction of Christian ritual and mythology, stripping away from the life of Jesus the miracles and sacramentality that Christianity had long used to understand the significance of Jesus. But people are attached to their imagery and the multi-sensorial practices of their religions. And they admire the intimate connection of religious dogma and cult to national consciousness. Rammohun Roy, the Brahmo Samaj, and a number of Westerners who arrived in India later in the century in search of Eastern wisdom, which they sought to gather up in the teachings of the Theosophical Society—Henry Steel Olcott, Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant— came in for criticism from Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), who was both the product of reformist Indian tradition and a devotee of a traditional guru, Sri Ramakrishna. He defended the use of images in proper worship and argued that Islam and Protestantism were alone among major religions that rejected imagery (Vivekananda 1973: 61). Among “those reformers who preach against image-worship, or what they denounce as idolatry” (Rammohun Roy, the Brahmo Samaj as well as the Theosophical Society, including Olcott, Blavatsky, and Annie Besant), Vivekananda urged forbearance: “Brothers, if you are fit to worship God-without-form discarding all external help, do so, but why do you condemn others who cannot do the same?” (1973: 460). Where Rammohun experimented with an international, non-racial religious ideal, purged of regional and ethnic peculiarities, the flesh and race of religion returned to the fore in Vivekananda’s critique of many reform measures.



Liberal reformers had tended to dematerialize religion as a matter of ideas and ethical ideals. Although he was in no way nationalistic or nativist, as later advocates of Hindu nationalism could be, Vivekananda clearly wanted to ground Hinduism in a people and to set this people’s mission in contrast to the national destiny of Western polities. His aim was palpably visceral when he expressed it in gendered terms. After remarks reproving the Theosophical Society and the Brahmo Samaj, Vivekananda challenged a gathering in Madras (home of the Theosophical Society): We have become weak, and that is why occultism and mysticism come to us—these creepy things; there may be great truths in them, but they have nearly destroyed us. Make your nerves strong. What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel. We have wept long enough. No more weeping, but stand on your feet and be men. It is a man-making religion that we want. Vivekananda 1973: 224 Indian manhood was the flesh of the nation that he wanted to save from what he imputed were the feminizing influences of liberal foreign critics of Hinduism. Vivekananda longed for unity among Hindus, not a universal religion abstracted from the world’s religious figures. In this unity, he argued, the Indian nation would find its vocation and its privileged place among the world’s nations. Yet in their own way, even the most intellectually sophisticated Western admirers of Eastern religions might agree that the look and feel of religion matters. For example, in 1894 Paul Carus packaged Buddhism for Americans by publishing an anthology of Buddhist sutras under the title of The Gospel of Buddha, which he organized as a narrative of incidents and teachings that was intended to remind Western readers of the New Testament Gospels. Whereas Henry Steel Olcott had issued the Buddhist Catechism (1881) in the Westminster Catechism’s format of a long series of terse, doctrinally honed questions and answers, Carus had the more engaging idea of using Biblical narrative as the model of presenting a strange tradition.8 And for the seventh edition, published in 1915, Carus invited an artist to illustrate the narratives with images that did not present an Asian Buddha, but a Caucasian one. The result was not a new set of icons for veneration, but visual bridges that made Buddhism more accessible to the Western reader, or viewer. If Olcott and others dismissed images as superficial or naïve, or lower forms of spiritual consciousness, Carus recognized their power to mediate the distant, foreign, exotic tradition, in effect, to normalize it by modernizing and indigenizing it. What Americans saw in the imagery and narrative design of The Gospel of



Buddha was something they could recognize. The illustrations not only advertised the new religion, but changed the way many people might approach and feel about it. According to one scholar, Carus’ re-deployment of Buddhism influenced his collaborator, D. T. Suzuki, to Americanize Buddhism (Verhoeven 2004: 46). The illustrations make this clear in their own way. One of the first in the book shows a scene that is obviously meant to invoke the nativity of Jesus (see Figure 4.5). But the image illustrates the arrival of the Naga kings to pay homage to the young Sakya king, Siddhartha Gautama, who became the historical Buddha. Perched on his young mother’s lap, the infant figure not only strikes Western viewers as Jesus, but conveys the tenderness that Christians feel for their newborn savior. The image appeals to deeply seated emotions among many Westerners. Among those who are not Christian, the image might nevertheless make Buddhism feel less Asian and more Caucasian.

FIGURE 4.5: Infant Siddhartha Gautama Receiving Veneration from Naga Kings, by Olga Kopetzky. Paul Carus, The Gospel of Buddha Compiled from Ancient Records. La Salle: Open Court, [1915] 1994, p. 7. Courtesy Open Court Publishing Company.



SPIRIT OF THE AGE: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MATERIAL PRESENCE The modern era evinces a pattern of new religious movements encouraged by the cultural marketplace, which operated beyond the traditional authority of state-supported religion. The social phenomenon of new religious movements is not, of course, anything new. But its operation within the cultural market of competing private entities, devoid, or largely devoid, of oppressive competition with official or state-sponsored religion, meant that sects needed to fashion themselves with a keener eye to potential participants. In the new marketplace of religions, the distinctive habits of religious groups set them apart, and therefore made them socially visible. Rather than operating under the radar of authorities, groups were able to be more public in their presentation and their proselytism in an increasingly pluralistic society. They advertised more openly in the way they dressed and worshipped, in what they ate or would not eat, in the way they spoke, in the buildings and spaces they crafted for gathering as a community. Consider the spate of groups that flourished in the eighteenth, nineteenth, or twentieth century in North America and Europe, and their signature behaviors and practices. Quaker women distinguished themselves by their bonnets, and men by hats and beards; Shakers lived celibately in communities they built, and furnished with items they produced; the Millerites were known by their lithographic millennial charts and by the host of mass-printed items such as stationery, envelopes, newspapers, and broadsides that announced their belief in the imminent return of Jesus; Mormons built conspicuous temples, moved en masse from place to place, and drank no beverages containing alcohol or caffeine; Seventh-Day Adventists engaged in dietary and health reform. The task in every case was communicating and practicing belief as material, sensuous practice. Belief is something one does, and having a feeling for it is the condition for doing and being religious. Modernity tends to place religions (and everything else) within domains of consumption, where believers grow or diminish according to the ability of their practices to retain members or attract newcomers. Dress, food, architecture and imagery were the material and sensory means of practicing community, of belonging to it, of feeling together, of sensing the world within the forms and devices of shared practice, of generating the felt-life that embodied the purpose and life of the group.



The Senses in Philosophy and Science: From the Senses to Sensations robert jütte

In the first half of the nineteenth century many philosophers challenged the canonical number of senses. The Spanish theologian Jaime Balmes (1810–48), for example, did not rule out the existence of more than the traditional five: For, to the eyes of philosophy, the phenomenon of sensation consists in the production in the soul of a particular affection determined by an impression on an organ; and of whatever order this affection may be, and whatever organ may be affected, the animal phenomenon is substantially the same. The difference is in the class of affections and of the organ which is their medium. The essence of the phenomenon does not change. And if by sensations we understand such distinct orders of affections as those of sight and of touch, why may we not include other impressions caused by any other organ, whatever that organ may be? Balmes 1856, I: 329 The quest to discover new senses gained strong momentum in natural philosophy. According to Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775–1854), natural 113



philosophy (Naturphilosophie) does not deduce the real from the ideal, on the contrary the ideal derives from the real. Natural forces and phenomena, such as irritability and sensibility, explain the forms in which the ideal structure of nature is realized. In his treatise on the system of the senses, Schelling relates the senses to three dimensions (magnetism, electricity, and chemism). He posits six instead of five senses, adding thermoception (Wärmesinn). His scheme differs, however, from the traditional one not only according to quantity. He correlates, for instance, smelling with electricity and touch with magnetism. Also, the order of the senses and their combination is quite peculiar: feeling, taste (= senses of the first order in regard to the organism), smell and sight (= senses of the second order), thermoception and hearing (= senses of the third order). Schelling also increases the importance of the sense of hearing by referring to it as the “proper sense of humanity” (der eigentliche Sinn der Humanität), because only through the sense of hearing “reason can show itself” (Schelling [1804] 1860: 455). In 1802 Lorenz Oken (1779–1851) published a small book entitled Uebersicht des Grundrisses des Sistems der Naturfilosofie und der damit entstehenden Theorie der Sinne. This was the first of a series of works which established him as one of the leaders of the movement of Naturphilosophie in Germany. Undoubtedly influenced by social ideologies of the time, he proposed an evolutionary hierarchy of the senses in which the European “eye-man” was at the top and the African “skin-man” at the bottom (Oken 1831: 489). Even before the nineteenth century, many systems of evolutionary thinking considered touch as the most primitive sense, possessed by the protozoon before other forms of sensitivity and responsiveness to environment come about. Oken developed an entire scheme of evolution in which he divided the animal kingdom up on the basis of which particular organs (including sense organs) predominated in their constitution; most primitive of all were the snails and worms, in whom touch performs the office of the subtler senses present in more complex creatures (Oken 1847: 417ff.). Oken also adds another sense to the traditional scheme, namely the sense of identity (Identitätssinn), which he thinks is important for procreation. According to Eckart Scheerer, repercussions of the idea of a natural philosophical or “cosmic individuation of the senses” (1995: 852) can be found in the work of Georg Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) as well: The senses and the theoretical processes are therefore: (a) the sense of the mechanical sphere—of gravity, of cohesion and its alteration, and of heat—feeling as such; (b) the senses [coming under the moment] of



opposition, (1) of the particularized principle of air, and (2) of the likewise realized neutrality of concrete water, and of the opposed moments of the dissolution of concrete neutrality—smell and taste. (c) The sense of ideality is likewise twofold, since the moment of particularization indispensable to the ideality as abstract self-reference, falls apart into two indifferent determinations: (1) the sense of ideality as a manifestation of the outer for the outer, of light as such, and more precisely of light as being determined in the concrete outer world, i.e. colour, and (2) the sense of the manifestation of the organism’s inwardness expressed as such in its utterance, the sense of sound: the two senses, then, of sight and hearing. Hegel 1970: 138, § 358 Hegel sees therefore no need for establishing new senses: “Now although it is known that we have precisely five senses, and that neither more or less are to be distinguished, philosophical consideration demands the demonstration of the rational necessity of this, which is demonstrated in that we grasp the senses as representing moments of the Notion” (Hegel 1977: 167, § 401). Hegel also posits correspondences between the senses and the four elements. Touch, for instance, is the sense of the “mechanical sphere” and thus relates to earth and fire. In linking sensibility to nature, Hegel shows his familiarity with natural philosophy: “The general modes of sentience are related to the physical and chemical determinancies of the natural, the necessity of which must be demonstrated in the philosophy of nature” (quoted in Stone 2012: 120). In Hegel’s scheme by which inorganic Nature gives rise to purposive activity such as cognition, the five senses play an important role. He believes that the subject is only aware of things via the five senses. And this is a rather complex process as subjects are aware of objects not only through one particular sense but through several senses at once. Sensory intuition (sinnliche Anschauung) involves, according to Hegel, the transformation of what is sensed (das Empfundene) into an external object (Hegel 1971: 200, § 449 Zusatz) and refers to the arts as an example for the absolute form of sensuory intuition. In his seminal work The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) maintained that the world has two aspects, an outer aspect revealed to our senses, and an inner aspect—the world as Will. As we can only perceive objects through our five senses, Schopenhauer believes that the perceiving subject and the perceived object cannot be separated. This has also implications for the way in which we perceive:



Thus only on account of this indifference with regard to the will which is peculiar to them are the sensations of the eye capable of supplying the understanding with such multifarious and finely distinguished data, out of which it constructs in our head the marvelous objective world, by the application of the law of causality upon the foundation of the pure perceptions of space and time. Just that freedom from affecting the will which is characteristic of sensations of color enables them, when their energy is heightened by transparency, as in the glow of an evening sky, in painted glass, and the like, to raise us very easily into the state of pure objective will-less perception, which, as I have shown in my third book, is one of the chief constituent elements of the aesthetic impression. Schopenhauer 1887: 194, cf. Vandenabeele 2011 Like Hegel, Schopenhauer kept to the scheme of the five senses and accommodates them to the four elements. “Thus the sense for what is firm (earth) is touch; for what is fluid (water), taste; for what is in the form of vapour, i.e., volatile (vapour, exhalation), smell; for what is permanently elastic (air), hearing; for what is imponderable (fire, light), sight” (Schopenhauer 1887: 194). In Parerga and Paralipomena, Schopenhauer postulated that we each have a “dream-organ,” which he defined as “a faculty of intuitive perception which has been shown to be independent of the external impression of the senses” (Schopenhauer 1974: 239). Schopenhauer claimed that the dream-organ perceives through a qualitatively different channel than that of our everyday sense faculties, i.e. the five senses. In contrast to his contemporary, Schelling, the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), dodges natural-philosophical speculations on the external senses. In 1800 he stated: “I do not consider them [sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch] as external senses, but only special conditions of the object of the internal sense, my associations” (Fichte 1800: 107). This means there is no external sense, as there is no external perception. According to Fichte “you have an awareness of your seeing, feeling etc., and that way you perceive the object” (Fichte 1800: 28). Without this awareness it is impossible to perceive.

THE OBJECTIVATION OF THE SENSES It was Karl Marx (1818–83) who drove idealism from the philosophy of the senses and propounded a materialistic treatment of human sensibility, explaining man’s “knowing” by his “being,” instead of, as heretofore, his



“being” by his “knowing.” Hegel’s concept of the senses—like his dialectic— was placed by Marx upon its feet instead of on its head, where it was standing before. The senses which man has, so to speak, from coming into being, need to be formed by the objects outside of them: “For not only the five senses but also the so-called mental senses, the practical senses (will, love, etc.), in a word, human sense, the human nature of the senses, comes to be by virtue of its object, by virtue of humanized nature” (Marx 1959: 46). The objects, according to Marx, “confirm and realize his [man’s] individuality, become his objects: that is, man himself becomes the object . . . Thus man is affirmed in the objective world not only in the act of thinking, but with all his senses” (Marx 1959: 46). The senses therefore do not possess ontological qualities, but are subject to historical changes: “The forming of the five senses is a labor of the entire history of the world down to the present” (Marx 1959: 46). The objectivation of the senses is connected by Marx to the alienation of the human senses. Private property and the capitalistic mode of production created a new sense, which Marx called the “sense of having.” Marx takes up Ludwig Feuerbach’s (1804–72) criticism of the alienation of human sensuousness. But instead of blaming Christian religion for this development, Marx relates it to the alienation of man’s labor by the rule of private property, following Moses Hess’ concept of the alienating effect of the rule of money on the human essence: The transcendence of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities, but it is this emancipation precisely because these senses and attributes have become, subjectively and objectively, human. The eye has become a human eye, just as its object has become a social, human object—an object made by man for man. The senses have therefore become directly in their practice theoreticians. They relate themselves to the thing for the sake of the thing, but the thing itself is an objective human relation to itself and to man. Marx 1959: 46 Marx’s theory of sensory privation was also influenced by the writings of the French utopianist Charles Fourier (1772–1837) who was convinced that the senses were debased by modern civilization (cf. Howes 2003: 206).

A “REALISTIC” CONCEPT OF THE SENSES By the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century the philosophy of the senses based on subjectivistic theories came under attack by



a number of critics whose common denominator was the replacement of “physiological idealism” (Scheerer 1995: 860f.) by a “realistic” concept of sensory perception. The main proponent of “physiological idealism” was the Austrian philosopher Ernst Mach (1838–1916). Among his many critics was Lenin (1870–1924), who proposed a materialistic instead of a subjectivistic approach: “These views do not consist in deriving sensation from the movement of matter or in reducing sensation to the movement of matter, but in recognising sensation as one of the properties of matter in motion” (Lenin 1972: 47). According to Scheerer (1995: 861) two strands of realism have to be distinguished. One proposes a kind of naturalistic view, claiming that “things exist outside us. Our perceptions and ideas are their images. Verification of these images, differentiation between true and false images, is given by practice” (Lenin 1972: 110). This concept brings forth a classification of the senses according to the sensory perception they transmit. The other model can be labeled “critical realism” as it assumes that the qualities of sensations “are properties and conditions of external objects” (Riehl 1887, II: 79). The main advocate of this view is Alois Riehl (1844–1924) who wanted to replace Weltanschauung or “world view” (i.e. the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual or a group interprets the world and interacts with it) by a criticism of perception. Both philosophical currents did not alter the classical list of the (five) senses. During the first half the twentieth century the ongoing discourse on the senses owes much to the phenomenological approach of Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), claiming that the senses are part of the phenomenal word (cf. Druee 1962; Hopp 2008). Husserl also propounded a kinaesthetic notion of perception that combines the different senses into coherent unities (Patterson 2007). Finally, it does not come as a surprise that, from the late nineteenth century onwards, philosophical pronouncements on the nature of the senses were influenced by advances in sensory physiology.

THE ADVANCEMENTS OF SENSORY PHYSIOLOGY The beginnings of sensory physiology reach back far into the eighteenth century, but its real founder is considered to be Johannes Müller (1801–58). “The philosophy of the senses has been derived by Müller entirely from nature” (Virchow 1858: 24), wrote Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902), who was probably the most famous German physician of the second half of the nineteenth century. By finding a new, scientifically verifiable basis for the individuation of the outer senses, Müller, who taught physiology in Bonn before moving to Berlin,



transformed the five senses into a rapidly propagating number of sensorial modalities that could be investigated experimentally, and without reference to their social or natural-philosophical context. Published in 1826, Müller’s pioneering work on the comparative physiology of the visual sense formulated the “law of specific sensory energy,” which was still being discussed by scientists in the twentieth century, albeit in a modified form. It is based on the assumption that each kind of nerve (optical, cochlear, olfactory, etc.) possesses its own inherent specific energy which is incapable of further physical definition. Müller cites the example of the sense of sight. Regardless of the kind of stimulus (electrical, chemical, or mechanical) applied to the optical nerve, the latter will invariably produce sensations of light, darkness, or color. According to this theory, it is not the stimulus that is sensed, only “that which is perceptible” to the particular sense concerned. In Elements of Physiology (2 vols., 1834–40), which was long considered to be the standard work on this new fundamental medical subject, Müller expanded his sensory-physiological theory and summarized it in the form of ten theses. The eighth of these states, for example, that: It is true that the sensory nerves initially perceive only their own situations, or that the sensorium responds to the conditions of the sensory nerves. However, these sensory nerves share, as bodies, the characteristics of other bodies, since they are extended in space and susceptible to communicated impulses and chemical modification by heat or electricity; so that when they are affected by external causes they will inform the sensorium of qualities and changes in the external world, in addition to registering changes in their own state. Such changes will vary according to characteristics and sensory energies specific to the particular sense concerned. Müller 1926: 222 In other words, each sensation depends on a particular state of the nerves. It is not the qualities of the objects operating on the senses from outside that are conducted to the sensory center, but the various sensory energies. Precisely what these specific qualities of the senses are is a question that Müller leaves open. It is, for instance, unclear whether the various sensory energies are localized in parts of the brain or in the spinal cord (seventh thesis). In order to understand the historical-scientific status of the “law of specific nerve energy,” and to explain its enormous influence on later nineteenthcentury research, we must bear in mind that when Müller formulated his theses



it was not known that nerve fibres are merely extensions of nerve cells, and that the latter are themselves excited by short electrical pulses. Instead, the human nervous system was thought to be a tissue of fibers which transmitted the stimuli from the external sense organs to the brain. The rapid acceptance of the theory of specific sensory perception was due not least to the fact that it accorded with modern technological understanding, and also opened the way to arguments by analogy. In one of the later editions of his On the Sensations of Tone (1863), Hermann Helmholtz writes: Nerves have been often and not unsuitably compared to telegraph wires. Such a wire conducts one kind of electric current and no other; it may be stronger, it may be weaker, it may move in either direction; it has no other qualitative differences. Nevertheless, according to the different kinds of apparatus with which we provide its terminations, we can send telegraphic dispatches, ring bells, explode mines, decompose water, move magnets, magnetize iron, develop light, and so on. So with the nerve. Helmholtz 2005: 149 Recent histories of science have attempted to establish parallels between Müller’s and Helmholtz’s rigid separation of the individual senses and Karl Marx’s differentiation of the senses and assertion of their autonomy. But for Marx as a philosopher, the problem was not the scientifically explicable separation and specialization of the senses, but the alienation of the senses within the property relations of capitalist society. Müller’s theory of specific nerve energy was expanded and modified by Hermann von Helmholtz—probably the most important German physiologist of the second half of the nineteenth century—on the basis of his own sensory physiological research, which was concerned largely with the sense of hearing. Helmholtz assumed, for instance, that the perception of sound at any level corresponded to the excitation of a particular fiber of the cochlear nerve. In the case of color perception, on the other hand, only three nerve fibers needed to be distinguished, which transmitted the perception of blue, yellow, and red respectively. He further distinguished between the qualities already mentioned (the three basic colors, high and low tones) and the so-called modalities (e.g. sensations of light and sound), in which there were, according to him, no transitions. New sensorial qualities arose only as a result of mixing the basic qualities. In 1893, the psychologist of perception Oswald Külpe (1862–1915) added up the sense perceptions as they were then known and came up with 694 different



sensations of brightness and 150 color shades for the sense of sight; 11,063 tones for hearing; three or four qualities of taste and touch, and an indefinite number of smells. At almost the same time, his English colleague Edward Titchener (1867–1927) arrived at 32,820 colors and 11,600 sounds, which were allegedly distinguishable on the basis of existing studies of optics and acoustics and with the assistance of the sense organs concerned (cf. Boring 1977: 10). The physiologist Ewald Hering (1834–1918) attempted to relate Helmholtz’s theory of perception to certain processes taking place in the brain. He thought that all phenomena of sensation, perception, and cognition could by explained by studying the physiology of the brain. According to Hering, the brain cells were excited by stimuli from the sensory nerve fibers, “and depending on the capacity of a brain cell easily and frequently to receive the stimuli arriving from one sense organ or the other, or from this or that particular sensory nerve fibre, it will develop a specialization for the specific qualities of precisely those kinds of stimuli” (quoted by Florey 1995: 885). Thus, sensory experience implied the specialization and individualization of the activities of particular parts of the human brain. The “sensory energies” developed in the course of this process were, in Hering’s opinion, nothing less than the “organic expression of our individual memory.” He was, thus, concerned primarily with the interactions of cerebral functions and perceptions. With these experiments, Hering paved the way for twentieth-century brain research, which uses both physiological and psychological methods to explore the cerebral mechanisms of perception and cognition.

THE DISCOVERY OF NEW SENSES Johannes Müller’s physiology of the senses called for a separation of physical phenomena from the phenomena of perception, which led to a shift of attention from the object of a perception to the particular form in which it was perceived. As the sociologist of knowledge Dieter Hoffmann-Axthelm has stressed, “this meant that from now on the line dividing the outer from the inner perception of objects and feelings was a matter of indifference; for regardless of where the stimuli originated, everything was produced by inner sensation” (HoffmannAxthelm 1984: 49). So the way was now clear for the discovery of new senses. One sense in particular, the so-called muscular sense, had failed to fit into the earlier scheme, and this could now be defined. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a number of physiologists had already tried independently to prove the existence of a muscular sensation. Following the sensory-physiological theories of Müller and Helmholtz, later



physiologists attempted to provide experimental verification of the existence of feelings and perceptions specific to the so-called “muscular sense.” They believed, for instance, that the sensation of active or passive movement and the sense of position, weight and resistance, were coupled to the muscular sense. It was, on the other hand, rather more difficult to determine which perceptions we owe to this sense. The example most frequently cited is our idea of the magnitude of a weight or load supplied by the various tensings of a muscle. Ernst Heinrich Weber (1795–1878) was the first to undertake a more precise description of the muscular sense. His experiments showed that this sense even enabled humans to distinguish between barely perceptible degrees of heaviness. Weber’s method of testing the muscular sense was to wrap weights in a cloth, which then had to be lifted up by grasping the knotted ends with the hands. The idea was to prevent the sense of touch or, rather, pressure, from influencing the perception. Despite these extremely elaborate investigations and measurements, many nineteenth-century physiologists denied the existence of this sense. The Graz physiologist Alexander Rollet (1834–1903) summarized their arguments as follows: The actions of this muscular sense are entirely analogous to those produced by the skin’s sense of pressure or space, or by the retina of the eye. This is why the very existence of a muscular sense, or at least the dependence on the muscular sense of some of the perceptions mentioned earlier, has been denied by various scientists, who have ascribed some or all of these perceptions either to the domain of the skin’s sense of touch, or to the sense of sight. Rollet 1898: 234 Those who accepted the theory of a separate muscular sense, however, pointed to the presence of sensitive nerve fibers within the muscles (e.g., Ernst Heinrich Weber and Charles Bell) or to sense impressions peculiar to the muscular sense (Wilhelm Wundt).

NEW INVESTIGATIONAL METHODS AND TECHNIQUES In a remark that was entirely in the tenor of his celebrated colleague Johannes Müller, the physiologist Friedrich Tiedemann (1781–1861) noted in 1830 that: “When taking an empirical approach to physiology, we first try to grasp the relations of living bodies and their characteristics to our senses, and to



investigate their appearance and practical manifestations by means of those senses . . . We perform our observations and experiments either by means of the naked senses or with the aid of various instruments” (quoted in Rothschuh 1968: 229). In investigations of the visual sense, for example, the ophthalmoscope is used to look into the depths of the eye, the ophthalmometer to measure the curvature of the cornea, and the spectrophotometer to determine the intensity of monochromatic light. All these instruments were invented by Hermann von Helmholtz in the mid-nineteenth century to assist his experiments in physiological optics and color perception. Other investigational and metrological methods were developed or refined in the course of the nineteenth century. In 1835, the Bremen doctor and biologist, Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus (1776–1837) published the results of his microscopic investigations of the retina. They marked the beginning of a new field of research known to the history of science and medicine as “microphysiology” (Schikore 1999: 139). His well-known and much-cited tuning fork experiment of 1834 gave Ernst Heinrich Weber the idea that sounds that are reproduced in the inner ear via the bones of the skull are received by the cochlea, while sound waves are carried by air to the vestibulum or the fleshy part of the bony labyrinth of the inner ear. This reflection gave birth to a test that is still used today in the examination of hearing disorders. Ewald Hering developed a so-called aesthesiometer for the measurement of the sense of touch. It consisted of twelve cylindrical rods, of which only one was smooth, while the rest had varying degrees of roughness (ranging from 0.11 micrometers to 1.0 micrometers). The experimental subject was required to indicate which of the rods still felt rough to the touch. The Dutchman Hendrik Zwaardemaker (1857–1930) invented the olfactometer, which calibrated thresholds of sensitivity to various odorous substances. This simple device consists of two tubes of different length which can be pushed over each other. Pushing the outer tube forwards exposes more of the surface of the other tube, which is coated with a scent. Using this method, it is easy to ascertain the acuteness of a person’s sense of smell. In the physiological study of taste, the quality-priority saporimeter was joined at a relatively early stage by the quantity-priority gustometer. A concept introduced into sensory physiology by the still well-known psycho-physicist Gustav Fechner (1801–87) acquired importance in the context of the new measuring techniques of those times. By “stimulation threshold” Fechner meant the degree of intensity required for a stimulus to produce a sensation that was still just about perceptible. The equation named after him states that the strength of a sensation increases in proportion to the logarithm



of the strength of the stimulus. Fechner had discovered that the intensity of light perception was not directly proportional to the intensification of the physical stimulus. The “difference threshold” was Fechner’s term for the smallest difference of stimulus that is still capable of rendering a difference in the intensity of a sensation perceptible. Fechner’s equation soon entered the textbooks. “To determine the value of this difference threshold experimentally,” states an introduction to psychophysics published in 1878, “we can first use the so-called method of the just-noticeable difference, whose use and verification procedures do not appear to require any further assistance from mathematics” (Müller 1878: 10). On the basis of Fechner’s discovery, it was thought that sensory perception consisted of a succession of magnitudes of varying intensity which could now be measured quantitatively, as a result of which human sensation would become to a large extent calculable.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF SIGHT Many of the revolutionary nineteenth-century discoveries in the field of sensory-physiology derived from experimental investigations into the sense of sight. The theory of vision developed by Johannes Müller and extended by Hermann von Helmholtz deserves special mention in this context, for it was largely owing to this theory that the sense of sight ceased to be regarded as a privileged form of knowledge and became a quite normal object of experimental scientific inquiry. As already indicated, the basic outlines of this new approach are already present in the work of Johannes Müller. He was the first proponent of the pioneering view that it could be shown experimentally “that when we see, we are experiencing the state of the retina and nothing more than this, and that the retina is, so to speak, the visual field itself; dark when at rest and light when excited” (quoted by Lenoir 1998: 104). Müller believed it was possible to explain the then still unexplored collaboration of mind, brain, and retina by assuming that “the mind continues to have an effect on the nerve endings to the extent that the sensory nerves are merely processes of the sensorium” (quoted by Lenoir 1998: 105). This later earned him the accusation of “nativism” from Helmholtz, by which he meant that Müller subscribed to the view that certain ways of thinking, acting, and feeling were innate. In contrast to Müller, and drawing on the ophthalmological research of his own time, Helmholtz insisted that the relations of corresponding positions of the retina observed by Müller were not given in nature, but had to be learned, and were therefore subject to alteration and change.



FIGURE 5.1: An ophalmotrope for the study of eye movements. Hermann von Helmholtz, Handbuch der physiologischen Optik, Leipzig: Voss, 1866.

The centerpiece of this emphatically empirical theory of vision was the doctrine of the semiotic character of sense perception which Helmholtz formulated in his Handbook of Physiological Optics: “Our ideas of objects can only be symbols; naturally given signs for the things we learn to use in order to regulate our actions and movements. If we have learned to read these symbols correctly, we will be in a position to organize our actions with their help, so that they accord with our wishes; in other words, any new sensory experiences will occur as expected” (Helmholtz 2000, II: 103). This semiotic theory of perception was the subject of heated controversy in Helmholtz’s own lifetime, although in the further course of the nineteenth century it proved to be particularly fruitful in the science of the physiology of seeing. Helmholtz was also the co-founder of the so-called trichromatic theory of vision. His first publication dealing with colour perception appeared in 1852. Here he returned to Thomas Young’s (1773–1829) concept of the three basic



colors of the spectrum—red, green, and violet—and expanded it into a trichromatic theory of color. The theory states that according to the way they are mixed, the three basic colors mentioned are sufficient to produce every shade of color in the spectrum. Investigations of congenital color-blindness and so-called dichromatism (two-color vision) seemed to confirm this trichromatic theory. Ewald Hering, on the other hand, held to his own “Opposite Color Theory,” which states that color perception falls into three contrastingly structured pairs of colors (red/green, yellow/blue, white/black). Both these color theories were hotly debated until well into the twentieth century (cf. Turner 1994). “In historical retrospect,” writes the Berlin neurophysiologist Otto-Joachim Grüsser (d. 1995), “it is satisfying to note that each of these two great adversaries of the second half of the nineteenth century has turned out to be correct in one of the branches of the physiology of colour perception” (Grüsser 1996: 147). Today, we know that the distinction of colors also involves cerebral mechanisms which did not become a topic of intensive neurophysiological research until the last three decades of the twentieth century.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF HEARING There were occasional physiological experiments with the organ of hearing in the eighteenth century, but the real breakthroughs of experimental research occurred in the first half of the nineteenth century. One of the initiators of the modern physiological approach was François Magendie (1783–1855), a professor at the Collège de France in Paris. Magendie’s experiments showed that the skin of the external auditory meatus was particularly sensitive. He also noted that high-pitched sounds were painful to the ear, and described the regression of hearing in old age as an effect of the deteriorating sensitivity of the cochlear nerve. Among Magendie’s notable German contemporaries was the doctor and poet Justinus Kerner (1786–1862). Under the supervision of his Tübingen teacher, Johann Heinrich Ferdinand von Autenrieth (1772–1835), himself the author of a well known textbook on human physiology (1802), Kerner had written a much discussed medical dissertation on animal hearing. His fellow student Karl August Varnhagen von Ense (1785–1858) described his animal and sensory-physiological experiments as follows: “He has chosen the sense of hearing as his dissertation subject, which has involved him in some quite new experiments with animals . . . The experiments are clever and imaginative and he has does his best to avoid cruelty to the animals” (quoted



in Grüsser 1987: 69). In the light of the modern debate on the necessity of animal experiments, many of Kerner’s vivisections (e.g., the removal of a cat’s outer ear) may now strike us as highly questionable. Yet it must be conceded that they are not without a certain originality. The same applies to the experiments with which Kerner discovered that animals respond to both pitch and tone color and that their directional hearing varies from species to species. The physiology of the organ of hearing is also indebted to Johannes Müller for numerous fresh discoveries. His investigations of sound conduction in the tympanic cavity were a major advance. Among his other achievements was his discovery, when experimenting on himself, that the hearing is muffled if the eardrum is subjected to extreme pressure by either rarefying or compressing the air in the tympanic cavity. Ernst Heinrich Weber’s work on the functioning of the inner ear represents further progress. Weber did not experiment with animals, but based his theory on the physics of acoustics. Weber’s test became famous. Here, the experimental subject blocks his ears by clamping his hands firmly against them. This makes his voice sound much louder to himself than when his ears are open. If only one ear is closed, the voice sounds much louder through that ear than through the ear left open. The same effect is produced by the tuning fork experiment already mentioned in another context. Weber was actually convinced from an early stage that the tuning fork would play an important role in the diagnosis of auditory deficiencies. The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed not least the first attempts to measure hardness of hearing precisely. Various kinds of measuring devices were developed, with the pocket watch eventually emerging as the standard audiometer. Best known was the method used by the now completely forgotten Viennese doctor, Franciscus Polansky. It consisted of a rod-shaped device with a sliding watch attached to it. The rod bore a mark representing the distance at which a person of normal hearing would hear the ticking of the watch, with both ears closed and the end of the rod held between his teeth. Any deviation from this standard was then the measure of the degree of diminished hearing. According to the celebrated Viennese ear specialist and author of a history of otology, Adam Politzer (1835–1920), “one might also ascertain the acuteness of a patient’s hearing by speaking sentences out loud” (Politzer 1967, I: 425). Politzer was also the inventor of an audiometer named after him, which is still in use today. With this apparatus, a rhythmical tone is produced by striking a steel cylinder, with the distance at which the standard tone is still audible serving as the yardstick of aural acuity. From the 1850s onward, the auriscope was used to examine the acoustic meatus and eardrum. The initial light source



was daylight, but artificial light (gas lamps and electric light) was used more and more towards the end of the nineteenth century. Hermann von Helmholtz’s pioneering research was not confined to the field of the physiological. His book On the Sensation of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music (1863), which took him seven years to write, became a standard text of modern acoustics. Its starting point was the experimental research on the speed of nervous impulses which he had begun in Königsberg. He demonstrated that this speed was a variable quantity which was determined by physical conditions (e.g., temperature). The experiments in

FIGURE 5.2: A vibration microscope used to visualize sound. Hermann von Helmholtz, On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, translated by Alexander Ellis, London: Longmans, 1885.



physics that he completed in Heidelberg led to the modification of the hitherto unchallenged acoustic law of the physicist Georg Simon Ohm (1789–1854), which stated that the human ear could receive only simple harmonic vibrations. Helmholtz showed that almost all the tones produced by musical instruments were composite in character, and that the precise combination of the overtones was the decisive factor in tone color. The presence of overtones that could not be immediately heard had not been suspected up to that point. Helmholtz also discovered that the floating rhythms created by the mutual interference of notes with the same oscillation periods was an essential element musical sound effects. His researches also led him to the formulation of a resonance theory of hearing, which was to remain more or less unchanged for decades. In addition, he proved by experiment that the overtones of vowels change according to the position of the oral cavity. The works of the physicist Ernst Mach (1838–1916) occupy a special place among the numerous studies of the physiology of hearing that appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century. Mach discovered, among other things, that the semicircular canals next to the cochlea were a sense organ for the perception of rotary motion. Even before Helmholtz, the Vienna ear specialist Adam Politzer had discovered (1861) the vibrations of the auditory ossicles during the transmission of sound. According to his own graphic account, he did this by “exposing the hammer-incus joints of fresh human hearing organs and sticking glass threads to the hammerhead, whose vibrations were then recorded onto a piece of paper covered with a layer of soot” (Politzer 1967, II: 45). We should also mention the investigations into the rapid exhaustion of the ear (e.g. by continuous high-pitched whistling sounds) and the studies of socalled “after-sensations,” which Fechner describes as the “souvenirs” of sound impressions which have already died away. Finally, there were the animal experiments conducted by some of Helmholtz’s pupils on the damage to hearing caused by long and continuous exposure to loud noise, which were of enormous practical significance in the then still very new discipline of occupational medicine.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF SMELL Compared to the work completed on the senses of sight and hearing, the physiologists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were only marginally concerned with smell. The schematic division of smells into seven different types (aromatic, scented, ambrosial, garlic-like, stinking, repulsive, and disgusting) by the Swedish doctor and botanist, Carl von Linné (1707–81) was



still being discussed seriously in the nineteenth century. The first comprehensive work on the sense of smell emerged from the pen of the Paris anatomist Hippolyte Cloquet (1784–1840) in 1821. From an anatomical and physiological basis, Cloquet devotes more than 500 pages to the nature and classification of smells, as well as the olfactory nerves and the conditions of smelling. Concerning the seat of the sense of smell, for instance, he writes: “Henceforward, we are no longer dealing with guesswork. We may state as a general principle that in humans and most of the animal vertebrates the nostrils and mucous membranes are assuredly the parts where the sense of smell has its seat, and that they perform the work necessary for the exercise of this particular sensory power” (Cloquet 1820: 79). Just how little was known about the physiology of the sense of smell in those days is clear from Cloquet’s extremely vague remark about the olfactory nerves: “The nerves of the mucous membrane are manifestly of two kinds; some serve the purpose of smelling, and these are the branches of the olfactory nerves, or the first pair, while others perform the task of preserving the life of the smell in the skin” (Cloquet 1820: 173). The separation of the olfactory mucosa (regio olfactoria) from the ordinary nasal mucous membrane that is touched on here was not examined experimentally until the 1850s, when several studies appeared (cf. Seifert 1969: 309). Among them was an essay whose title Untersuchung des Retinazapfens und des Riechhautepithels bei einem Hingerichteten (“Investigation of the Retinal Ganglion and Olfactory Epithelium of an Executed Male”) blandly reveals the use of experimental materials which would nowadays be regarded as ethically questionable in the highest degree. The connection between the fibers of the nervus olfactorius and the sensory cells of the mucous epithelium remained a contentious issue for a long period of time, and was only clarified histologically at a much later date. The tiny sensory hairs of the olfactory cells—whose structure is now fully known, following examination by modern electron microscopes– were discovered and described by Max Schultze (1825–74) in 1856. Thus, the physiology of the sense of smell made little progress until well into the second half of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the number of pages devoted to the subject of smell in the physiological textbooks began to increase. Where it had been dismissed in eleven pages in Rudolf Wagner’s Handwörterbuch der Physiologie (Concise Dictionary of Physiology) of 1844, it managed to get sixty-two pages in the physiological lexicon published by Ludimar Hermann (1838–1914) in 1880. The smell receptors in the nasal mucous membrane were first described by Max Schultze (1825–74) in 1863. In 1886, Emil Aronsohn (1863–?) published his experimental investigations into



FIGURE 5.3: Gustav Jäger in his woolen suit designed to resist contaminating odors.

Gustav Jäger, Entdeckung der Seele, Leipzig: E. Günters Verlag, 1884.



olfactory physiology, in which he dealt with the habituating effects of smelling. It was not until Hendrik Zwaardemaker’s invention of the olfactometer in 1884 that research in the field received another boost. Using Zwaardemaker’s smell gauge, it was at last possible to measure keenness of smell. His new method enabled Fechner’s law of the proportional increase of sensitivity thresholds to be applied to the sense of smell. The use of rhinoscopy for the diagnostic examination of the nostrils begins with Joseph Czermak (1825–72). Czermak introduced the new procedure in an article in the prestigious Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift (Vienna Medical Weekly) in 1858. The instrument consisted of a double tube, which could hold the tongue flat at the same time. After the 1860s, doctors also increasingly used funnel-shaped mirrors to examine the nasopharynx. In the second third of the nineteenth century, so-called “mental chronometry” found a role in the discipline of physiological psychology established by Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920). The biologist Gustav Jäger (1832–1917)—or “Soul Sniffer” (Weinreich 1993), as he was known to his detractors—believed that its methods should also be used to investigate the sense of smell. With the aid of a Hipper chronoscope, or chronometer, Jäger examined a host of scents for their effects on the nervous apparatus. Jäger’s neuroanalysis, as he called it, proceeded as follows: “I took two successive measurements before and after the inhalation of a scent, and then took the averages and compared them. If the second figure was lower than the first, it proved that my nervous excitability had risen as a result of the inhalation; if the second average value was greater, it meant that my excitability had decreased” (quoted by Kaufmann 1984: 31). Once he had made enough of these measurements on himself and his voluntary guinea pigs, it seemed clear beyond reasonable doubt “that the fleeting substances that affect the nose pleasantly produce an acceleration of time, or in other words an increase of excitement. The unpleasant ones, on the other hand, have a retarding or depressing effect on the sensibilities” (quoted by Kaufmann 1984: 31). Although highly controversial in the scientific world of the second third of the nineteenth century, Jäger’s theory of smell became extremely familiar to the world at large, for it provided the basis of a hygienics oriented on the deodorization of the body.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF TASTE In the physiological manuals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the sense of taste was treated more or less as perfunctorily as the



sense of smell. Aristotle distinguished between seven qualities of taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, sharp, tangy, and astringent). In the year 1751, Karl von Linné (1707–78) and Albrecht von Haller (1708–77) located eleven and twelve different kinds of taste, respectively. In the first half of the nineteenth century, however, this number is sometimes radically reduced. The more experimentally-minded physiologists initially acknowledged just two tastes: sweet and bitter. On the basis of his own research, the Innsbruck physiologist, Maximilian von Vintschgau (1832–1902), who wrote the entry on smell in Hermann’s Handbuch der Physiologie (Manual of Physiology, 1880), came to the conclusion—still valid until quite recently—that there were just four basic taste sensations, that is sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. More than two decades were to elapse before this quadripartite division was generally accepted. It was not until very recently that biochemists were able to demonstrate the existence of a fifth variant of taste: umami. In those days, the sense of taste was generally tested using syrup, quinine, a concentrated solution of common salt, and extremely diluted hydrochloric acid or acetic acid. An early standard work on the physiology of taste published in 1825 by Wilhelm Horn (1803–71) allows us a glimpse of the already very systemic procedures followed by early nineteenth-century scientists: I took the liquid substances or crystals on a brush and, after rising in the morning, washing out my oral cavity and drinking a glass of water, I applied it to several of my lingual papillae in front of a mirror. I was possibly able to do this more easily than some because I have a number of papillis fungiformibus on the middle of my tongue, which are quite separate from the others. I then coated my soft palate and the other areas of my oral cavity and wrote down the title of the experiment. Before applying the substance to another type of papillae I naturally washed my mouth with water . . . I repeated the experiments with impartial friends and we obtained the same results. Horn 1825: 83ff. Qualitative testing was normally considered sufficient, but quantitative methods of measuring taste (gustrometry) were also introduced later. The Berlin physiologist Johannes Müller, whom we have often had occasion to mention before, was interested mainly in the taste nerves and knew of Horn’s experimental demonstration of the differential sensitivities of the papillae. Like Albrecht von Haller and Charles Bell (1844–1916) before him, he concluded that these leaf-shaped little warts on the tongue were



in fact organs of taste. It was not until 1867 that the taste buds were discovered independently by Gustav Schwalbe (1844–1916), a pupil of Max Schultze, and the Swede Otto Christian Lovén (1835–1904), but their exact number remained a matter of speculation for quite some time. Only in 1906 was the anatomist Friedrich Heiderich (1878–1940) able to show that one papilla contained a maximum of 508, and a minumum of 33 taste buds. In 1892, the physiologist, Lewis E. Shore demonstrated that the tongue’s sensitivity to taste not only was greater in some areas than others but also varied according to the quality of the sensation.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF TOUCH The first physiologist to undertake a systematic experimental investigation of the sense of touch was Ernst Heinrich Weber, whom we have already encountered in an earlier context. His interest in the subject was purely pragmatic: “The exact investigation of the sense of touch and the common sensibility of the skin and muscles is of particular interest, for no other sense organ offers so many opportunities for experiment and measurement without risk to ourselves” (Weber 1905: 1). Weber was aware from the outset of the difficulties of experimental work in this field, realizing at an early stage that “pure sensation tells us nothing about where the nerves that produce the sensations are being stimulated” and “that all sensations are originally only conditions that stimulate our consciousness. Although such stimuli may vary in quality and degree, they do not make us immediately conscious of spatial relations” (Weber 1905: 10f.). Knowledge of the fine structure of the skin was sketchy at the time that Weber began his experiments. Although the vital importance for the perception of vibrations of the large, lamellae-like corpuscles at the end of the nerve fibers of the subcutis (Pacinian corpuscles) was already recognized, their function as receptors was still a matter of debate. So it was not surprising that Weber should continue to assume that the skin’s senses of heat and pressure were one and the same thing. It was not until the1880s that Magnus Gustaf Blix (1849–1904) in Sweden and Alfred Goldschneider (1858–1935) in Germany demonstrated that the skin contained both temperature and pressure points by subjecting tiny areas of skin to electrical stimulation. “Sensorial circles” was Weber’s term for highly sensitive areas of the skin. He thought that their anatomical substratum was the skin nerves and assigned a particular nerve to one or more of the circles. He also noted that when he applied the points of a pair of compasses to the skin, the pricks could not be



experienced as two distinct sensations beyond a certain distance. This marked the discovery of a phenomenon described towards the end of the nineteenth century as the “simultaneous space threshold” by Max von Frey (1852–1932), who was a pupil of the celebrated Leipzig experimental physiologist Carl Ludwig (1816–94). As late as the 1960s, physiologists were still using Weber’s compass to measure the sensitivity of various areas of the hand. We have already mentioned Weber’s pioneering exploration of the sense of pressure which led to the law of just-noticeable differences named after him (Weber’s law). As we have seen, Weber rejected the idea of a specific epidermal temperature sensor, but this did not deter him from looking for areas of the skin that were more sensitive than others to heat and cold. The role of the socalled pain sense, which can also be localized on the skin, was relatively minor, for he lumped pain together with the “common sense,” about which it was impossible to obtain scientifically exact information. Weber’s achievements in the physiology of skin sensation have been acknowledged by many medical and scientific historians (cf. Bueck-Rich 1970). His famous treatise Der Tastsinn und das Gemeingefühl (The Sense of Touch and the Common Sense, 1846) not only included important research results in the field of the physiology of the skin but also gave a boost to sensory physiology in general. Terms still in use today in physiological research, such as “threshold of stimulation,” “temperature sense” or “simultaneous spatial threshold,” were either first coined by Weber or named after his experiments. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, many of the questions which had either been left open or simply not considered in Weber’s theories of the skin senses were finally answered by the Würzburg physiologist, Max von Frey, whom we have already mentioned. In 1894, he proved the existence of pain points. In so doing, he added a fourth sense to the senses of pressure: warmth and coldness. A year later, he discovered that each of these four forms of sensation or modalities possessed its own organ. The so-called KrauseEndkolben (Krause’s corpuscles), for example, were responsible for the sensation of coldness. This is a sensitive receptor, consisting of a round or oval body with built-in nerve threads, which is situated in the epidermis. For his experiments, Frey constructed a simple device that enabled him to apply tiny stimuli to the skin. It consisted of a series of brushes of different degrees of stiffness which were fixed to a moveable rod with sealing wax. This instrument, known universally as the “Frey Brush” in physiological research, is used to locate pain points and to determine their threshold values. The experiments performed on prisoners of both sexes without their consent by Cesare Lombroso (1836–1909) in the 1880s show how such pain-measuring



instruments could also be used for inhumane and scientifically dubious investigations. “The criminal’s predilection for a painful and risky operation like tattooing,” wrote Lombroso, “led me to conclude that, like many lunatics, criminals are less sensitive to physical pain than normal people” (quoted by Becker 1998: 473). This Italian psychiatrist and criminologist attempted to substantiate this ideologically loaded theory of the inferior physical sensitivities of professional criminals by means of a whole series of physiological experiments. To test the reflex responses of his human guinea pigs, he stuck needles into them and treated them with electric shocks, and must certainly have left them with more than merely unpleasant sensory impressions. The experimental sensory physiology of the nineteenth century is characterized by the definition of the senses according to sensory modalities. In contrast to earlier times, it is now no longer the individual senses that are enumerated and classified, but sensory perceptions of all kinds. The reinterpretation of the sense of touch as a skin sense consisting of a number of discrete senses (pressure, heat, cold, and pain) may be regarded as typical. The methods and instruments developed by leading nineteenth-century sensory physiologists produced results that are still valid today, although they are hardly compatible with traditional ideas of the five senses and have fostered the separation of the senses.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT Parts of this chapter were published previously in Robert Jütte, A History of the Senses: From Antiquity to Cyberspace, translated from the German by James Lynn, published by Polity Press, Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA. Copyright © 2005 by Robert Jütte. Used with the permission of the publisher.


The Senses in Medicine: Seeing, Hearing, and Smelling Disease david s. barnes

In the first years of the nineteenth century, a perceptual revolution occurred in Western medicine that inaugurated an age of radical sensory empiricism. No longer were the traditional authorities and their elaborate theoretical systems to be trusted. Only the direct evidence of the senses applied to—and even inside—the patient’s body could henceforth generate reliable medical knowledge. A century later, the leading edge of medical innovation was moving away from the immediate observation of the body and toward the measurement and graphical representation of bodily phenomena by means of mechanical instruments. This chapter traces the outlines of this epistemological trajectory in medicine alongside a parallel development in the science of public health, in which experts and laypeople alike relied on their senses (smell in particular) to signal the presence and magnitude of health hazards in the urban environment, even as they eventually sought confirmation and explanation of those hazards in the laboratory.




“OPEN UP A FEW CORPSES”: BICHAT AND PATHOLOGICAL ANATOMY The great challenge facing Western medicine at 1800 was that of seeing inside the body. The dissection of corpses had allowed anatomy to develop as a branch of medical learning over the centuries, but until 1800 the static structures of the dead body provided no access to the dynamic processes of the living body in health and illness. The critical breakthroughs happened in Paris, where post-Revolutionary upheaval and an extensive network of hospitalbased physician-professors (and their students) enabled clinical research to take place on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of patients’ bodies were available for investigation both during their illnesses and after death. The result was what became known as the Paris Clinical School (Ackerknecht 1967). Giovanni Battista Morgagni of the University of Padua had proposed in 1761 that diseases had “seats” within the body, and that lesions visible in certain tissues upon autopsy corresponded to pathological processes experienced by the patient during illness (Morgagni 1769; Nicolson 1993a; Reiser 1993a). Led by Xavier Bichat, the Paris clinicians turned Morgagni’s thesis into a fullyfledged research program, and eventually created a new medical specialty: pathological anatomy. The excitement he felt upon seeing the true nature of disease inside the body shines through even the conventionally dry prose of academic medicine: “How insignificant are the reasonings of a whole crowd of greatly esteemed physicians,” he exclaimed, “when you examine them not in books, but on the cadaver!” “What good is observation, if you don’t know where the illness lies? For twenty years, you have taken notes at the bedside on heart, lung, and stomach ailments, and all is but a confusion of symptoms which, not connected to anything else, offer you only a sequence of incoherent phenomena.” The answer was simple: “Open up a few corpses; you will immediately chase away the darkness which observation alone could not dissipate.”1 Bichat was said to have opened up 600 corpses during the winter of 1801–2 alone. He died the following summer at age 30 (Ackerknecht 1967; Bichat 1801, 1: xcviii–xcix). His colleagues continued preaching the gospel of the postmortem examination and the correlation of lesions with symptoms, and their students from many countries took this “anatomical-clinical synthesis” home with them. Pathological anatomy flourished, making a teacher of death by using it as a window into the living body (Maulitz 1987; Risse 1997). The microscope had been around since the seventeenth century, but it was of little use in medicine until improvements in optical quality around 1830



FIGURE 6.1: The microscopic view: the late nineteenth-century bacteriologist Robert Koch at work in his laboratory. Paul de Kruif, Mikrobenjäger, Zurich: Orell Füssli, 1927.



produced consistently sharp images. Thereafter, tissues and fluids from living bodies could be examined for signs of pathological alteration, and the treating physician could act on the results without having to wait for the patient’s death. By deepening the physician’s gaze, the microscope also moved the site of pathology itself from organs (Morgagni), and tissues and membranes (Bichat), to the level of the cell, where disease processes truly originated, according to Rudolf Virchow’s pioneering work in the 1850s and 1860s. In so doing, it armed doctors with an additional layer of specificity and differentiation in their explanations of disease, and it also enabled them to distinguish between disease processes that might look alike to the naked eye but called for different treatment protocols or foretold different outcomes (LaBerge 1994; Maulitz 1987, 1993).

LAËNNEC’S DELIGHT: THE APOTHEOSIS OF SENSORY EMPIRICISM One memorable day in 1816, René Laënnec of the Necker Hospital in Paris examined a corpulent young woman with symptoms of heart disease. Ordinarily, his diagnostic procedure would have included a combination of the following: feeling the heartbeat with his hand; percussion, or tapping, of the chest and listening to the resulting sound; and placing his ear directly against the patient’s chest, thereby allowing him to simultaneously hear and feel the heartbeat. Each of these techniques furnished useful information, but each also had serious limitations. This patient in particular confounded Laënnec: the thick layer of fat between heart and skin rendered the first two techniques useless, while her age and sex made the third impermissible. Inspiration struck when the doctor remembered something he had noticed while watching children at play: a faint sound like a pin scratch at one end of a tube or beam can be heard loud and clear at the other end. Laënnec promptly rolled up a sheaf of paper, placed one end on the patient’s chest, and put his ear to the other end. Voilà: the first stethoscope. Laënnec’s enthusiasm upon hearing his young patient’s heartbeat echoed his mentor Bichat’s fervor for postmortem examination: “I was as surprised as I was satisfied to hear the heartbeat much more clearly and distinctly than I ever had by applying my ear directly.” The implications dawned on him immediately: not just the heartbeat, but all phenomena of the chest cavity could now speak their nature and their disorders to the physician (Laënnec 1819, 1: 4–8). Laënnec was the first to admit that he owed a great debt to his predecessors, especially the Viennese physician Leopold Auenbrugger, who had pioneered the



technique of percussion fifty years earlier. But tapping and direct listening— percussion and auscultation—required intimate touching, which disconcerted physicians and patients alike. The stethoscope removed this obstacle while amplifying the sound produced, and Laënnec’s innovation sparked widespread enthusiasm. Discreet touching and attentive listening opened the chest up for the careful and well-trained physician’s investigation. Qualities and rhythms of heart sounds, volumes and fluctuations of pleural and pericardial fluids, vicissitudes of breath and voice, pulmonary rattles—all could now enter into a detailed diagnostic calculus. In fact, Laënnec was forced to invent a vocabulary— rales, crepitations, murmurs, pectoriloquy, bronchophony, egophony, rhonchi— to describe the sounds that correlated with various disease states (Ackerknecht 1967; Duffin 1998; Jacyna 2006: 42–5; Laënnec 1819; Nicolson 1993b: 139– 40; Reiser 1993a: 828–32). Laënnec’s English translator credited the Frenchman with “plac[ing] a window in the breast through which we can see the precise state of things within” (Jacyna 2006: 42–3). The choice of metaphor conveys the primacy of vision in the hierarchy of the senses at the time, but physicians never neglected the value of hearing and touch, especially in diagnosis. The stethoscope catalyzed the development during the nineteenth century of a new ritual in medical practice: the routine, systematic, physical examination. By the early twentieth century it included all manner of instruments and machines, but in its most basic form it involved pulse-taking, palpation, percussion, and auscultation. Visually assessing the patient’s appearance had always been important, and it remained so, but touching and listening now told the physician where the seat of the disease lay. Listening to the patient’s words, which told a subjective truth—the history and the symptoms, formerly the basis of all medical knowledge—became less important than directly feeling, seeing, and hearing the objective signs of disease: the nodule, the murmur, the rattle, the lesion. The doctor’s touch always carried with it a potential violation of propriety, but it gradually became indispensable as a means of scientific knowledge-gathering (Nicolson 1993a: 818–19; Porter 1993; Reiser 1993a: 832–3). Two examples in particular illustrate the exciting possibilities that the anatomical-clinical synthesis opened up to physicians in the early nineteenth century. The first is the diagnosis of tuberculosis (then known as “phthisis” or “consumption”). Many diseases cause coughing, expectoration, and fever. A subset of patients with these symptoms, Laënnec noticed, exhibited what he called “pectoriloquy,” a phenomenon in which the voice seems to emanate directly from a particular spot in the chest cavity during auscultation with a



FIGURE 6.2: Medical listening: Laënnec auscultates a consumptive patient, by Théobald

Chartran. Public domain.

stethoscope. Upon autopsy, Laënnec found the cavitary lesions of advanced consumption in the lungs of every patient with pectoriloquy: In upwards of two hundred instances of consumptive subjects, whose bodies I have examined after having ascertained, during life, the condition of their lungs as indicated by the [stethoscope], I have not met with a single instance in which ulcerous excavations did not exist in those points of the lung over which the phenomenon of pectoriloquism had shown itself distinctly. Laënnec and Forbes 1821: 300, quoted in Reiser 1978: 30 Practicing clinicians took note: pectoriloquy in patients suffering from some combination of cough, expectoration, fever, and weight loss indicated a diagnosis of consumption.



The case of “dropsy” also shows what a careful correlation of symptoms, signs, and postmortem lesions could reveal. That term designated a range of conditions in which fluid build-up caused swelling of the soft tissue in various parts of the body. Dropsy had not been localized in a a particular organ, although several physicians had noticed an opaque white precipitate called “albumin” that was produced when the urine of some dropsy patients was heated. In 1827, Richard Bright of Guy’s Hospital in London demonstrated through careful observation and correlation that the kidneys of patients suffering from dropsy who also had albuminuria were shriveled in a characteristic manner when examined postmortem. Bright echoed Laënnec: “I have never yet examined the body of a patient dying of dropsy attended with [albuminuria] in whom some obvious derangement was not discovered in the kidneys.” A distinct syndrome (later named “Bright’s Disease”) had been born, its “seat” or location found, and a means of differential diagnosis established (Bright 1827, 1: 2; Reiser 1978: 128–9). Decades after the stethoscope, further sensory aids supplemented the basic physical examination, and helped make it a normal, expected element of medical practice. In the 1850s the ophthalmoscope and the laryngoscope opened up the interior of the eyes and throat to the physician’s gaze. In the 1860s new probing scopes permitted the observation of the living patient’s stomach, bladder, rectum, and vagina. Some physicians and patients balked at these arguably indecent violations of the body, but they were swimming against the current of medical history; the allure of seeing inside the living body was too great to resist. Decency was respected, insisted pioneering gynecologist J. Marion Sims in 1868, as long as examinations were “done with a proper sense of delicacy, and with a dignified, earnest, and conscientious determination to arrive at the truth” (Sims 1869, quoted in Reiser 1993a: 832–3). None of these instruments or techniques directly improved the efficacy of treatment, but that was not the point. They made medicine more specific, more definitive, and therefore more scientific, thereby enhancing the physician’s authority and eventually his professional status. Decades passed without the introduction of any effective new treatments, but the proponents of diagnostic innovation were undeterred. Cure was not their only goal, nor was it their patients’ universal expectation. It was generally assumed that the therapeutic payoff would follow in due course, but this outcome was not a precondition for medicine’s new scientific identity (Lachmund 1998). In practice, the amplification of the senses through diagnostic technology did not revolutionize medical treatment in the nineteenth century.



“EXHIBITION” AND “OBSERVATION”: FROM HEROIC REMEDIES TO SKEPTICAL RESTRAINT IN MEDICAL TREATMENT Cathartics, diuretics, emetics, sudorifics, expectorants—the bedrock of early nineteenth-century medical treatment consisted of substances designed to provoke excretions. Jalap made you defecate, supertartrate of potash made you urinate, ipecac made you vomit, acetate of ammonia made you sweat, and senega made you cough up mucus (Bigelow 1822: 20–3). And, of course, the lancet made you bleed. The immediately observable physical reaction was the therapeutic mechanism. If you couldn’t see, hear, smell, or feel it working, it wasn’t working. The greater the output, and the more obvious the sensory evidence, the better it was working. This was the essence of “heroic” medicine (Rosenberg 1977). (The term was used to designate a generally aggressive therapeutic approach, as well as particular remedies that had especially powerful effects.) Although by 1800, the allopathic medical literature rarely made explicit reference to humors, the fundamental Galenic notion of health as balanced flow of life-sustaining fluids and of illness as imbalance or blockage continued to undergird medical knowledge and practice in the first half of the nineteenth century. Doctor and patient shared this framework of meaning, which validated the flow-inducing treatments—whether in heroic or milder doses—and both parties could see, hear, and smell the results (Rosenberg 1977). Just as importantly, the patient could feel the process of excretion—the necessary physiological alteration—as a direct physical sensation. Inhalation of various strong-smelling substances—for example, pine resin, turpentine, or tar vapors for consumption—was a fixture in the physician’s toolkit throughout the nineteenth century. The strength of the sensation must have played a role in the perceived efficacy of such treatments, just as in the case of medically induced excretions. However, the inhalation treatments were not based on a systematic doctrine of therapeutic odors or of sensory stimulation. Rather, they seem to have derived from their association with what were widely considered healing environments, including forest air and sea voyages (in which marine air mixed with the smell of tar used in ship construction and maintenance) (Clark 1834; Crichton 1817; Potter 1896). When diarrhea results from irritation of the intestinal membrane, one doctor wrote in 1836, “gentle cathartics should be exhibited in the first instance, and be repeated if necessary” (Dunglison 1836: 253). In the medical language of the time, to “exhibit” a drug was to administer it. Treatment was a ritual exhibition; its effectiveness lay in the observation of its administration and the



perceptibility of its mode of action. The exhibition was all the more effective to the extent that it imitated a natural healing process. Defecation was a natural bodily response to certain illnesses; sometimes, the body needed a helping hand to produce the necessary effect. Hence, in those illnesses, the use of cathartics. Moreover, there was an added prognostic benefit to such treatments. Excretion often brought forth products the sight, sound, texture, and smell of which could provide clues to the body’s internal condition (Rosenberg 1977). During the middle decades of the century, “heroic” turned into a term of derision in medicine, as a new therapeutic skepticism took hold. Practitioners of botanical medicine, homeopathy, and hydropathy gained strong footholds in the medical marketplace by denouncing the harshness of allopathic treatments. Meanwhile, the availability of large patient populations for study in the Paris hospitals allowed Pierre Louis to develop his “numerical method,” which painted collective, quantitative portraits of disease entities and evaluated the efficacy of various treatment regimens. The statistical spirit of empiricism, which Louis passed on to his many French and foreign students, begat skepticism toward traditional therapeutics. Misconceptions persist on this score; Louis’ quantitative study of bloodletting did not in fact show the practice to be useless or harmful, and the often used term “therapeutic nihilism” greatly exaggerates the reluctance of ordinary physicians after 1850 to intervene in their patients’ illnesses. However, the days of heroism were numbered, and Parisian-style empiricism probably deserves at least some of the credit for its demise. By mid-century, bloodletting had all but disappeared from regular practice, and routinely administered dosages of many drugs had declined. There is an irony in the name of the Société Médicale d’Observation, which Louis founded to promote his numerical method: he observed patients in the aggregate, as numbers, rather than as individual suffering and excreting bodies. His zealous pursuit of observation in the quantitative mode helped sow the seeds of the downfall of direct sensory observation as the keystone of medical treatment (Ackerknecht 1967; Rosenberg 1977; Warner 1986, 1987, 1998). The so-called “Paris School” casts a long shadow over nineteenth-century medicine. Considering its various innovations separately is misleading; its ultimate power lay in their cumulative effect. Having studied under Bichat, Laënnec was an avid practitioner and teacher of postmortem examination, and in fact his masterwork on diseases of the chest was renowned even more for its clinical-pathological correlations than for its introduction of auscultation and the stethoscope. Louis in turn was known for his teaching of both pathological anatomy and physical examination, as well as for his numerical method. The rigorous, skeptical empiricism of the Paris School defined a new spirit of



inquiry, while its clinical techniques revolutionized the art and science of diagnosis (if not of treatment). The hospital-based medicine of Bichat, Laënnec, and Louis resonated powerfully among their students and fellow practitioners near and far. They were far from alone, and many investigators and institutions outside of France deserve credit for important innovations, but their concentration in place and time suggests the atmosphere of ferment and excitement that prevailed in medicine at what seemed to be the dawn of a new era. At mid-century, the elite physician’s ability to see, hear, and feel illness in the patient’s body was central to his practice. He sought objective signs, and knew that symptoms could mislead. But so could the senses, if he generalized too much from individual patients; he knew that the path to truth and progress passed through systematic, quantified observation of large numbers of cases.

SENSING HEALTH HAZARDS: THE SLUM AND THE DISEASE MIST The early nineteenth-century sensory turn in clinical medicine had no counterpart in public health, largely because public health had always rested upon a foundation of sensory knowledge. Eyes, nose, and skin had for centuries been at least as important as theoretical systems in shaping perceptions of unhealthy places and populations. However, the transformation of human landscapes in the nineteenth century through urbanization, followed by the laboratory revolution in medicine, deeply and durably changed the way experts perceived and evaluated potential health hazards. At first, scientists and medical men highlighted the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of urban squalor as they mobilized public opinion behind sanitary reform. Beginning in the 1880s, as the Bacteriological Revolution shook the foundations of medical knowledge, and experts turned to the laboratory for the truth about public health, just as they did in clinical medicine. They also tried to persuade the lay public to join them in mistrusting the direct evidence of the senses, but with only incomplete success. Beginning in the 1830s, bourgeois observers in Great Britain, France, and other industrializing nations gazed upon, listened to, smelled, and felt with abject horror the urban hellholes to which their grand civilizations had given birth. Health reformers, moralists, journalists, and novelists alike indulged in a synesthetic festival of disgust. Vivid sensory descriptions served not only to convey outrage and danger to readers, but crucially to signal to the observer himself the presence or imminence of disease.



FIGURE 6.3: Stench and squalor: Jacob’s Island, London. Edward Walford, Old and

New London. London: Cassell, 1880.

Nobody matched Dickens in the lurid evocation of foulness. The slum dwellings of Jacob’s Island in Oliver Twist were “so small, so filthy, so confined, that the air would seem to be too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they shelter.” There were “wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud and threatening to fall into it—as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying foundations, every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage” (Dickens 1993: 332). Dickens in Sketches by Boz also describes, “Wretched houses with broken windows patched with rags and paper: every room let out to a different family, and in many instances to two or even three . . . filth everywhere . . . clothes drying and slops emptying from the windows.” The cumulative sensory effect of such



squalid hovels is compounded by the human—or, it often seems, subhuman— element that inhabits them: “Girls of fourteen or fifteen with matted hair, walking about barefoot, and in white great-coats, almost their only covering; boys of all ages . . . men and women, in every variety of scanty and dirty apparel, lounging, scolding, drinking, smoking, squabbling, fighting, and swearing” (Dickens 1994: 183). It was no wonder that fevers resided permanently in these slums. Social critics and health reformers persistently made the connection between foul dwellings and disease, and Edwin Chadwick’s landmark 1842 report bolstered it with the weight of a massive nationwide survey and hundreds of pages of examples and local testimony (Chadwick 1843). Across the Channel in France, the refrain was the same: dark, damp, crowded, foul. Prominent physician and sanitarian Louis-René Villermé led the way in unflinching explorations of industrial society’s festering underbelly, as in this 1850 denunciation of the sorry state of working-class housing in French cities: Each household disposes of only a single room, small, low-lying, dark, humid . . . often below street level or in attic space, glacial in winter, oppressive in summer, and with no horizon other than a dismal wall a few feet away; on muddy, narrow, unhealthy streets, in houses falling into ruins, with dilapidated floors and stairways covered with a slippery layer of filth! Fortunate are those who do not also . . . have to confront . . . dirty pallets with just a straw mattress and tattered blankets, and the promiscuous pell-mell of ages and sexes piling up and pressing upon one another. Villermé 1850: 245–6 It is impossible to know how many of the countless similar laments directly reflect the observer’s physical sensations and how many are merely formulaic repetitions, but the net effect is the same: a conditioned, collective sensory response to poverty, overcrowding, and filth. “How ugly Paris seems after one has been away for a year!” exclaimed the essayist Delphine de Girardin under her pseudonym Vicomte de Launay. “How one stifles in these dark, damp, narrow corridors! And thousands of people live, bustle, throng in the liquid darkness, like reptiles in a marsh” (Chevalier 1973: 152). The view from afar was no prettier. Socialist reformer Henri Lecouturier found himself “seized with sudden fear” when contemplating Paris from the heights of Montmartre:



One is reluctant to venture into this vast maze, in which a million beings jostle each other, where the air, vitiated by unhealthy effluvia, rising in a poisonous cloud, almost obscures the sun . . . A haggard and sickly crowd perpetually throngs these streets, their feet in the gutter, their noses in infection, their eyes outraged by the most repulsive garbage at every street corner . . . There are alleys, too, in which two cannot walk abreast, sewers of ordure and mud, in which the stunted and withered dwellers daily inhale death. Chevalier 1973: 155–6 The “poisonous cloud” was both a metaphor and a deadly physical reality. Physician Claude Lachaise described it as “a very noticeable haze formed by the exhalations from the prodigious quantity of men and animals confined in the city and by evaporation from the damp and the mud which carpets . . . its streets.” The figurative saying that “one can see Paris breathe,” Lachaise added, was in fact literally true (Lachaise 1822: 46). A city health inspector agreed: “There can be no doubt that so much noxious gas affects the health of Paris when it can be seen from afar hanging in a cloud above the city in the finest weather” (Chevalier 1973: 46). The same deadly cloud hovered over London, confirmed William Farr, the pioneering epidemiologist who oversaw the collection of vital statistics in the General Register Office: This disease-mist, arising from the breath of two millions of people, frrom open sewers and cesspools, graves and slaughter-houses, is continually kept up and undergoing changes; in one season it is pervaded by cholera, in another by influenza; at one time it bears smallpox, measles, scarlatina, and whooping cough among your children; at another it carries fever on its wings. “Like an angel of death,” Farr continued, “it has hovered for centuries over London.” But sanitary legislation, he insisted, had the power to dissipate the “poisonous vapor,” and to dispense “the sunshine, pure water, fresh air, and health of the country” to the suffering cities (Farr 1847: xvii). Sensory experience, esthetic judgment, morality, politics, statistics, and medicine blended inseparably in the sanitary crusade of the mid-nineteenth century. Villermé, Farr, and their colleagues simultaneously took aim at the disease-mist from a distance and the filthy, overcrowded, working-class hovel up close. Their senses and their science spoke in unison.



FIGURE 6.4: Filth and fever: “A Court for King Cholera.” Punch, 1852.

THE SMELL OF DISEASE “In respect to the sanatory condition of towns . . . all smell is, if it be intense, immediate acute disease, and eventually we may say that, by depressing the system and rendering it susceptible to the action of other causes, all smell is disease” (Chadwick 1846: 651, my emphasis). The garbage, the dirt, the dark, the disorder, and the crowding of exposed bodies offended the eye. Squabbling, swearing voices assaulted the ear. And the skin, that exquisitely sensitive organ, rebelled at the quality of the air itself—wet, stagnant, clammy, suffocating. The sensory organ most grievously injured by the nineteenth-century city, however, was without contest the nose. Rural migrants poured into mushrooming industrial and commercial centers by the millions in search of wage labor, straining urban infrastructures that had expanded relatively little since the Middle Ages. The resulting flood of bodies and their excretions overwhelmed the skeletons and vital organs of those cities, and generated a stench that could not be ignored. On occasion, urban odors erupted into full-scale crisis.2 When it happened in the capitals of culture, refinement, and enlightened government, the outcry was fierce and loud. A June heat wave was responsible for London’s plight in



1858. At the time, the bodily waste of Londoners flowed through sewers directly into the Thames. A decade earlier, fearing precisely the spread of odors and disease, local authorities had definitively put an end to the cesspit system, in which pits or containers underneath each residential building collected the excretions of its residents. Under this old sanitary regime, crews periodically emptied the cesspits’ contents into carts and transported them to more or less distant depots. In effect, the new system ended up displacing the problem from a multitude of points throughout the metropolis (every residential building) to a single central location: the Thames. Sewers emptied into the river at various points, including central London (from where much of the city’s water supply was drawn). Even in the best of times, some observers feared for the safety of drinking water and warned of possible epidemics; if the water level of the Thames were ever to drop significantly, crisis awaited (Halliday 1999; Porter 1995: 262–5; Thompson 1991). An unwieldy and decentralized system of local sanitary authorities had been replaced in 1855 by the Metropolitan Board of Works, intended to facilitate “the better management of the metropolis” through public works. At the top of the Board’s agenda was “the sewage problem” (Porter 1995: 262–3). Insufficient resources and bureaucratic turf wars between the government and the Board, however, prevented any real progress until the early summer of 1858, when push finally came to shove. A prolonged dry spell had left the Thames at an unusually low level, and June’s heat ripened its contents to a peak of pungency. The effect was catastrophic, if contemporary accounts are to be believed—not a gradually developing, unpleasant sensation but a devastating and even incapacitating onslaught. Complaints came fast and furious. “This truly is no jesting matter. The life or death of thousands may hang on it,” proclaimed one newspaper. “Panic reigns within the Houses of Parliament,” blared another. The stench was intolerable; something needed to be done; the government and sanitary authorities bore a responsibility to act—without further delay. Moreover, the odors threatened not just delicate sensibilities, but the public’s health. There was near unanimity on these points. But agreement was elusive on the key question, asked repeatedly in the press throughout the Great Stink: “What is to be done?”3 One month after the outbreak of the Great Stink, it was Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the House of Commons at the time, who (calling the Thames “a Stygian pool”) introduced a bill giving the Metropolitan Board of Works at last the resources and relatively unfettered authority to undertake a sewerage project of unparalleled magnitude. Disraeli’s bill worked its way through



Parliament smoothly and remarkably swiftly; according to The Times, “the stench of June . . . did for the sanitary administration of the Metropolis what the Bengal mutinies did for the administration of India.” Legislators hostile by nature to major state expenditures or to any significant government intervention in local affairs fell into line, as if dazed by the intensity of the olfactory ordeal. “The Metropolis Local Management Amendment Act: An Act to alter and amend the Metropolis Local Management Act and to extend the powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works for the purification of the Thames and the main Drainage of the Metropolis” became law on August 2, 1858, just eighteen days after its introduction (Halliday 1999: 73–5; Porter 1995: 263; Sheppard 1998: 284). In time of crisis, smell trumped politics. The new anti-stink law empowered the MBW and its chief engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, to undertake a massive plan of sewer construction, eventually completed in 1875 at a cost of £6.5 million. Bazalgette built eighty-three miles of sewer mains, fed by many hundreds of miles of smaller sewers, so that the waste of London could be evacuated far downstream at high tide, and be carried harmlessly to the sea. The centerpiece of Bazalgette’s scheme was the construction of the Thames Embankments, which in addition to enclosing the sewer mains beautified the London riverfront considerably and created new public parks at Charing Cross and Cheyne Walk. Most historians concur in viewing Bazalgette’s achievement as a triumph of both sanitation and urban design, a harbinger of a new age of beneficent modern public works (Halliday 1999; Inwood 1998: 433–5; Porter 1995: 263–4; Sheppard 1998: 280–4). Twenty-two summers later, it was Paris’s turn. The odor and the outcry were just as intense, but the outcome was very different. Paris too had undergone a major program of sewer construction in the 1850s and 1860s, as part of the colossal rebuilding plan undertaken by Emperor Napoleon III and the capital’s orefect, Baron Haussmann. However, the new Paris sewers (unlike Bazalgette’s) drained from the city every kind of refuse and runoff except human urine and feces. Parisian bodily waste continued to be evacuated by means of cesspits and vidange crews, who emptied the cesspits and carted their contents to several waste treatment plants located outside of the city. Neighbors’ repeated complaints shut down one of these plants in the summer of 1880. The closure forced the vidange company to dump excess waste at the remaining treatment plants in the northern, eastern, and southern suburbs. It was also alleged that some of the surplus was simply dumped into the Paris sewers (Commission de l’assainissement de Paris 1881: 158–9; Conseil municipal de Paris 1880, 2: 339). In the heat of July, complaints about intolerable odors



began to arise within Paris itself (Conseil municipal de Paris 1880, 2: 148). The outcry intensified in August, particularly in the north-central districts of the capital. “Fetid emanations,” residents claimed in the third week of August, were spreading through the city, particularly in the evening hours, and positively “stinking up” their neighborhoods.4 By the end of the month, the odors had become an almost daily fixture in the Parisian press. From late August through the month of September and into early October, the stench became a full-fledged public sensation, an object not just of private annoyance and complaint but of public policy, official debate, and rancorous accusations. After the local health council concluded that the odors were unpleasant but harmless, the central government entered the fray in late September when the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce named an eleven-member blue-ribbon panel to study the odors and recommend remedial measures. Especially noteworthy among the commission’s illustrious members were Louis Pasteur and Paul Brouardel. Pasteur was already a nationally (and internationally) renowned figure in 1880, though his fame would certainly increase considerably in the ensuing years, and Brouardel was one of his staunchest allies in the medical community, professor of public health and forensic medicine at the Paris medical faculty and a preeminent authority on all health matters in late nineteenth-century France (Commission de l’assainissement de Paris 1881: 5–6; Faure 1994: 180; Léonard 1981: 252–4, 292–5; Murard and Zylberman 1996: 198–203). The commission deliberated for nine months, identifying an exhaustive array of sites and practices as potential or actual causes of the stench. More importantly, the prestigious commission found that “these odors . . . can pose a threat to the public health.” In effect, the official voice of French science and medicine, while acknowledging the possibility that foul odors could be harmless, had come down in this instance on the side of their potential danger, and had chosen to take a public stand to that effect (Commission de l’assainissement de Paris 1881: 13–23, my emphasis). The verdict resonated widely in ongoing debates about the sanitary infrastructure of Paris. Four years earlier, the City Council had approved the hotly controversial policy of “tout-à-l’égout” (“everything into the sewers”), under which all of the city’s human waste would eventually be evacuated through the sewers, and ultimately into the Seine downstream of Paris and onto sewage farms along the riverbanks. In order for “tout-à-l’égout” to become reality, every single building in the city had to be connected to the sewer system. Parliamentary approval came only in 1894, and as late as 1914 thousands of buildings remained unconnected.



The Great Stink of 1880 thrust the issue into a national spotlight, and advocates on both sides of the controversy pointed to the crisis as urgent evidence for their argument. Proponents of “tout-à-l’égout” blamed the cumbersome cesspit-vidange system for the foul odors, and promoted circulation through water rather than accumulation as the safest and least incommodious way to handle human excretions. Opponents, however, doubted that the quantity of water and the slope of the sewers would be up to the task, and warned of a continuous excremental stream flowing at all times underneath the streets of Paris—a potential perpetual river of disease—if “tout-à-l’égout” were implemented (Guerrand 1983; Jacquemet 1979; Reid 1991: 58–65, 79– 83). Pasteur and Brouardel, on the cutting edge of the Bacteriological Revolution in medicine and public health, cast their lot with the opponents. They cited recent studies suggesting that typhoid fever and anthrax, among other diseases, could be spread by malodorous emanations. (In 1880, those two diseases were among the few for which specific causal microbes had already been identified.) “Tout-à-l’égout,” they concluded, was too risky. Instead, they convinced the commission to advocate a hermetically sealed pipeline from Paris to the sea, entirely separate from the sewer system, for the evacuation of human waste. (The prohibitive expense and dubious feasibility of such a project ensured that it would remain a dead letter.) The olfactory crisis thus stalled rather than accelerated the movement of “everything into the sewers.” On the surface, the Great Stinks of London and Paris teach a clear lesson: In the first instance, common sense and determination produced results, while in the second, quarrelsome speculation and deliberation produced only inaction and future stinks great and small. However, a closer reading of official and popular reactions to the two crises reveals an underlying parallelism. In both cases, the odors were intolerable and disgusting, but also sickening, literally as well as figuratively—that is, they were reported to have caused serious illnesses as well as nausea. In both cities, laypeople and medical men alike identified specific victims who had been sickened or even—like a waterman in London and four sewermen in Paris—killed by the stench. Both populations demanded urgent government action, and expressed frustration and outrage at governmental authorities’ perceived failure to pursue the appropriate measures quickly and resolutely. The chief difference between the two Great Stinks was in the sanitary policy that resulted from them: a massive new sewer system in London, inaction in Paris. Configurations of political power and economic interest on the local and national level in the two countries help explain the divergent trajectories, as



does the fact that the odors emanated from a single clearly identifiable source in London (the Thames), but in Paris spread diffusely from many possible points of origin. But a surprising factor may also have been partially responsible for the inability of the French to agree on a solution to their problem: the advance of science. One might expect that the identification of specific microbes as the causes of specific diseases would definitively put to rest the highly unspecific (and, to later observers, highly unscientific) notion that foul odors spread disease. In 1880, however, this was far from the case. After all, reasoned Pasteur, Brouardel, and their allies, if it had been proven that typhoid fever was caused by a bacterium, and if studies showed that the disease was spread by foul-smelling emanations from improperly ventilated cesspits, then it stood to reason that the emanations contained germs. If so, then the proposed evacuation of typhoid victims’ excretions through sewers—connected directly to the water-closets and streets of Paris—promised untold calamity. The pressure of popular disgust and health warnings actually pushed in opposite directions simultaneously. In 1880, the intensity and duration of the stench, the dire warnings generated by the new science, and the resulting fear raised the stakes of the debate and hardened positions on both sides. Even if everyone agreed that the status quo was unacceptable, there were now new microscopic dangers hidden inside every possible alternative. Knowledge was paralyzing.

“NOT EVERYTHING THAT STINKS KILLS, AND NOT EVERYTHING THAT KILLS STINKS”: TOWARD A SANITARYBACTERIOLOGICAL SYNTHESIS The Pasteur-Brouardel commission went to great lengths to emphasize one vital point in 1880: some—but not all—odors are hazardous to human health. In the commission’s view, both elements of this assertion deserved equal weight: not all odors are harmful, but (equally importantly) some odors are in fact harmful. The tone of the report suggests that the commission knew some might find it difficult to accept that intensely foul smells were innocuous: “Very unpleasant odors, extremely offensive to one’s sense of smell, can be harmless to the body, and odorless emanations can, on the contrary, be very dangerous” (Commission de l’assainissement de Paris 1881: 23). The commission’s phrase evoked a witty maxim (attributed to the eminent veterinary scientist and Pasteur ally Henri Bouley) frequently used to spread the message of germ theory: “tout ce qui pue ne tue pas, et tout ce qui tue ne pue pas”—“not everything that stinks kills, and not everything that kills stinks.” This motto of



the new public health was easily comprehensible to a lay audience, emphasized the novelty of the bacteriological approach to health and illness, and clearly distinguished its scientific character from the old inferences of miasmatism. From now on, only experts trained in the new medical sciences and backed by laboratory methods were in a position to arbitrate what was safe and unsafe, harmless and hazardous. The experience of subsequent decades showed physicians and health authorities both the power and the limits of the new watchword. As more and more microbes were identified as the causes of various diseases, and as bacteriological laboratories proved themselves capable of testing for the presence of specific germs in a wide array of samples, substances, and places, the position of the scientifically trained physician as arbiter of health came to be virtually unassailable. At the same time, it was impossible for the general public—and even many physicians—to accept that foul-smelling or -tasting substances could be harmless (Barnes 2006: 138–9). The evidence of the senses could not be gainsaid so easily. Any science that declared the innocence of that which blatantly violated culturally accepted sensory norms simply did not make sense. The pre-bacteriological sanitary reformers who plumbed the depraved depths of the urban slums at mid-century understood that. What emerged from the confrontation between the laboratory and the senses over a period of decades was not a victory of either one over the other, but a mutually agreeable reconciliation. A “sanitary-bacteriological synthesis” ratified the old concerns of the early sanitary reformers—especially filth, contamination, and immorality—by associating them with germs, and incorporated them through the language of bacteriology into a new germ-centered focus on the danger of contact with potentially sick bodies and bodily substances, tests for the presence of specific microbes, and the promise of their control through laboratory science (Barnes 2006: 133–9). In the age of the sanitary-bacteriological synthesis, which is very much still with us more than a century later, filth and moral transgression still cause disease (as they always did), but only science can tell us how and why; only science can identify, explain, and cure disease. Together, the laboratory and clean living can prevent it. This is the joint legacy of the sanitary movement of 1830–50 and the Bacteriological Revolution of 1875–1900.

DIAGNOSTIC TECHNOLOGY AND THE READING OF THE BODY As the nineteenth century drew to a close, physicians’ ongoing quest for reliable, standardized data from which to derive diagnostic or therapeutic knowledge



resulted in new technologies that, instead of extending the reach of the physician’s senses (as the stethoscope had, for example, or the laryngoscope), bypassed them by converting bodily phenomena into numbers and graphs. In tandem with the rise of pathological anatomy, many physicians sought a systematic, scientific way of associating disease processes with alterations in basic physiological mechanisms, including body temperature and circulation. Especially noteworthy among the instruments developed to achieve this goal between 1850 and 1920 are the medical thermometer and the sphygmomanometer. The simple feeling of heat provided the basis of what may have been the most common and elementary use of the senses in diagnosis. Fever exists when the skin is hot to the touch, or when the patient feels feverish. Fairly accurate thermometers became widely available in the early eighteenth century, but they did not enter into routine medical practice until after the 1860s. Some physicians doubted the accuracy of thermometric readings, which in any case were mere numbers; an experienced practitioner’s hand could not only feel degrees of heat, but could also distinguish “acrid” or “irritating” heat, for example, from other qualities. In the wake of Bichat, moreover, disease came to be localized increasingly in individual organs and tissues, and systemic phenomena like temperature seemed of secondary importance (Reiser 1978: 110–16). But eventually, the quest for scientific precision, standardization, and quantification in the study of the human body drove the incorporation of the thermometer into everyday clinical medicine. An 1857 paper by Carl Wünderlich of Leipzig urged physicians to keep daily temperature records for their patients, and many took notice. One American doctor was persuaded by the objective and impersonal data produced by the thermometer: The information obtained by merely placing the hand on the body of the patient is inaccurate and unreliable. If it be desirable to count the pulse and not trust to the judgment to estimate the number of beats per minute, it is far more desirable to ascertain the animal heat by means of a heat measurer. The sensations of the patient with respect to temperature, as everyone knows, are extremely fallacious; he may suffer from a feeling of heat when, to the touch of another, the surface is cold, and vice versa. Flint 1866–7 Scientific observers preferred numerical precision to estimates, whether of pulse or of temperature. Wünderlich’s 1868 treatise On the Temperature in Diseases, based on almost 25,000 patients and millions of temperature readings, quickly became a standard reference work (Reiser 1978: 115–17).



Pulsetaking had been a pillar of diagnosis since antiquity, and following Galen’s injunction doctors had learned to sense in their trained fingers a range of subjective qualities in the pulse. Some counted the frequency of the beats, while others dismissed mere numbers as crude and uninformative. Laënnec, for his part, warned his colleagues not to rely on the pulse as an indicator of circulation or of the condition of the heart. Jules Hérisson’s 1835 “sphygmometer” (from the Greek sphygmos, “pulsation”) turned each pulse beat into a rising and falling column of mercury in a glass tube, resulting in a “reading” of the magnitude and duration as well as the frequency of the pulse. The device gained some adherents, but the “sphygmographs” developed in the 1850s generated more enthusiasm by rendering the pulse as the fluctuations of a line printed on paper. Proponents of the new tracing devices correlated pulse patterns with clinical symptoms, and claimed that they could detect defects of the heart and blood vessels earlier than could a doctor relying on auscultation alone. They could also quantitatively measure the effects of medications they administered. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, successive designs of a “sphygmomanometer” used rubber bulbs filled with water or air to compress an artery while the operator felt or listened for a pulse below the artery; the machine then measured the pressure necessary to make the pulse disappear (systolic pressure) and the lower pressure at which the pulse faded out entirely (diastolic pressure). In 1912, use of the sphygmomanometer to measure maximum and minimum blood pressure was made routine for all patients admitted to the Massachusetts General Hospital (Evans 1993; Reiser 1978: 95–106). Wilhelm Roentgen’s disclosure in 1896 of the “X-ray,” which produced photographic images of the body’s interior, transformed medical practice as few other innovations have before or since. Within days of the initial announcement, newspapers and magazines worldwide hailed the discovery; within a year, it was the subject of over a thousand articles and forty-nine books. Soon X-ray machines could be found in many hospitals. By 1920, X-rays were performed on over 20 percent of all adult patients and over 80 percent of fracture patients at the Pennsylvania Hospital and New York Hospital. In addition to fractures, the new images revealed anomalies in the heart and lungs earlier and with greater precision than did percussion and auscultation (Howell 1995: 103–68; Reiser 1978: 68). The X-ray represents the ambiguity of new diagnostic technology around 1900. On the one hand, it produced not a mere number but a visual image, which had meaning only when interpreted by an observer whose vision had been trained to see pathological alterations in human anatomy. A sharp eye, clinical experience, and astute judgment could mean the difference



between correct and incorrect diagnosis. On the other hand, as medical practice became increasingly specialized in the early twentieth century, the task of reading X-rays fell increasingly to technicians and other non-physicians. By offering a clearer view inside the body, they began to erode the value of the doctor’s experience, acumen, and touch. The thermometer, sphygmomanometer, X-ray, and other technologies pushed the direct encounter between the physician’s senses and the patient’s body from the center of medical practice. Graphical representations of the body, rather than the real thing, now presented themselves to the doctor’s diagnostic gaze. Numbers and graphs rather than subjectively interpreted qualities increasingly differentiated between healthy and diseased states. Machines and devices standardized diagnostic procedures and clinical knowledge, making them more objective, more easily and widely communicable, and more reliable. But they also undermined that part of medical practice that was more art than science, and that located authority in experience and judgment rather than in precision. Many physicians sensed danger in the shifting epistemological landscape, and protested against the changes. “We pauperize our senses and weaken clinical acuity” by relying on the sphygmomanometer, one British physician warned. An early Philadelphia report on the use of X-rays scoffed at the notion that they “will, or ever can, displace the sense of touch guided by a well-balanced and experienced mind.” Nurses became “the doctor’s eyes,” and along with technicians took over many of the tasks associated with the new technology. Doctors feared becoming mere mechanics, as the utility of their specialized knowledge and expertise came into question. Medical schools began to train students, in one American physician’s words, “to place the emphasis on the instrument of precision rather than on the eye, ear, [or] hand of the physical examiner” (Evans 1993: 800–5; Howell 1995: 108; Reiser 1993a: 842, 1993b: 271; Sandelowski 2000). It is important to guard against the allure of technological determinism in assessing changes in medical knowledge and practice at the dawn of the twentieth century. Just as the stethoscope was born out of the need to hear rather than vice versa, the yearning for precision and standardization in medicine preceded and made possible the introduction of the thermometer, sphygmomanometer, and X-ray into medical practice. Physicians sought mastery over disease, and found it for the most part not in cures or effective treatments or preventive interventions, but in explanatory power—the ability to represent, measure, and quantify bodily phenomena and disease processes. In the first half of the nineteenth century, mastery lay in the physician’s trained senses; toward 1900, it was found in mechanized representations.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful to the participants in the University of Pennsylvania Faculty Writing Retreat, June 2012, for their assistance in the preparation of this chapter.


The Senses in Literature: Industry and Empire nicholas daly

This chapter will look at the role of the senses in literature across a diverse period, spanning Romantic, Victorian, and Modernist literary formations. There are, nonetheless, significant continuities across this period, since all three formations react to the alteration of sensory experience by modernization and an increasingly self-conscious imperialism. New conceptions of time and space, new sights, sounds, tastes, and odors, and new tactile worlds, accompanied these developments, and were refracted, incorporated, and theorized in literary works. At the beginning of this period, Romanticism is at least in part a reaction against the perceived destruction of an older experiential world by the age of steam, and an attempt to locate a basis for authentic poetic selfhood in sensory immersion in the natural world; in these years the poet’s unique capacity for perception is thought to find its fullest realization away from modern life. Later nineteenth-century writers retain this perspective on modernity to a considerable extent, though a few attempt to come to terms with the new experiential world of the steam age. By the early twentieth century, while some Modernists continue to reject the sights and sounds of industry and mass urban life, others, notably the Futurists, seem to want to escape the messy stuff of humanity for the clean mechanical lines of the second industrial revolution. Empire recurs as a concern across this span, as the economic powers sought new markets and new sources of raw materials, and tightened their grip on existing territories. 161



At times empire is a shadowy presence in the text, denoted by streams of revenue, foods, and fabrics; at times it is more insistent, a transformative or disruptive force for the sensory world of the characters, like the visionproducing opium of Dickens’ Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). Across all of this period reading itself as a practice was becoming more embedded in everyday life because of a number of factors: growing levels of literacy; cheaper books and newspapers; the text-saturation of increasingly urban environments; and the dissemination of new lighting technologies.

ROMANTIC The Romantic poet was deemed to be characterized by his (it was usually his) perceptive power, thought to resemble that of a child or a non-Western subject. He must, says Coleridge, have “the ear of a wild Arab listening in the silent Desart, the eye of a North American Indian tracing the footsteps of an enemy” (McSweeney 1998: 3). But he is also attuned to spiritual realities of which the natural world is thought to be the symbol, and experiences moments of total unity with that world, becoming, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, “a transparent eye-ball . . . nothing”; such intervals are William Wordworth’s “spots of time”, Emily Dickinson’s “Heavenly Moments” (McSweeney 1998: 29). These twin tenets of Romanticism—perceptual acuity, and affinity with the natural world—suggest the gap between Romantic poetry and the fruits of the industrial revolution. Yet there are poems that seek to bridge that chasm, and make industry more than a significant absence. Wordsworth’s “Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways” is such an attempt to reconcile poetic feeling with the ugly, noisy, smelly machines of the steam age. Ultimately the poem suggests that we must go beyond the ugly appearances of the new technologies to discover “what in soul [they] are”, which turns out to be the power of nature harnessed by humankind. The new things may be unattractive to the senses, but they are the second-generation products of nature: In spite of all that beauty may disown In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace Her lawful offspring in Man’s art . . . Wordsworth 1972: 47 Wordsworth even bought railway stock (Warburg 1958: 27), but when steam power began to intrude into his beloved Lake District, he took a less benign



FIGURE 7.1: Portrait of William Wordsworth by Henry Wlliam Pickersgill. National

Portrait Gallery.



view, and the late railway sonnets give voice to a fresh sense of the inimicality of the new transport technologies to a life and literature in tune with the tranquil beauty of nature. In “The Kendal and Windermere Railway,” he seeks to open the eyes and ears of the mountains themselves to the unsightly, noisy and noisome threat that confronts them: “Hear Ye that whistle?,” urging them to share his “just disdain” of the invaders. Among less familiar work, Ebenezer Elliott’s “Steam, A Poem,” also known as “Steam, at Sheffield,” which appeared first in 1833, is a rare attempt to capture the sounds, sights and rhythms of the steam-engine: Oh, there is glorious harmony in this Tempestuous music of the giant, Steam Commingling growl and roar, and stamp and hiss With flame and darkness . . . Elliott 1840: 91 Nonetheless, for Elliott as for Wordsworth, steam power remains something monstrous, evoking both joy and terror. This remains the uneasy attitude for much of the nineteenth century: the new technologies were undoubtedly productive, but they grated upon the senses of the writer, and they remained a source of anxiety. While Romantic poetry forsook the world of steam for a version of pastoral, the Romantic or Gothic novel was probing different sensuous territory. In broad terms we can see that Gothic’s preoccupation with sensation and with transgression—including the depiction of murder, rape, torture, and incest— was also produced by modernization, insofar as Gothic provided a readerly outlet for acts and desires that were increasingly circumscribed by the modern state and civil life, and for heightened emotional states that were incompatible with ideas of rationality (Halttunen 1998: 78–83). Like the literature of sensibility (Henry Mackenzie’s novel, The Man of Feeling [1771], is a famous instance), Gothic draws its energies from new attitudes to pain and the body. The spectacular violence of a novel like Matthew Lewis’ The Monk (1796), in which the revered monk, Ambrosio, drugs, rapes, and murders Antonia, who turns out to be his own sister, thus marks it as the grim twin of the more sentimental literature in which characters learn to feel the pain of others. Sensory deprivation and overload in the form of burial alive, torture, and starvation are staples of Gothic. The readerly effects of these novels suggest a variety of the sublime perhaps not fully anticipated by Edmund Burke in his A



Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). The more geological shifts in behaviors and attitudes that accompanied the civilizing process of modernity are not the only forces acting on this Romantic literature, and the atrocities of the French Revolution and the 1798 rising in Ireland provide other contexts for understanding the focus on the body in pain and sensory extremes. Nor should we forget the global colonial context: Matthew Lewis, for example, owned and visited slave estates in the West Indies, where spectacular violence, rape, and torture were recognized parts of a modern commerce that conflated people and goods; his Journal of a West India Proprietor was published posthumously in 1834. Slavery was not outlawed in British colonial possessions until 1833, and in French ones until 1848; in the United States it was 1865. In this light, it is perhaps not surprising that some of the bestselling tales of 1848 retained the Gothic focus on violence and transgression (Williams 1986: 2). Across the Channel, Gothic lingered in the work of Théophile Gautier, among others, while on the other side of the Atlantic, it survived well into the nineteenth century in the work of Hawthorne and Melville. The literature of sensibility and Gothic would be combined to great effect in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sentimental abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), one of the most widely-read books of the nineteenth century, in which the savage flogging of Uncle Tom provides a heart-wringing spectacle. The early nineteenth century also saw a very different fictional representation of lived reality, a strain of the novel that foregrounded sense rather than sensibility, judgment rather than sensation, and manners rather than action. We do not usually think of Jane Austen’s fiction as marked by any very vivid sensuousness. Her characters for the most part glide through well-regulated domestic environments that evoke little in the way of detailed description. But in Mansfield Park we get a clearer sense of what underwrites such a tranquil world. Fanny Price is raised apart from her family, and comes to think of the comfortable surroundings of the great house as her actual home. Its virtues are brought home to her abruptly when she returns to her parents’ house in Portsmouth. There she finds herself “in the midst of closeness and noise [with] confinement, bad air, bad smells, substituted for liberty, freshness, fragrance, and verdure” (Austen [1814] 2003: 401). The deracinated Fanny has been placed in an invidious position, and has acquired the habitus of the gentry without its wealth. She does not seem to question the fact that freshness and verdure are the exclusive preserve of a wealthy elite. Nor does she seem greatly troubled that it is the sweetness of the sugar from Sir Thomas Bertram’s West



Indian estate that sustains the island of good taste that is Mansfield, and that domestic liberty is the obverse of a coin, the reverse of which is colonial chattel slavery. While their contemporary settings and bon-ton milieu might persuade one otherwise, the silver-fork English novels of the 1820s and 1830s are closer to Gothic than to Austen, insofar as the anti-heroes of these novels are the lineal descendants of the Romantic rebel-hero of Friedrich Schiller’s Die Räuber (1781). However, in such novels as Disraeli’s Vivian Grey (1826) and Edward Bulwer’s Pelham; or The Adventures of a Gentleman (1828), the protagonist is more likely to be an epicurean dandy in kid gloves than a bandit. The colorful reconstruction of the verbal and sartorial fashions of the beau monde helped to make these novels of the moment the successful books of the day, as did their brisk pace, and their representation of “real people, real clubs, real shops, and real tradesmen” (Cronin 2004: 38). The narrative pacing was a self-conscious reaction to what was felt to be the relentless whirl of modern life: as Catherine Gore put it, “the velocity of steam inventions seems to demand a corresponding rapidity of narrative, dialogue, and discourse” (Cronin 2004: 41). But not only did Bulwer’s Pelham capture the structure of feeling of a society in transition, it contributed to the desire for novelty: Pelham made fashionable the black coat (as opposed to blue), and thus, somewhat paradoxically, played a part in what J. C. Flugel would later term the great male renunciation of color. The avowed dandyism and dedication to the ephemeral performance of selfhood attracted invidious attention as well as plaudits; as Richard Cronin notes, Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1833–4) is, inter alia, an attack on the silver-fork fetishization of appearance and dress. As we shall see, the epicene dandy-hero who lives for pleasure reappears in a new form at the end of the century as Wilde’s Dorian Gray, a name calculated to recall Disraeli’s Vivian Grey.

VICTORIAN The industrial novels of the 1840 and 1850s were an attempt to introduce readers to a new political landscape, and to provide symbolic resolution to structural political problems. But they were also an introduction to the urban landscapes and new ways of life that had mushroomed alongside the new factories. To this extent they expand the descriptive range of the novel, showing at least some of the sensory world within which lived the new class of industrial workers, its sights, smells, sounds, and textures. For the most part, though, the narratives focus less on the factory floor, and more on the domestic lives of



their protagonists, employers and workers alike. Mrs. Gaskell, for example, shows us the neat home of the working-class Bartons in the first chapters of Mary Barton (1848). But as the narrative develops it leaves this respectable if fragile domestic world to describe the conditions of the worst-off of Manchester’s poor. In a particularly powerful passage in Chapter 6, our narrator adopts a more intimate second-person voice to bring us, with John Barton and his friend, Wilson, to the cellar-home of the Davenports: You went down one step even from the foul area into the cellar in which a family of human beings lived. It was very dark inside. The windowpanes were many of them broken and stuffed with rags . . . the smell was so fetid as almost to knock the two men down . . . they began to penetrate the thick darkness of the place, and to see three or four little children, rolling on the damp, nay wet, brick floor, through which the stagnant, filthy moisture of the street oozed up. Gaskell [1848] 1998: 66–7 The overpowering stench, the darkness, and the filth underfoot—such evoked experiences retain some of the shock-value that they must have possessed for their first readers, who expected such horrors to be confined within the Gothic novel. The chapter adds further point to this description by taking us immediately afterwards to first the brightly-lit streets, and then the luxurious home of the Carsons, the mill-owners whose more comfortable lives become intertwined with those of the Bartons and Wilsons. In a famous passage, it is the glittering shop-windows that make John Barton muse upon the contrasting lives of the haves and have-nots (70): It is a pretty sight to walk through a street with lighted shops; the gas is so brilliant, the display of goods so much more vividly shown than by day, and of all shops a druggist’s looks the most like the tales of our childhood, from Aladdin’s garden of enchanted fruits to the charming Rosamond with her purple jar. No such associations had Barton; yet he felt the contrast between the well-filled, well-lighted shops and the dim gloomy cellar. John Barton grows angry with the seemingly happy pedestrians of these pleasant streets, but Gaskell’s point is in part that “you cannot read the lot of those who daily pass you by in the street” (70). Real urban life is marked by its opacity, and does not offer the panoramas and cross-class tourism that the



novel makes possible. The commodity fetishism of Victorian shop-window displays offered the urban pedestrian no clue to the visual, olfactory, and tactile horrors that were just around the corner. It was Friedrich Engels who first explored this particular form of fetishism in the industrial city. The urban labyrinths of Manchester feature in his Condition of the Working Class in England, published in German in 1845, though not to appear in English translation in the United States until 1886, and in England itself in 1892. Engels, who had been guided around Manchester by his Irish working-class partner, Mary Burns, takes us on a tour of main thoroughfares that “conceal from the eyes of the wealthy men and women of strong stomachs and weak nerves the misery and grime which form the complement to their wealth” (Engels 1987: 86). Engels’ account veers between a belief that such invisibility is part of a deliberate plan, and a contrary assumption that these deceptive appearances are the unplanned product of economic forces. While he is scathing regarding the economic causes of urban squalor, he does not scruple to paint a picture that is rather more graphic than that of Gaskell as regards the degradation of humanity that has resulted: this is not a vision of working-class resistance, or even agency. He notes the presence of pig-sties alongside human dwellings, producing air “corrupted by putrefying animal and vegetable substances” (92); and the “foul pools of stagnant urine and excrement” (88). He draws on the reports of Dr. James Kay, inter alia, to conjure up other tactile horrors, a moral filth to accompany the physical: “it often happens that a whole Irish family is crowded into one bed” (101); some of the poor take in lodgers, and “lodgers of both sexes by no means rarely sleep in the same bed with the married couple” (102); other lodging houses are a “focus of crime, the scene of deeds against which human nature revolts” (102). Only a “physically degenerate race . . . reduced morally and physically to bestiality” (100) can be comfortable in such surroundings. As we shall see, it is not so very different from Charles Dickens’ argument that crime breeds in the neglected and invisible corners of the city: if we could only see clearly, such horrors might disperse. Similar issues of visibility and social opacity trouble much of the literature and drama of the first half of the nineteenth century, and linger long after. At times it seems that what is sought is a form of visual mastery that would render the city and the urban crowd transparent, while keeping the viewer distant from any too immediate exposure to the olfactory and tactile nature of the streets. This is in keeping with the privileged position of sight in this period, and with the collapse of social distance that the other senses threatened (Classen et al. 1994: 3–5, 166; Flint 2000). Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd”



(1840) shows the origins of the scopic power of the detective story in the wish to disaggregate the urban crowd, to make the mass intelligible by sheer dint of staring hard at it. The extraordinary success of the many “Mysteries” novels that emulated Eugène Sue’s bestselling Mystères de Paris (1842–3) can also be seen as a symptom of the desire to render the darkness of the city visible, and there is more than a little cross-class voyeurism evident. Sue’s formula spread virally across Europe, the United States, and Australia, inspiring such works as Paul Thiel’s Die Geheimnisse von Berlin (1844), G. W. M. Reynolds’ The Mysteries of London (1846), Ned Buntline’s (E. Z. C. Judson) The Mysteries and Miseries of New York (1847–8), and Donald Cameron’s The Mysteries of Melbourne Life (1873) (Knight 2012). But mystery was not the only direction taken by the optical imaginary in these years. In Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son (1846–8), which traces the impact of the railways on England, the narrator cries out for some magical force to allow us to visually penetrate the opacity of the city, and show us how the neglected parts of the city breed the crime and vice that will ultimately overtake all: Oh for a good spirit who would take the house-tops off, with a more potent and benignant hand than the lame demon in the tale, and show a Christian people what dark shapes issue from amidst their homes, to swell the retinue of the Destroying angel as he moves forth among them! For only one night’s view of the pale phantoms rising from the scenes of our too-long neglect. Dickens [1846–8] 1997: 623 The “lame demon” is generally identified with Asmodeus, the supernatural agent who appears in Alain-René Lesage’s satirical urban novel of 1707, Le Diable boiteux. But in Dombey and Son, it is the railway that seems to promise just such a magical visual power, as it cuts its way through the slums of London, shining its modernizing light into the dark corners of the city. The odiferous clutter of “dunghills, and dustheaps, and ditches” (65) that he identifies with the working-class neighborhood inhabited by the Toodles in Chapter 6 of the novel has by Chapter 15 been swept away by the rough vigor of the railways: “The miserable waste ground, where the refuse matter had been heaped of yore, was swallowed up and gone; and in its frowsy stead were tiers of warehouses, crammed with rich goods and costly merchandise . . . the new streets . . . formed towns within themselves, originating wholesome comforts and conveniences belonging to themselves” (213). Time itself is now upon



railway principles: “There was even railway time observed in clocks, as if the sun himself had given in” (214). This clean, prosperous, punctual urban space is Dickens’ fantasy of a successful industrial city. It would be a mistake, of course, to take Dickens’ vision of the modernized city for the reality. In many ways the sensory experience of the Victorian urban pedestrian was not so very different from that of the previous century, or indeed of a much earlier period. Animals still thronged the streets, their noises and excreta adding to the auditory, olfactory, and tactile dimension of city life, as their presence also made city life possible in an age of short supply-chains. Except for the occasional cameo appearances of horses as transport, such street animals are something of an absent presence in literature, denoted only by crossing-sweepers such as Jo in Dickens’ Bleak House (1852–3), until humanitarian narratives like Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) placed them center-stage. Other aspects of a pre-industrial world lingered too: traditional street-sellers continued to cry their wares long after the advertising industry pushed selling into a more visual register. Francis Wheatley captured these cries—“Milk below,” “Sweet China oranges, sweet China,” “Strawberrys, Scarlet Strawberrys” in a series of paintings in the 1790s, much reproduced throughout the nineteenth century. But perhaps their most striking memorial is Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” (1862), which turns the street cries into the sinister calls of the goblins (Norcia 2012): Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy: Apples and quinces, Lemons and oranges, Plump unpeck’d cherries, Melons and raspberries. Rossetti 1993: 71 Such acoustic contexts for nineteenth-century literature have been relatively neglected, though John Picker’s Victorian Soundscapes has helped to restore them to view, or rather to audibility. Picker makes clear that the literature of the nineteenth century was written against a soundtrack of urban noise, as well as against the backdrop of campaigns to control street noise backed by Dickens, Tennyson, Wilkie Collins, and others (Picker 2003: 61). While street criers, church bells, urban animals, and many other sources contributed to the urban cacophony, the ire of Dickens and his fellow writers was mostly focused on



immigrant itinerant musicians, rival cultural-producers, after a fashion, who troubled the walls of the home as a place of intellectual labor. It is a useful reminder that the writers who provide our window onto the sensory landscape of the past were also engaged in struggles for place that recall what Jacques Rancière terms the distribution of the sensible (Rancière 2004). Dickens and others continued to worry at the city as a problematic social space, but by and large the novel in English changes focus after the early 1850s, and the next few decades see the dominance of a different kind of domestic fiction. On the one hand there is the sensation novel, in which the darker side of family life is explored; on the other there is the provincial novel. In such novels, vivid accounts of the burgeoning cities are replaced by a detailed attention to more “knowable” provincial communities, in Raymond Williams’ terms. And yet these novels also record in their textures the processes of modernity. In Eliot’s novels, for example, the language of scientific observation— optical and acoustic—weaves through the narrative providing striking metaphors for the necessary limits of individual knowledge. As John Picker notes, Eliot’s famous evocation in Middlemarch (1870) of “that roar that lies on the other side of silence” (Eliot [1874] 2000: 124) is only one of the passages in which her fiction invokes contemporary discoveries in sound, from the emergent amplifying technology of the microphone, to Hermann von Helmholtz’s account of sympathetic vibration (Picker 2003: 82–100). The sensation novel for its part is rarely noteworthy for the sensuous detail of the world that it depicts. In such novels as Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1859–60) and The Moonstone (1868), and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), the focus tends to be more on action and mystery, rather than richly evoked settings or sensory experience. However, these domestic mystery novels mark a new epoch in the sustained deployment of a particular kind of physical effect on the reader: suspense. In this respect they follow in the tracks of the Gothic novel, which also worked on the reader’s body as much as her mind. The sensation novel is close kin to the contemporary sensation play, in which all of the audience’s interest is focused on particular “sensation scenes”: episodes of spectacular action, often last-minute rescues, against vividly-realized backdrops. Among the most successful of these plays were Dion Boucicault’s The Colleen Bawn (1860), with its much-celebrated water-rescue, and his After Dark (1868), which borrowed its last-minute railway rescue from Augustin Daly’s Under the Gaslight (1867), and its vision of the city as a criminals’ paradise from Adolphe Philippe Dennery and Eugène Grangé’s Les Bohémiens de Paris (1843). The railway rescue becomes one of the most imitated spectacles of the history of popular entertainment, and



lingers well into the film era: the villain(s) leave someone unconscious, or bound, on the railway tracks; the train hurtles towards the helpless victim, but the hero or heroine arrives just in time to roll with the victim to safety as the train flashes past. As a symbolic scene, it suggests that true humanity is somehow at odds with technology, and perhaps with modernity itself. At the same time, such scenes deployed a stagecraft that turned the levels of focused attention required by an industrial age into a pleasurable entertainment— audiences were undergoing a species of industrial training of the senses (Daly 2004). In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the city return as topics of urgent interest in the slum novels of Arthur Morrison, George Gissing, and Clarence Rook in Britain, as well as in continental and American Naturalism. By the end of the century too, a generation of criminologists and scientists had convinced many that criminality was actually written on the body, something to be observed in the size and shape of skulls and ears, and the angle of foreheads. The work of Cesare Lombroso, author of L’uomo delinquente (1876), persuaded many of the reality of this visual fantasy (Pick 1993: 109–52). On this reading the city became less the principal site of modernity, and more a place where the past lingered in a dangerous population of atavistic survivals, low-browed primitive types that only modern forensic science could keep under control, through an emerging visual and haptic biometrics of cranial measurement, forensic photography, and fingerprinting. Such nightmares run through the popular and literary fiction of the fin de siècle, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) to Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907) (Pick 1993: 155–75). The literary experiments of the Symbolists, Decadents, and Naturalists, which included attempts to utilize the “lower” senses, were seen by Max Nordau to be the high-cultural equivalent of the such degenerate criminality, proof of the diseased nature of modern culture (Classen 1998: 118–20). The social conflicts of the 1840s, and the will to “see” the social totality, make an unexpected return in another form in E. M. Forster’s Howards End (1910). Gone are the industrial workers, and in their place is the growing army of clerical workers, in Forster’s tripartite vision of intellectuals (the Schlegel family), capitalists (the Wilcoxes), and workers (Leonard Bast). The longing to peer through the opacities of the industrial city takes a new form as a will to connect, to understand the relations not just of the life of the mind and the world of work, but the offstage world of Empire, from which the Wilcoxes (and later the Schlegels) draw their money. “It is impossible to see modern life steadily and see it whole” (Forster [1910] 2000: 138), we are told in Chapter 18



of a novel that privileges the point of view of Margaret Schlegel, who sees things whole. That ability to totalize is linked by Forster to the rural seclusion of the house, Howards End, an idyllic pastoral survival that has been temporarily the possession of the Wilcoxes, but at the novel’s end is to belong to a boy whose mother is a Schlegel and whose father was a Bast. Unless we enjoy our rootedness in the past and in the slow rhythms of the land, we cannot understand the present, would appear to be one message of this ending. The imperial Wilcoxes are excluded from any such apprehension; they quite literally cannot smell the roses, as they all suffer from hayfever, and delight in driving their noisy and smelly cars too quickly down country lanes. The disjunction between Forster’s philosophical vision and the world of the motor-car is evident in a passage in which Margaret is driven at queasy speed through the English countryside: “She looked at the scenery. It heaved and merged like porridge. Presently it congealed. They had arrived” (169). But Forster is also aware of the limitations of Little-England pastoralism, and this is no Mansfield Park: we are encouraged to recognize, as Margaret does, that her good taste and social vision, like Howards End itself, depend on money that flows from colonial exploitation, this time not based on the sweetness of sugar, but the elastic and waterproof properties of the rubber required by the second industrial revolution. The counter-industrial thread that I have been tracing is only one in the dense literary fabric of the nineteenth century. For example, across the English Channel, or La Manche, a very different engagement with modern life was emerging in the work of Charles Baudelaire, who took the city streets as his material, like his painter of modern life, Constantin Guys. Baudelaire argues that the modern artist must immerse himself in modern life, which he identifies with the sensory world of the street, and the crowd. The crowd is not something to be mastered, as detective fiction suggests, or a figure of alienation, as it is in stage melodrama, but a vast reservoir of energy from which the artist can draw. For Walter Benjamin, Baudelaire’s most striking innovations include his attempt to absorb the modern experience of shock into poetry (Benjamin 1968). In “A une passante” (1861), Baudelaire captures the (literally) fleeting beauty of modernity in the form of a woman in mourning who passes him by while the noise of the city’s traffic roars in his ears (“La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait”; Baudelaire 1968: 181). He is reborn by his momentary glimpse of her funereal “fugitive beauté,” drinks from her sky-blue eyes, in which hurricanes grow. Here the anonymity of the city is not something against which the writer rails and struggles: the visual world of the city is full of promise, it allows for endless fantasies of other lives, other loves, glimpsed in the eyes of a thousand



strangers; this is no pastoral vision, but nature, with its skies and storms, has been condensed into the body of an unknown woman. Baudelaire’s sensual embrace of the life of the street, as well as his ideas of sensory correspondences, would reappear later in the century in the work of the French Symbolists— Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud—as well as in the poems of the Rhymers’ Club (Classen 1998: 111–12). The closest thing to this shift in the representation of the senses in the Anglophone world is that combination of movements that we generally place under the label “Aestheticism.” While the most exotic flowerings of this tendency do not appear until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the beginnings of Aestheticism are visible much earlier in, for example, the ideas and practices of the Pre-Raphaelites, the essays of Walter Pater, and the work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. By the time Oscar Wilde arrived on the London scene in the 1880s, much of the groundwork had been laid for his popularization of the “cult of beauty.” The hostility to this cult of those who felt that art and literature should be concerned with morality more than the senses was also evident at an early date. Robert Buchanan, under the pseudonym Thomas Maitland, attacked Dante Gabriel’s Poems (1870) as well as the work of Algernon Swinburne, William Morris, and others, in his essay “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” charging them with a “sub-Tennysonian” addiction to the senses. Their mission, he fulminated, was: to extol fleshliness as the distinct and supreme end of poetic and pictorial art; to aver that poetic expression is greater than poetic thought, and by inference that the body is greater than the soul, and sound superior to sense; and that the poet, properly to develop his poetic faculty, must be an intellectual hermaphrodite, to whom the very facts of day and night are lost in a whirl of aesthetic terminology. Maitland 1871: 336 Rossetti is singled out for opprobrium: he is accused of “nastiness” in his celebration of sexuality; his work is seen to display sensuality for its own sake, without any leaven of the spiritual and the intellectual. To an extent, the model for Buchanan’s critique is a pictorial one: Rossetti’s paintings, he considers, are those of a skilled colorist, lacking the control of line and perspective of a more intellectual artist, and the poetry is much the same. But Rossetti is also accused of being too “painfully self-conscious,” and too mannered in his diction and forced rhymes. Similarly contradictory charges would be leveled at Wilde’s Dorian Gray in the 1890s, and ultimately at Wilde himself in 1895.


FIGURE 7.2: Portrait of Charles Baudelaire by Nadar. Library of Congress.




While aestheticism had complex origins, Walter Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873) can be seen as the veritable bible of the movement. Pater’s Renaissance is not an art-historical period, but a series of artifacts and historical figures from the twelfth to the eighteenth century that display a particular sensibility, part of which is an appreciation of male beauty, and a delight in artistic form. Turning his back firmly on the moral criticism of Ruskin, and the assumed critical neutrality of Matthew Arnold, Pater assures the reader that the question to ask of a text, a picture, or indeed any other experience, is what is this to me, how does it affect me? In a world of flux, our goal should not be to seek for wisdom, but to relish experience for its own sake: “not the fruit of experience, but experience itself is the end” (Pater [1873] 1986: 151). Pater’s remarkable “Conclusion” to the Renaissance inspired a generation not only to a new conception of the relations of art and life, but to a new attitude to life itself. Indeed, it still stirs, with its combination of carpe diem, and a radical call to open our minds and senses to the world (152): A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy? . . . To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist’s hands, or the face of one’s friend. Pater’s claim that “all melts under our feet” expresses his belief in both the time-bound aspect of reality, and the fact that the observing subject is herself in flux, though it is difficult not to make the connection to Marx and Engels’ “all that is solid melts into air,” which historicizes instability in terms of the dynamic destructiveness of the capitalist economy. At any rate, we can trace Pater’s radical impressionism, and his cult of sensuous experience throughout the literary output of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and indeed into the twentieth: it is still there, for example, in Joyce’s evocation of the young artist, Stephen Dedalus.



There is a substantial body of late-Victorian poetry that embodies aspects of Pater’s vision. Ernest Dowson’s “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae” provides a familiar example of the flavor of this work: I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng, Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind; But I was desolate and sick of an old passion, Yea, all the time, because the dance was long: I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. Dowson 1962: 58 The speaker seeks to lose himself in the riotous empire of the senses—red mouths, madder music, stronger wine—but is haunted by an older love, whose “lost lilies” suggest death more than erotic love. It has Paterian shades, but it also has the darker coloring that we associate with Decadence; the celebration of intensity is there, but also a morbidity that is little evident in Pater’s Renaissance. This drive to evoke complex states of mind, and to hint at the inexpressible, reminds us that literature in English did not exist in a vacuum in this period. Dowson may be drawing on Pater, but he is also calling upon the earlier work of Baudelaire, and contemporary French Symbolism. We see a more direct adaptation of Pater’s “Conclusion” in Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). Wilde’s Dorian is remembered for the devil’s bargain that transfers the human aging process to his portrait, but Dorian gets full value from this arrangement only by living life to the full, by savoring his own sensations as a lover, collector of beautiful things, opium fiend, and murderer. He even relishes his own remorse, before ultimately destroying the portrait, and thus himself. As with Pater, the Picture complexly endows men who love other men with a particular sensitivity towards the world of things. Among the novel’s most remarkable passages are those in Chapter 11, partly based on Wilde’s reading of arcane collector’s lore in the British Library. Here, for example, having already devoted himself to the study of perfumes and exotic musical instruments, Dorian becomes a connoisseur of precious stones: He would often spend a whole day settling and resettling in their cases the various stones that he had collected, such as the olive-green chrysoberyl that turns red by lamplight, the cymophane with its wirelike line of silver, the pistachio-coloured peridot, rose-pink and wine-yellow topazes, carbuncles of fiery scarlet with tremulous, four-rayed stars, flame-red



cinnamon-stones, orange and violet spinels, and amethysts with their alternate layers of ruby and sapphire. He loved the red gold of the sunstone, and the moonstone’s pearly whiteness, and the broken rainbow of the milky opal. Wilde [1890] 1998: 144 Of course this is a passage that works at various levels. It shows us the increasing refinement of Dorian’s tastes, and his attempt to extend the limits of subjectivity through the objects with which he surrounds himself and imbues with his collector’s love. But for the reader it offers the experiential pleasures of a sensuous prose poem: verbal novelty, rich and strange words to be rolled around in the mind, or on the tongue. And if this static chapter is in one sense “practically unreadable,” as Jeff Nunokawa puts it, it also evokes a desiring gaze, and a series of objects of that gaze that escape easily from the heteronormativity of Victorian fiction (Nunokawa 2003: 147). Wilde was not drawing on Pater alone for his inspiration. The most obvious other source is Joris-Karl Huysmans’s extraordinary A Rebours (1884), sometimes assumed to be the “yellow book” that Dorian takes as his guide. The protagonist of Huymans’s novel, Des Esseintes, wearies of a life of urban debauchery, and acquires a house in Fontenay, outside Paris, where he becomes a recluse. Thereafter he devotes himself to a programme of refined intellectual and sensuous experiment, immersing himself in his favorite artists and authors, who include Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Mallarmé. He grows poisonous plants (like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Rappaccini), dabbles in perfumery, and even creates a series of highly stylized dinners, one all in white, one in black. In his study of perfumes, he decides that the history of scent follows the general contours of cultural history: Its history followed that of the French language step by step. The Louis XIII style in perfumery, composed of the elements dear to that period— orris-powder, musk, civet, and myrtle water, already known by the name of angel-water—was scarcely adequate to express the cavalierish graces, the rather crude colors of the time which certain sonnets by Saint-Amand have preserved for us . . . And then, after the indifference and incuriosity of the First Empire . . . perfumery followed Victor Hugo and Gautier and went for inspiration to the lands of the sun . . . It had continued to develop . . . joining in the cult of things Chinese and Japanese . . . imitating the flower posies of Takeoka, mingling lavender and clove to produce the perfume of the Rondeletia . . . Huysmans [1884] 1987: 120–1


FIGURE 7.3: Portrait of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony. Library of Congress.




There is a humorous touch here that is sometimes wanting in the more Gothic Dorian Gray, but otherwise one can easily see how much Wilde has borrowed. Huysmans also anticipates Wilde in moving from a catalogue of sensory immersion, and a celebration of artifice and culture over nature, to a wider conception of the nature of sexuality. While A Rebours does not feature the all-male love-triangle of Wilde’s novel, in other ways it is more explicit about the protagonist’s sexuality, and the pleasures of the flesh. In Chapter 9, Des Esseintes recalls his brief relationship with a Miss Urania, an American circus performer (presumably based on Adah Menken), whose masculinity in performance attracts him: “he was seized with a definite desire to possess the woman, yearning for her just as a chlorotic girl will hanker after a clumsy brute whose embrace could squeeze the life out of her” (111). Alas, she proves to be disappointingly feminine in private life. He finds greater satisfaction in the company of a youth whom he meets on the street one day. He strikes up a “mistrustful friendship” (116) with this youth, who has lips like a cherry: “never had he submitted to more delightful or more stringent exploitation, never had he run such risks, yet never had he known such satisfaction mingled with distress” (116). No passage this explicit would appear in Dorian, though critics nonetheless felt that it was a novel of “unhealthy” tendency. That Huysmans’ book becomes a bible to Dorian Gray might also remind us that one of the most striking aspects of late-Victorian aestheticism was a new interest in the book as a sensuous objects in its own right. These years see a particularly happy marriage of design and publishing that issued in such eyecatching magazines as The Yellow Book (1894–7), The Evergreen (1895), and The Acorn (1905), and books designed by Talwin Morris, Charles Ricketts, and Will H. Bradley. If the 1880s and 1890s see the dominance of neo-Romanticism, and a celebration of a lush poetry of the senses, a reaction developed in the early twentieth century in the work of writers inspired by a whole series of new “isms” that overlapped and competed with each other, such as Futurism, Vorticism, and Imagism, manifesto-driven movements for cultural renewal, that at times called for new hierarchies of the senses (Classen 1998: 126–31). Where Futurism celebrates the exhilaration of speed and the beauty of the machine, Imagism seems to represent a species of neo-classicism, a rejection of the rhetorical flourishes of the Rhymers Club generation in favor of a sparer and less subjective approach. The American poet Hilda Doolittle’s “Oread” (1914), which first appeared without title in the Vorticist journal Blast as Pound’s model poem, is a good example of the new direction. In its six short imperative lines it conveys its message with a peculiar intensity:



Whirl up, sea— Whirl your pointed pines, Splash your great pines On our rocks, Hurl your green over us, Cover us with your pools of fir. Doolittle [1914] 2010 The lilies and roses of 1890s verse are gone, but this is not to say that this is poetry without sensuous appeal: its “whirls” and “hurls” and “firs” appeal to the ear as much as its wish to erase the line between sea and land, self and other, appeal to the mind, and suggest a quasi-sexual sense of oceanic envelopment. But the brevity and condensation of meaning, and the rejection of the inherited lexis of poetry, suggest a very definite desire to make it new. Antecedents include classical models, and also, perhaps, the work of W. E. Henley, whose long poem, “In Hospital” (1889), shows a similar way with powerful images, synaesthetic effects, and developing impatience with conventional poetic rhetoric. Indeed Henley’s poem, which is usually taken to be autobiographical, by making the hospital experience its center, seems to look forward to a good deal of the bleaker side of twentieth-century verse, not least that of T. S. Eliot: the subject without dignity, prodded and poked at, surviving unhappily in a devitalized, algogenic environment, becomes a typical rather than exceptional figure. Imagism was never very likely to be a powerful force in the novel, whose generic tendency is towards capaciousness rather than compression. Ernest Hemingway, directly influenced by Pound and his adjective-cutting scissors, may be an exception here, but for the most part the modernist novel remained an inclusive form. This is particularly true, of course, of the work of Marcel Proust, whose seven-volume Remembrance of Things Past (1913–27) is a window onto the sensory world of belle-epoque Paris, but also of James Joyce, whose Ulysses (1922) is a veritable encyclopedia of everyday experience in Dublin in June, 1904. Proust’s magnum opus is, among other things, an exploration of the embodiment of consciousness, a theme famously announced by the narrator’s tasting of a “petite madeleine” that sets his involuntary memory to work: “after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered . . . the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, to remind us . . . and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence,



FIGURE 7.4: A book cover designed by Will Bradley. Public domain.

the vast structure of recollection” (Proust 1934: 36). But even before the madeleine episode, we are encouraged to think about the relationship of memory and the senses. The “gusts of memory” that our narrator experiences give him a feeling of temporal dislocation that he does not analyze, “any more than, when we watch a horse running, we isolate the successive positions of its body as they appear upon a bioscope” (6). As Sara Danius has noted (Danius 2002), the reference shows the extent to which Proust’s ideas of perception are



shaped by contemporary technologies of vision, his example evoking not so much the bioscope as the photographic experiments of Etienne-Jules Marey. But rather than linking the workings of memory to Marey’s analytical camera, Proust seems to suggest that memory is most powerful when the analytical impulse is kept at bay. In Joyce’s Ulysses the present is also shot through with the traces of the past, but it is the city more than memory that is Joyce’s theme. His earlier work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), had already staged the encounter of art and the street. In a semi-comic late chapter, Stephen and his friend Lynch walk a circuitous route from their college to the National Library, during which Stephen attempts to explain his neo-Thomist ideas about beauty. But as they stroll, his earnest discourse is interrupted by the noise of the street, “a long dray laden with old iron . . . covering the end of [his] speech with the harsh roar of jangled and rattling metal” (Joyce in Levin 1976: 476). Joyce rather than Stephen realizes the weakness of even the most elaborate theories of art before the pressure of urban experience in an age of distraction. In his subsequent tour de force, Ulysses, Bloom, the epic hero reborn as a peripatetic Dublin advertising agent, is also a version of Baudelaire’s artist, a kaleidoscope equipped with consciousness who interiorizes the streets. He rather than Stephen is the novel’s central presence, and through his mind all of Dublin flows, its vistas, noises, smells, tastes, and textures. In Joyce’s original schema for the novel each section is supposed to have its own characteristic organ of the body—the ear in the Sirens episode, for example (Ellmann 1983: 436)— but the novel goes beyond such a rigid approach, and the sensuous orientation also follows the characters: where Stephen dwells on the ineluctable modality of the visible, and attempts to view the world through the cold eyes of the artist, Bloom’s negotiation of the world is more immediate and corporeal. As if to reaffirm this commitment to the embodiment of consciousness, in the novel’s final section the perspective shifts, and we are given access to the thoughts of Bloom’s wife, Molly, who even more than her husband appreciates the empire of the senses (a suggestion that women are more “body” than mind that should remind us that the literary avant garde was not immune to the gender ideologies of the time). In Joyce we see a form of experimental modernism that attempts, inter alia, to do the senses justice, to show the embodiment of consciousness, and to undermine the privilege of the eye. In these efforts, of course, he was seen to exceed the boundaries of decency, and to overstep the limits of the literary. Ulysses was a book too close to the senses for some, something that Judge John M. Woolsey acknowledged in his decision in 1933 that Ulysses could be sold



in the United States. He felt that while its effect was “somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be aphrodisiac” (Ellmann 1983: 667). By then, though, there had been a wholesale reconception of the nature of literature, and of the relationship between literature and the senses. But that story belongs to the next volume in this series.


Art and the Senses: From the Romantics to the Futurists constance classen

The role of the senses in art was the subject of intense interest during the period between 1800 and 1920. New theories about the sensuous nature of art were elaborated, new experiments in representing and engaging the senses through art attempted, and old models of aesthetics rediscovered and reimagined. These heady investigations into the sensory dimensions of art were influenced by developments in philosophy and science, as well as by new technologies, such as photography and film. They were also permeated by ideologies of gender, class, and ethnicity. The concept of the interrelationship of the senses, which gained artistic prominence in the latter half of the nineteenth century, is particularly important to the history of the senses and will constitute the central focus of this chapter. As this concept was closely linked to that of the interrelationship of the arts, a broad range of art forms will be examined here. The primary sociological issue to be addressed is: to what extent did these new ways of thinking about the senses and the arts suggest new ways of thinking about society?




THE EYE AND THE HAND: SPLITTING THE ARTS A rift was created between the visual arts and handicrafts in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Shiner 2001). Art left the workshop and many of its more craft-like aspects, such as the preparation of paints and canvases, were delegated to technicians. This rift had important sensory implications, for it strengthened the association of painting with sight and that of handicraft with touch (Rée 1999: 353–63). As sight was generally considered a far nobler sense than touch, the status of painting was thereby enhanced. The supposedly unaesthetic, materialistic nature of touch, by contrast, was instrumental in the exclusion of craftwork from the “fine” arts. The fact that the products of many crafts could be factory-made in the nineteenth century also contributed to a decline in the status of craftwork. The Romantic movement fostered the association of painting with visual mastery by promoting the ideal of the artist as a visionary genius elevated above the common herd. The “down-to-earth” craftsman, by contrast, seemed to require only a skillful touch. The Romantics also emphasized the transcendent, immaterial properties of art. The more art was conceptualized as a nonfunctional, purely aesthetic endeavor, the more craftwork appeared to be materialistic by contrast. While all a modern viewer should ideally do with a painting was gaze at it, the hands-on uses of many forms of craftwork seemed to keep them firmly grounded in the “coarse” world of material values and bodily needs. The Romantic emphasis on color and emotion (notably in the work of Eugene Delacroix) muddied the picture somewhat, as these could be seen as having more sensuous than intellectual appeal. However, the Romantics could claim that they used colors and expressed emotions in their art not as ends in themselves but as indicators of spiritual states, and as markers of artistic freedom from conventional constraints. Once this division between visual art and handicraft had been established, it was readily adapted to help demarcate perceived social differences. As the eye was linked with notions of freedom and “overseeing,” while the hand was associated with concepts of service and manual labor, the social standing of the visionary artist rose, while that of the dextrous craftsman declined. On a broader plane, the visual arts were held to be a predominately European domain, in keeping with the association of sight with reason and the supposed superior intellectual attainments of the West. The aesthetic practices of nonEuropeans (and particularly indigenous peoples), by contrast, tended to be allied with handicrafts and tactility. Schiller had voiced an early version of this view in On the Aesthetic Education of Man: “As long as man is still a savage



he enjoys by means of [the] tactile senses alone . . . Either he does not rise to the level of seeing at all, or he is at all events not satisfied with it. Once he does begin to enjoy through the eye, and seeing acquires for him a value of its own, he is already aesthetically free . . .” (1982: 195). The visual arts were likewise held to be a masculine domain. There was, indeed, only one wholly acceptable field of activity for women, and that was what was known as “women’s work.” Such work centered on cooking, sewing, cleaning, and caretaking—activities associated with the “lower” senses of touch, taste, and smell. Those women who had servants to do the housekeeping might engage in a refined version of women’s work, for example, embroidery. However, such feminine craftwork was still associated with senses of the second rank (see Barker-Benfield 1992). Significantly, the numerous nineteenth-century portraits of women sewing rarely show what they are sewing—that is not assumed to have aesthetic value; it is the intimate scene of domesticity that is expected to please. Women’s work hence fell within the tactile realm of craft, rather than the visual realm of art. This is not to say that painting was completely off-limits to women. (Indeed, while Romanticism contributed to the trivialization of feminine craftwork, it also, through its emphasis on individual originality and transcendence, encouraged some women to break free of conventions and assert themselves as artists.) It was, in fact, socially acceptable for art to be taken up in a minor way as a pastime by gentlewomen. There were, however, certain understood limitations as to what they should attempt and what they could achieve. Pastels were thought to provide a softer, more ladylike medium than oil paints, and modest small-scale pictures or miniatures were deemed more appropriate than large-scale works. As for subject matter, works of sweeping vision or dramatic

FIGURE 8.1: “Women’s work”: nineteenth-century Irish crochet lace. Samuel L.

Goldenberg, Lace, its Origin and History, Project Gutenberg ebook 38973.



scope were to be eschewed in favor of homey subjects or, as Rousseau put it, depictions of “foliage, fruits, flowers and drapery” (cited in Parker 1986: 124). As with women’s handiwork, such feminine art works might be described as tasteful or as displaying a delicate touch, but not as manifesting the visionary genius thought necessary for great art. Indeed, no matter what women did, according to this paradigm, they always ended up producing women’s work, for they were always on the inferior side of the gender and sensory divide (Classen 2005a). The emphasis on the visual values of fine arts supported the concurrent trend to render artworks and museums hands-off. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries museum-goers regularly handled the collections on display. Such handling was not simply due to “rough manners” nor even to a desire to have an intimate connection with a rare collectible. There was a widespread sense that touch supplemented sight in providing essential information about museum objects (Classen 2005b). As museums became more open to the public in the nineteenth century, concerns about conservation, as well as the desire to keep working-class patrons a respectful distance from cultural “treasures,” led to a prohibition of touch in the museum. However, by this time the notion that all that was important to know about an artwork could be known through sight had become so prevalent that touch was no longer imagined to serve any valid function in the museum (Candlin 2010: Ch. 3). At the same time as the art museum developed as a special site for detached aesthetic viewing, the concert hall arose as a special place for detached aesthetic listening (Kivy 1997). Traditionally, music was played for particular social occasions, whether a wedding, a ball, or a religious celebration, and it was often accompanied by dance. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, motivated by influences similar to those discussed above, music began to be conceptualized as an art form which required pure auditory contemplation to be properly appreciated. It was therefore detached from its social functions and from dance and performed in concert halls which facilitated single-sensed auditory contemplation. As a consequence those musical forms which remained integrated into social settings, from folk songs to non-Western music, came to be regarded as aesthetically inferior—dragged down by their associations with the “lower” senses of taste, smell, and touch through such conjoined activities as eating and dancing. The separation of visual art from handicraft was hence part of a wider fracturing of the arts, and the senses. This, in turn, was consistent with a preoccupation with the division of the social world by class, gender, and



ethnicity. It was also consistent with the increasing importance of specialization and compartmentalization in modern urban life, in which activities were separated out and undertaken in dedicated spaces; whether concert halls, art galleries, playing fields, restaurants, or factories.

IMPRESSIONS AND SYMBOLS: PAINTING, SCULPTURE, AND THE DECORATIVE ARTS Nineteenth-century art was characterized by a search for new modes of, and subjects for, representation. One result of this search was that many painters of the latter half of the century dedicated themselves to recording the spontaneous life of the streets and the countryside, rather than concentrating on still lifes, historical scenes, or studio portraits. It was said of the new painters that they “tried to depict the walk, movement, and hustle and bustle of passersby, just as they have tried to render the trembling of leaves, the rippling of water, and the vibration of sun-drenched air” (Duranty [1876] 2002: 23). This emphasis on painting fleeting impressions gave the artists involved the name of Impressionists. The development of photography, which presented new ways of recording and relating to the visual world, stimulated this interest in new modes of visual representation. In the mid-nineteenth century it encouraged interest in a Realist style of painting, which aimed for an objective representation of everyday life, as exemplified by the paintings of Gustave Courbet. While the realism of photography itself would come to make realist modes of painting appear somewhat superfluous, paintings had the advantage over black and white photography of being able to represent colors. Another influential trait of photography was its ability to freeze movement on film. This allowed the gaze to rest on ephemeral moments. Through cropping, photographs also drew attention to actions occurring at the margins of scenes and to new ways of framing subject matter. The effect of these aspects of photography on art are suggested in many works of the time, such as Edgar Degas’ “slice of life” paintings with their subjects caught in mid-movement and cut off by the picture’s edge. Even the “faults” of photography—blurring, underexposure—influenced the new way of seeing artistically. This is indicated, for example, in Claude Monet’s Boulevard des Capucines (1873–4) in which the strolling figures are blurred to suggest motion (Howard 1997: 207; see Figure 8.2). The artistic interest in visual representation was further heightened by research in the field of psychophysics. Such research indicated that sight “naturally” perceives the world as a “colored patchwork” and not as a collection



FIGURE 8.2: Boulevard des Capucines by Claude Monet, 1873–4. Google Art Project.

of discrete objects. This idea was explored by a number of artists associated with Impressionism, including Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, and Georges Seurat, who chose to emphasize color juxtapositions over outlines in their work. While Impressionism recognized the role of the artist’s subjectivity in painting, it came under criticism for being too materialistic in its emphasis on physical sensations. For those who wished to portray inner, rather than outer, worlds, the Symbolist movement, with its exploration of mystical and oneiric states, offered more scope for the imagination. Among the artistic movements



of the nineteenth century, Symbolism is of particular interest to the historian of the senses for its elaboration of the notion of sensory correspondences and its allied concern with evoking the full range of sensory experience. Romanticism had an important role to play in arousing interest in sensory correspondences for, while it contributed to the separation of art from craft and sight from touch, it promoted the interrelationship of art and music, and therefore sight and hearing. Indeed, music, as the most intangible—and therefore transcendent—of the arts, came to be seen as a model for painting in Romanticism. This would later be generalized by Walter Pater into the assertion that “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” (1888: 140). A key figure in this development was the painter Eugene Delacroix, who not only extolled the virtues of music, but whose own work was seen by many of his contemporaries as “painted music.” Charles Baudelaire, for example, declared of Delacroix’s work that “those wonderful color chords of his often make one dream of musical harmonies and melodies, and the impression we carry away after looking at his pictures is often, as it were, musical” (1981: 137). Such comparisons between music and painting were fostered by the fact that Romantic composers and painters often based their works on the same literary or legendary sources. Thus both Delacroix and the composer Hector Berlioz created works based on Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Faust, among other subjects. The musical model for art was taken up by a number of nineteenth-century painters, one notable example being James Whistler, who gave his paintings such names as Nocturne in Black and Gold and Symphony in White, No. 1. Discussion of the interrelationship of music and painting, and of hearing and sight, awakened interest in how all of the senses might be interrelated. The most influential writer to take up the theme was Charles Baudelaire, who declared in his poem “Correspondences” (1857) that “perfumes, colours and sounds correspond.” Support for the notion of sensory correspondences came not only from contemporary scientific research on interconnections among the senses, but also from mystical traditions which claimed that particular sensations—colors, musical notes, odors—were linked in chains of sympathy. (Experimentation with hashish, prevalent among many artists of the day, perhaps also contributed to the interest in the intermingling of the senses.) The idea of sensory correspondences, particularly between sight and hearing, had a widespread influence on European art in the latter nineteenth century. With the domain of visual representation increasingly dominated by photography and the phantasmagoria produced by magic lanterns and other optical devices, expanding the sensory boundaries of art offered new ways of



FIGURE 8.3: Salome Dancing Before Herod by Gustave Moreau, 1876. Public domain.



making art relevant. In the case of Symbolism, cross-sensory references enabled artists to create immersive, dream-like images which portrayed the senses as pathways to spiritual realizations. The use of rich sensory imagery coupled with mythic subject matter which characterized Symbolism is well illustrated in the work of the French artist Gustave Moreau. Moreau’s best-known painting, Salome Dancing Before Herod (1876), for example, evokes textures, scents, and music within a subtle tapestry of colors washed in glowing highlights and smoky shadows (see Figure 8.3). While his style was more monochromatic and linear than that of Moreau, the Dutch-Indonesian artist Jan Toorop displayed a similar interest in mystical allegory and sensory plenitude. In the case of the latter, this sometimes extended to a synaesthetic merging of sounds, scents, and tactilities transposed onto a visual field. In his influential The Three Brides (1893), bells ring out thick strands of sound which turn into angels’ hair, and celestial robes swirl like incense (see Figure 8.4). The central bride in the picture, described by Toorop as “a perfumed flower,” seems to be transforming into fragrance as she is

FIGURE 8.4: The Three Brides by Jan Toorop, 1893. The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty




engulfed by roses and incense (Goldwater 1979: 252). She is flanked on one side by a saintly bride who is listening to the murmurings of an angel touching her arm, and on the other by an evil bride who holds a bowl of blood and disregards the angel reaching out to her. Of all the figures in the picture, only the evil bride looks at the spectator. Her hard gaze conveys a mind closed to spiritual influences: she feels no angelic touches, hears no celestial music, smells no divine fragrances. With his entwining of bodies and senses, Toorop went further than most of his contemporaries in using visual art to convey non-visual sensibilities. However, many artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, from Symbolists to Pre-Raphaelites, evoked non-visual sensations in their work. One notable sign of this trend is the number of paintings from this period which depict fragrance. Such olfactory allusions were particularly common in paintings with mythological or mystical themes where they might hint at mysterious other realities. Examples include Morgan le Fay (1864) by Federick Sandys, The Soul of the Forest (1898) by Edgar Maxence, Incense (1898) by Fernand Khnopff, The Soul of the Rose (1908) by John Waterhouse, and The Three Perfumes (1912) by Margaret Macdonald. In contrast to painting, in the field of sculpture we find much less impact being made by ideas of multisensory aesthetics. Baudelaire, indeed, argued in an essay entitled “Why sculpture is boring” that the tactile concreteness of sculpture made it appealing to “peasants” and “primitives” but not to the more refined sensibilities of modern critics of art (1981: 97–101). Although many important sculptors of the period, among them George Frederic Watts, Auguste Rodin, Camille Claudel, Leonardo Bistolfi, and George Minne, were influenced by Symbolist ideals, the notion of sensory correspondences appears to have played little overt role in their work. One exception is the German artist Max Klinger, who was interested in combining painting and sculpture and integrating both with music. A polychrome sculpture of Beethoven in marble and bronze created by Klinger formed the centerpiece of a multimedia homage to Beethoven in Vienna in 1902. (The exhibition included a “Beethoven Frieze” painted by Gustave Klimt and a performance of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony conducted by Gustav Mahler.) In general, however, the cross-sensory experiments of sculptors were confined to portraying visual, tactile, and kinesthetic experiences. Prominent examples of the latter include Rodin’s The Kiss (1889) and Claudel’s The Wave (1897). If sculpture was somewhat marginalized from the new aesthetics, however, the decorative arts came to play an important role. This was due in part to the emphasis on the interrelationship of all of the arts in the latter nineteenth



century, and in part to the contemporary fascination with Oriental and antique craft work. Furthermore, contrary to earlier portrayals of craft as materialistic and utilitarian, the neoromanticism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries promoted handicrafts as spiritually-enriching in comparison to “uninspired” machine-made products. Thanks to this development, comparing a painting to a craftwork need no longer necessarily be considered belittling. Indeed, when the Symbolist author J.-K. Huysmans did this with Moreau’s Salome—“There is a bit of everything in it: mosaic, enamel work, Alençon lace, the patient embroidery of ages past . . .”—he considered it high praise (1883: 136). The revival of interest in the applied arts found particular expression in the Arts and Crafts movement and in Art Nouveau. This reintegration of craft with art can be seen as signaling an aesthetic rehabilitation of touch, the sense associated with craftwork. However, for crafts to achieve something of the status of “art” they needed to be conceptualized as products of creative vision, rather than “mere” handiwork, and their visual values needed to be emphasized over their tactile qualities. When craft became art, it became visual art. Thus, for example, the Goncourt brothers attempted to promote appreciation of the decorative arts by drawing attention to their painterly qualities. A pot is described as “a playful sketch on canvas,” a screen has the “immaterial lightness” of a “small painting,” and an embroidery manifests a painting’s “nuanced effects of light and contrasting colours.” Handicrafts were elevated to the rank of art by being presented “as bearers of intangible, painterly effects, of rarefied and complex visual sensations” (Silverman 1992: 32–4). Despite the new valuation of craft, the aesthetic division between the eye and the hand had not been overcome.

PERFORMING THE SENSES: MUSIC, DANCE, AND THEATER The most prominent Romantic composer to concern himself with the interplay of the senses was Richard Wagner. In his “music dramas,” Wagner combined music, poetry, and drama with visual effects produced by lighting, costume, and scenery. When composing he stimulated himself with perfumes and his works themselves are replete with references to aromas. (It has been suggested that odors are expressed musically in Wagner’s work by triplets and trills; Weiner 1995: 205–6.) Wagner brings these different sensations to a synaesthetic climax at the conclusion of Tristan and Isolde (1859) when Isolde sings of her mingled perceptions: “Are they waves of gentle airs? Are they waves of wondrous sounds? How they swell, whirl around me, shall I breathe, shall I listen? Shall I drink them, dive beneath? Sweetly in aromas expire?” (Weiner



1995: 201). As Wagner was idolized by many late-nineteenth-century artists, these attempts to artfully combine the senses were highly influential. Claude Debussy sought to distinguish himself musically from Wagner, but maintained a similar interest in the interplay of the arts and the senses. He composed musical interpretations of Symbolist literary works, such as his “symphonic poem” Prélude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894) based on a poem by Mallarmé, and his highly-influential “lyrical drama” Pelléas and Mélisande (1902), based on the play by Maurice Maeterlinck. While primarily a Symbolist in orientation, Debussy shared the Impressionist fascination with portraying fleeting effects of light, although in his case he attempted to achieve this through the medium of music (Vallas 1976: 207). Musical scores themselves might be illustrated by composers and artists. A prominent example of this is Brahms-Phantasie (1894), a collection of scores by Brahms, illustrated by Max Klinger. Erik Satie would carry on this tradition in his whimsical collection of scores and illustrations entitled Sports and Amusements (1923), which partially extended the genre of visual poetry (in which the visual shape of a written poem is significant) to musical notation. A number of composers at the turn of the twentieth century, such as Alexander Scriabin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Arnold Schoenberg, associated specific colors with particular musical notes and keys. Various attempts were made to create an organ which could actually “play” colors in order to express this correspondence, however the technical difficulties could not be entirely overcome. Nonetheless, “between 1837 and 1925 more than three hundred works for ‘color organs’ . . . were published” (Miller 2002: 70). The most famous of these would be Scriabin’s dissonant symphony Prometheus: A Poem of Fire (1910). Using the same synaesthetic principle, a few intrepid Symbolists further imagined “musical” works composed of scents or flavors. In Against Nature, Huysmans, based on the argument that “it was no more abnormal that an art of selecting aromatic odours should exist, than others which separate out sound waves, or strike the retina of the eye with variously coloured rays of light,” had his protagonist experiment with creating olfactory and gustatory works of art (2009: 93). One actual olfactory work, entitled A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes and performed at a New York theater in 1902, featured a sequence of perfumes intended to evoke the Orient (Babbitt 1910: 182; see further Bradstreet 2010). The traditional counterpart to music was dance, the supposedly highest form of which was ballet. The flowing movements and garments of Symbolist dancers such as Isadora Duncan and Loie Fuller, however, indicated their



departure from the formal conventions of classical ballet. Regarding the relationship of her dance style to music, Fuller stated: “Music is the joy of the ears; I would wish to make it the delight of the eyes, to render it pictorial, to make it visible” (Fleischer 2007a: 16). Fuller clearly subordinated the kinesthetic experience of dance to its visual representation. Indeed, a good part of the attraction of her performances consisted of her use of innovative lighting and luminescent costumes (see Figure 8.5). Other dancers, notably Ruth St. Denis, sought a wider sensory appeal. In her piece Radha (1906), St. Denis played the role of a Hindu idol who comes to life in an incense-filled temple. Through a sequence of dances, Radha is shown exploring the pleasures of the five senses. Jewels signify the sense of sight, bells stimulate hearing, a garland of flowers arouses the sense of smell, a cup of wine, taste, and kisses given by Radha to her own hand convey her awakening to the sense of touch. Overwhelmed by these sensory impressions, Radha falls into a faint and then returns to being a statue. This piece (which seems partly inspired by Condillac’s meditation on the sensations of a vivified statue) tantalized audiences with its overt sensuality, but also reassured them with its apparent message of the need for sensory control and spiritual transcendence.

FIGURE 8.5: Portrait of Loie Fuller by Frederick Glasser. Public domain.



Symbolist theater provided a key venue for the staging of multimedia productions in which dance, poetry, music, and art were combined. Authors writing plays with strong Symbolist elements included Maurice Maeterlinck (The Blind, Pelléas and Mélisande), Oscar Wilde (Salome), Gabriel D’Annunzio (The Dead City, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian), and August Strindberg (The Dream Play, The Ghost Sonata). Despite their differences, works by these playwrights shared an innovative use of sensory symbolism. Sound and silence, movement and stillness, light and darkness, and even scent might be given as much importance as the spoken word. The actors themselves were often supposed to embody symbolic values rather than portray individual characters. To emphasize this they sometimes moved behind gauze curtains or wore masks. One Symbolist play that stands out for its sensory intricacy is Song of Songs by the artist and poet Paul-Napoléon Roinard. In this adaption of the Old Testament text, vowel sounds, music, movements, colors, and perfumes were coordinated to express through all possible channels the theme of spiritual love. The sensory orchestration began with an emphasis on the vowel sounds I and O, with music in D major, bright orange light, and the scent of white violets. Everything was in tune save the sympathies of the audience, who, when the play was performed in 1891, sneezed and laughed at the perfumes sprayed at them by Symbolist stagehands. Perhaps a more subtle technology for diffusing fragrances was needed, or perhaps the Parisian public was not ready to appreciate the poetic potential of smell (Fleisher 2007b). Many artists of the period were inspired to unite the senses and the arts by the ideal of the gesamtkunstwerk, or total artwork, popularized by Wagner in the mid-nineteenth century (Roberts 2011). Wagner took as his model ancient Greek tragedy with its combination of music and drama. Others, such as the novelist J.-K. Huysmans, saw Catholic ritual as providing a prototype of aesthetic integration (Huysmans 2011). The music critic Leonid Sabanayev wrote of the sensory plenitude of the Church: “Don’t we find there music (singing, sounds of bells), plastic movement (kneeling, ritual of priest’s action), play of smells (incense), play of lights (candles, lights), painting? All arts are united here in one harmonious whole . . .” (cited in Miller 2002: 71). Religious ritual also had, from the Symbolist perspective, the advantage of spiritual significance. Another model for the gesamtkunstwerk came from Japanese Kabuki theater, which seemed to parallel Symbolist theater in its stylization and suggestive sensory symbolism, as well as in its incorporation of music and dance. There were many forms in which the total artwork might be conceptualized. Wagner could see his own music dramas with their fusion of music, poetry, and drama as presenting aesthetic wholes. Debussy, who was repulsed by the



artificiality of Wagner’s productions, thought that the natural world should play a part in the aesthetic mix: “the very air, the movement of the leaves, and the perfume of flowers would work together in mysterious union with music which would thus bring all the elements into such natural harmony that it would seem to form a part of each” (cited in Vallas 1967: 11). Building on Symbolist critiques by Debussy and others, Kandinsky argued that for Wagner the gesamtkunstwerk was concerned only with a unity of external representations, whereas, ideally, it should convey internal “spiritual” correspondences (1994: 261). Kandinsky presented his own version of the total artwork in his “colortone dramas,” the best-known of which is The Yellow Sound (1909). This plotand-dialogue-free play presents a sequence of color-coded “dance-pictures” with orchestral and choral accompaniments which are intended to bring out emotional and spiritual resonances in the audience. At the same time as Kandinsky was breaking new ground with his plays, his countryman, the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, was at work on the most ambitious gesamtkunstwerk yet conceptualized. Scriabin planned to “transform the entire human body into a sounding board” of aesthetic impressions by involving all the senses and all the arts in a monumental work he called Mysterium (de Schloezer 1987: 84, 255–6). The choreography would include glances, looks, eye motions, touches of the hands, odors of both pleasant perfumes and acrid smokes, frankincense and myrrh. Pillars of incense would form part of the scenery. Lights, fires, and constantly changing lighting effects would pervade the cast and audience, each to number in the thousands (Bowers 1969: 253). As much a religious rite as an artistic performance, the mystically-minded composer intended the work to be performed in a speciallychosen site in India. While Mysterium was still at a preliminary stage at the time of Scriabin’s death in 1915, its conceptualization illustrates how “total” a total artwork could be.

THE SENSORY POETICS OF SPACE: ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLES Along with music and theater, architecture constituted a key domain for engaging multiple senses through the creation of a gesamtkunstwerk. In the case of architecture, creating a total work meant overseeing and integrating the exterior and interior design of a building, with landscaping and planting often taken into account as well. Due to the Gothic Revival of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the medieval cathedral or abbey served as an important inspiration for architects



interested in creating a total aesthetic and “spiritualized” environment, even before the notion of the gesamtkunstwerk became popular. In the first half of the nineteenth century we can see this occurring in the work of the Prussian architect and stage designer Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and in that of the English architect Augustus Pugin, who co-designed the Houses of Parliament. One of the most comprehensive large-scale examples of a total architectural, decorative, and landscaping ensemble from this period is Fonthill Abbey, a private residence designed at the turn of the nineteenth century by its owner, William Beckford, and the architect James Wyatt. Beckford found the primary model for his home in the great medieval monasteries of Southern Europe. (An English precedent can be found in Horace Walpole’s neo-Gothic Strawberry Hill residence, though this was belittled by Beckford as a “gothic mousetrap”; Bright 1984: 38.) With the erection of Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, Beckford hoped to create a secular counterpart to a monastic abbey which would inspire Romantic flights of fancy and provide a suitably dramatic setting for himself and his art collections. He also hoped to bring together all of the senses in one sublime ensemble of aesthetic effects. In his youth Beckford had written an Orientalist novel entitled Vathek which featured a caliph who created a palace for each of the senses. In Fonthill Abbey Beckford attempted to realize the sensory refinement he described in his novel in one palatial edifice. The impressive external views of the Abbey with its soaring central tower were matched by the vertiginous internal views up into the tower and the uninterrupted vista along the north-south axis. The main galleries were carpeted with crimson and dappled with colors from stained-glass windows. In the winter, aromatic woods were burnt and in the summer fragrant flowers perfumed the rooms. In the Abbey’s faux chapel, incense contributed a subversive (for England) aroma of Catholicism. Beckford, who was an accomplished amateur organist and composer, also provided his Abbey with an organ gallery (Gemmett 2003; Rutter 1822). A number of the features of the landscaped grounds mimicked those of the Abbey. The rugged outline of the forest duplicated the asymmetrical contours of the building. The walks shaded by overhanging trees corresponded to the interior galleries with their branching, vaulted ceilings. Aromatic plantings provided an outdoor counterpart to the perfumes indoors. Art and nature could thus be seen to complement each other within an integrated environment (see Marr 2001). Carefully positioned within the Abbey’s vast interiors were all the precious objects of Beckford’s collecting zeal: paintings, sculptures, vases, carvings, cameos, porcelain, manuscripts. The minute tactile impressions produced by



FIGURE 8.6: Neo-Gothic architecture: interior of the Great Western Hall, Fonthill

Abbey. John Rutter, Delineations of Fonthill and Its Abbey, London: Charles Knight and Co., 1823.



handling the craftwork which dominated the collection would have provided a powerful contrast with the sense of immensity created by the monumental spaces of the Abbey (see Figure 8.6). Beckford’s emphasis on craftwork, however, ran counter to the early nineteenth-century aesthetic trends discussed above. Indeed, one description of Beckford’s collection noted that “In our times pictures and statues only are deemed deserving . . . a modern Artist would probably throw a teacup . . . at his patron’s head [if asked to paint it]” (Macquin 1822: 77). With the craft revival of the latter nineteenth century, it became more acceptable for artists, architects, and collectors to concern themselves with craftwork, and to regard interior decoration as meriting the same aesthetic attention as architecture. This is exemplified by the Arts-and-Crafts-inspired Red House in London, a residence designed by William Morris and the architect Philip Webb in 1859. As in the case of Fonthill, the Red House evoked the Middle Ages, but rather than recreating the awe-inspiring forms of the Gothic cathedral, Morris’ house suggested the hominess of a medieval manor with its red-brick exterior and tiled roof. Morris and Webb, assisted by Edward BurneJones and other like-minded artists, designed medieval-style furniture, stained glass, embroideries, fabrics, and wallpapers for the house. These “fine art workmen,” as they called themselves, emphasizing the essential unity of artistic endeavor and manual labor, would go on to produce their work commercially as the firm of Morris & Company (Marsh 2005). The exterior landscape was planned as an extension of the Red House, with outdoor garden “rooms,” including a scented “room” of aromatic flowers. Morris wrote a poem celebrating his garden: I know a little garden-close Set thick with lily and red rose, Where I would wander if I might, And have one with me wandering. These lines were, in turn, embroidered on a bed coverlet used in the house (Jill et al. 1998). This sequence of aesthetic transformations offers a good example of the interrelation of art and craft, interior and exterior in the Red House. Although both Beckford and Morris wished their homes to be aesthetic and sensory unities which would evoke the Middle Ages, there were important differences in their approaches. Beckford was interested in theatricality and illusion. The greatest illusion was that Fonthill Abbey was an abbey, when even the residence’s “oratory” was never used for actual religious rites. The very



building itself was something of an illusion, as stuccowork and cement were employed to produce the appearance of medieval stonework. This does not seem to have troubled Beckford as he was concerned with effect, rather than authenticity. (Part of Fonthill Abbey, in fact, collapsed not long after it was built.) Morris, in contrast, upheld the value of honesty in workmanship (see further Barringer 2005). The Red House was not simply to be a theatrical set in which to show off collections and stage romantic recreations of medieval life (as Beckford did on the rare occasions he had visitors). It was to be a place in which a modern version of medievalism could be lived, as outlined in Morris’ utopian novel News from Nowhere (1890). Rather than wishing to escape from ordinary life into artistic fantasies and sublime sensations, as was the aim of many Romantics and their Symbolist successors, Morris emphasized the importance of making art part of ordinary life. Architecture was particularly conducive to this ideal as it offered the possibility of creating a work of art in which one could live and in which everyday sensations could become aesthetic experiences. A later exponent of Arts and Crafts ideals was the Scottish architect and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh, who was assisted by his wife and fellow artist, Margaret Macdonald, did not have the financial resources or patronage to enable him to fully realize his ideas (most of his architectural designs were never built). However, the work he did do, notably the Glasgow School of Art (1897–1909), demonstrates an attention to interior design characteristic of the architectural gesamtkunstwerk, though in this case carried out in the style of Art Nouveau.

ART, THE SENSES, AND SOCIETY The new ideas about art and the senses circulating in the nineteenth century had an effect far beyond that of immediate artistic circles. There were many who attended and were influenced by the salons, plays, and musical performances of the new artists. Indeed, at times the spectators at these events were themselves part of the spectacle, with their “aesthetic” clothing imitating those of characters in Symbolist plays or Pre-Raphaelite paintings (Pasler 1990). There were many more who, inspired by the new trends, held aesthetic soirées in which poetry was read, incense burnt and perhaps hashish smoked, or who attempted to create artful homes by purchasing or creating Art Nouveau-style furnishings and crafts (Zukowski 2006). These social ripples encouraged people to envision new aesthetic possibilities for the senses, including the previously unaesthetic, or “frivolous” sense of smell.



By rethinking the conventional ordering of the senses, however, the new movements not only challenged the ordering of the arts, but also the ordering of society—for, as noted above, the different senses were associated with particular social groups. Raising the so-called lower senses to the realm of art suggested an allied cultural elevation of the so-called lower races, classes, and sex. This correlation was emphasized by the artistic interest in exotic cultures, by the exaltation of manual labor in the Arts and Crafts movement, and by the aestheticization of such traditionally feminine crafts as embroidery and flower arranging. (In fact, for many Symbolists, the “feminized male” or androgyne presented an artistic and social ideal; Classen 1998: 122.) The crossing of sensory, artistic, and social boundaries in the new movements did, in fact, support a certain degree of integration of and respect for marginalized social and ethnic groups. Interest in Asian and “primitive” art fostered appreciation of often belittled non-Western cultures. The socialist politics favored by many artists of the period, notably in the Arts and Crafts movement, supported greater rights for workers (Silverman 1992; Waters 1990). Furthermore, rising nationalism in Europe encouraged artists to incorporate folk traditions and motifs into their “fine art” productions and thereby contribute to the creation of a communal identity. In this regard, the ideal of a union of the arts and the senses provided a useful model for promoting national unification. The attention given to the applied arts, in turn, gave a new cultural importance to women as traditional producers of decorative crafts. Many women during this period, indeed, were encouraged and partially-enabled by the new aesthetic values to move from being domestic creators of crafts to becoming professional artists (Silverman 1992: 186–206; Zipf 2007). However, the aesthetic movement also did much to promote stereotypes of non-Westerners, workers, and women. All three groups were customarily portrayed as guided by sensuous impulses rather than by reason. This was particularly evident in the case of women who, time and again, were presented as sensuous seductresses in contemporary art. Even when women were allied with spirituality, it was a mystical, irrational form of spirituality. (Among the Symbolists, representations of women generally played the same role as representations of smell, symbolizing sin, sanctity, or the mysterious powers of nature.) As regards female artists, the one field in which they were acknowledged leaders was dance, emphasizing the close association of women with their bodies. Nonetheless, many critics frowned upon the subversion of the social order implied by the mixing of the senses and the arts. The incorporation of “feminine” crafts and senses into the fine arts, for example, was ridiculed as a trivialization of art. This occurred even among fellow artists. The notably eye-



minded Odilon Redon described Moreau’s intricate paintings as “wonderful embroidery” wrought by an “old lady” (Jullian 1971: 89). Degas, who had strong conservative tendencies despite his artistic innovations, denounced the importance given to taste (and hence to femininity) by the aesthetes, declaring that “Art is killed by taste” (Jullian 1965: 90). The association of the “lower” senses with irrationality, in turn, led to fears that their employment in art might occasion a loss of cognitive ability. A critic of Symbolism wrote in Le Figaro, “There are those who laugh at the vapourisers of the Théatre d’Art, but can one be sure that the perfumes they exhale are not seriously turning our heads? I am inclined to think they are and I am starting to wonder if we are not losing the genius of our race: our reason” (cited in Whitton 1987: 31). The literary critic Irving Babbitt bluntly stated in The New Laokoon that “we can trace with special clearness in the romanticism of nineteenth-century France this tendency toward a hypertrophy of sensation and an atrophy of ideas, toward a constantly expanding sensorium and a diminishing intellect” (1910: 145). Similarly, the indeterminacy of many modern musical works and paintings seemed to some to suggest clouded judgment and weakness of character. One critique of Impressionist music and painting stated that they appear as “through a fog, a smoke.” The dissolute character of these works, it was suggested, might even produce physical illness. Listening to Debussy made one critic feel sick: the music, he declared, was spreading “germs . . . of decadence and death” (cited by Pasler 1990: 144). Although originally employed as a criticism, the label “decadent” was taken up by many Symbolist writers and artists to refer to their rejection of conventional social and “natural” orders. Inspired by the poet Arthur Rimbaud’s call to attain aesthetic transcendence by disordering the senses, they concocted “perverse” sensory fantasies intended to shock and thrill. In such cases it was no longer simply a matter of bringing all the senses together through art, but of cultivating exotic, disturbing sensations which would unsettle bourgeois minds. One of the strongest attacks against the sensory experiments of modern artists came in the form of a book called Degeneration. This was written in 1893 by the German physician and journalist Max Nordau. In Degeneration Nordau argued that the art of the day was not only a sign of social decay, but, in fact, the product of physical and mental illness. The vibrating colors depicted by the Impressionists, for example, were said by Nordau to be the result of “trembling eyes” caused by “effeminate” hysteria (1910: 27, 501–3). The interest manifested by certain artists in odors, in turn, was deemed to be an evident sign of physical degeneration.



“In order to inspire a man with . . . abstract concepts by scents alone; to make him conceive the phenomenon of the world, its changes and causes of motion, by a succession of perfumes, his frontal lobe must be depressed and the olfactory lobe of a dog substituted for it” (Nordau 1910: 503). Fortunately, according to Nordau, the “sensory degenerates” of the late nineteenth century would soon be obsolete, for strong-minded men with clearly differentiated senses would be needed to meet the technological challenges of the new, twentieth century (1910: 142, 541).

MODERN SENSATIONS: THE AVANT-GARDE AND FUTURISM As Nordau and other critics noted, there was a tendency in Romanticism and its offshoots to retreat from the realities of the modern industrial world into idealized fantasy worlds, whether of nature, of the past, of mysticism, or of aesthetic artifice. “Anywhere out of this world,” was the motto of the protagonist of Against Nature. At the turn of the twentieth century, however, growing numbers of “avant-garde” artists chose to confront and incorporate the facts of modern life in their work. Avant-garde works such as Marcel Duchamp’s robotic Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912) and Fernand Leger’s elegant but bleak The City (1919) made it clear that there was no turning away from the impact of the “machine age.” The more alien the external world appeared, the more the inner world of emotions was thrown into relief. Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893), showing the artist against a lurid, swirling sunset crying out and clasping his hands over his ears, seemed to express the anguish of the modern individual in a hostile world at the same time as it transposed an auditory and emotional experience onto a visual plane. Following the lead of Munch and others, the Expressionist movement took up the theme of alienation and angst in works which emphasized subjective emotions over external representation. In Expressionist paintings the world looked the way it presumably felt to the “modern man”: overwhelming and antagonistic. Sight served as neither the sense of reason nor the medium of visionary insight, but rather of emotional intensity, expressed through jarring colors and distorted forms. The experience of the fragmented nature of modern life was, in turn, conveyed by the kaleidoscopic colors of Robert and Sonia Delaunay and the Orphists, by the multi-perspectivalism of the Cubists—most famously represented in Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)—and by experiments by Picasso, Georges Braques, and others with collage. Non-objective forms of art completely



discarded the artistic convention of representing the world as a recognizable picture. Instead geometries of lines and colors offered up new, “meaningless” or “meaning-free” possibilities for revisioning the world. Such aesthetic fracturing of the visual world did not, however, diminish the cultural power of sight but rather emphasized its importance in modern modes of perception and interpretation. Though avant-garde in his artistic practice, Delaunay, for example, maintained a traditional view of the primacy of sight: “The Eye is our highest sense, the one that communicates most closely with our brain, our consciousness . . . Our comprehension is correlative with our perception. Let us try to see” (cited in Buckberrough 1982: 245–6). Despite such wide-eyed assertions, certain artists and composers allied with Expressionism, notably Wassily Kandinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, continued to explore the aesthetic possibilities of combining the senses. The avant-garde movement which went the furthest in advancing the nineteenth-century project to include all of the senses in art, however, was Futurism, founded in Italy in 1909. While the Futurists shared the Symbolists’ interest in the senses, they presented themselves as their ideological opposites. Whereas the Symbolists spurned science and technology, the Futurists celebrated them: “Our forebears drew their inspiration from a religious atmosphere which fed their souls; in the same way we must breathe in the tangible miracles of contemporary life—the iron network of speedy communication which envelops the earth, the transatlantic liners . . .” (Boccioni et al. 1973: 25). The Symbolists had painted by moonlight, as it were; the Futurists wished their work to be illuminated by electricity. The Futuristic version of the gesamtkunstwerk involved “THE CHAOTIC, UNAESTHETIC AND HEEDLESS MIXING OF ALL THE ARTS,” as Carlo Carrà boldly proclaimed in “The painting of sounds, noises and smells” (1973: 114). Sensations hence were to clash as much as to correspond. “A new beauty is born today,” announced Marinetti, “from the chaos of the new contradictory sensibilities” cultivated by the Futurists (1973: 154). The kinds of sensations to be brought into this mix were precisely those despised by romantic sensibilities— “a whiff of steam from a locomotive and the febrile, crowded pulsation of modern life” (Corra and Settimelli 1973: 147). While the advent of the Great War in 1914 confirmed the dehumanizing character of contemporary life for many artists, the founders of Futurism chose to view modern warfare as exemplifying the technological power and chaotic sensations they celebrated in their work. As with Romanticism and Symbolism, while many women participated in Futurism, they were largely marginalized by the ongoing emphasis on masculine



prowess. Indeed, in order to counter the Symbolist tendency towards “feminization,” the Futurists played up “masculine virtues” of strength and aggression. The touches and odors valued by the Futurists were not the traditionally feminine ones of caresses and perfumes, but “virile” ones of mechanical vibration and working-class sweat. The Futurists’ aestheticization of working-class sensations was, in fact, linked to attempts by some participants in the movement to use their art to further the cause of proletarian revolution (Poggi 2009: 93–4). Their desire to create an invigorated Italian national identity would also lead to an uneasy and controversial alliance with the Fascist Party in Italy. Characteristic works of the new movement, whose influence reached as far as Russia and Japan, include the paintings Jolts of a Cab (1911) by Carlo Carrà, The Speed of an Automobile (1913) by Giacomo Balla, Street Noises Invade the House (1911) by Umberto Boccioni, and Boccioni’s sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), which depicts in bronze the sensations of wind and movement experienced by a walking man (see Figure 8.7). The literary leader of the movement, F. T. Marinetti, specialized in provocative manifestos. However, he also showed his interest in new forms of sensory expression in poems such as “Battle, Weight + Odor” (1912) and “Zang Tumb Tumb” (1914). The painter and composer Luigi Russolo explored creating music out of noise, making use of specially designed noise-makers he called intonarumari. In 1914 Antonio Sant’Elia published the Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, which developed the notion of the modern city as a machine, in which every part contributed to the efficiency and dynamism of the whole. (Following the same line of thinking the French architect Le Corbusier would later famously call a house “a machine for living in”; Timmerman 2007). Futurist artists would also experiment with photography, film, interior design, and fashion. In the field of theater they advocated “throwing nets of sensation between stage and audience” to encourage audience participation (Marinetti et al. 1973: 196). The concern to engage all the senses would also lead to the creation of a tactile art form in 1921 and, later, to a Futurist “cuisine” (Marinetti 1989). While the visual styles of Futurism would have a significant impact on twentieth-century art and popular culture, their multisensoriality would prove much less influential. Indeed, despite all of the ways in which it was challenged, the paradigm of the separation and hierarchization of the arts and the senses continued to play a formative role in the new century. This can be attributed in part to a desire for order after the traumatic disorder of the First World War. The spread of industrialization, with its emphasis on the separation of



FIGURE 8.7: Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni, 1913. The

Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images.



functions, also played a role. Nonetheless, the pioneering experiments in sensory aesthetics undertaken in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would prove an important source of inspiration for modern artists willing to decompartmentalize their senses and imagine alternative ways of perceiving the world through art.


Sensory Media: The World Without and the World Within alison griffiths

The nineteenth century created unprecedented opportunities for heightened sensory engagement with an array of new sights, sounds, smells, and tactile experiences in cities across Europe, Asia, and the United States. Metropolitan hubs were melting pots where an influx of peoples from the hinterlands contributed to the visual and aural cacophony of exotic bodies and strange tongues. Cities throbbed as architectural, technological, social, and cultural changes melded the old with the new, the familiar with the foreign. Aside from improvements to infrastructure such as public utilities and mass transportation, the city was transformed by the invention of the new media technologies of photography, telegraphy, the telephone, phonograph, and motion picture. These technologies ushered in new modes of perception, sensation, and somatic engagement with the world: they were part of an entire lexicon of material and perceptual recalibrations that citizens made in the modern world; as media historian Lisa Gitelman argues in Always Already New, “media mudd[ied] the map,” affecting business, culture, the arts, social, and interpersonal relationships (Gitelman 2008: 4–5). Whether viewed as the scientific instruments of society or as engendering new chronotypes of human behavior, new media certainly did matter, and on the subject of the senses, they mattered a great deal. 211



The nineteenth century witnessed what Richard Menke called an emergent “culture of information” that “both reflected and inspired the creation of new media” (Menke 2008: 5). As technological, social, and cultural formations that harnessed the magical power of electricity (in all except photography), new media were persistently associated with paranormal or spiritual phenomena, part and parcel of a utopian technophilia that shaped much of the discourse on nineteenth-century electronic media (Sconce 2000: 22). Where one encountered a new media form in the late nineteenth century also mattered a great deal in terms of power relations, fantasies of omnipotence, and questions of human agency. Photography, the phonograph, and motion pictures found homes in both public spaces such as world’s fairs, scientific meetings, and other public forums, and in the private realm of the parlor, where the rhythms of domestic life personalized the experience. The telegraph made communication across these spaces instantaneous and its social benefits went beyond the diffusion of knowledge to include “collective amity, even the prevention of crime” (Menke 2008: 92). According to the 1873 Handbook of the Electric Telegraph, “crime, to a great extent, must cease, from the impossibility of commission without detection” (Handbook 1873: v, cited in Menke 2008: 92). The telegraph’s annihilation of time and space assisted law enforcement in crime detection, since information about suspects could circulate with greater speed, thus aiding capture of the criminal. This chapter explores how new media affected the balance of the senses, how they privileged structures of feeling and topoi of sensory pleasure in two distinct, yet surprisingly similar, public spheres: the field of ethnographic representation and the penitentiary. The senses were engaged in fundamentally different, yet paradoxically proximate, ways in each of these spaces, which attempted to control and reform bodies with varying degrees of success. As sites presenting native peoples in diorama life groups (mannequins posed in illusionistic settings behind glass) and living villages in world’s fairs and expositions or prisoners incarcerated in the penitentiary, the museum and prison were reformative spaces, governed by paternalistic ideals, incorporating both spectators and the objects of their gaze who crossed their institutional doorways into disciplinary regimes that were uncannily similar in their furthering of normative values about race, gender, and the nation.

NEW MEDIA, ETHNOGRAPHY, AND THE SENSES New things to look at were a defining feature of life in the mid to late nineteenth century. Social life in the big city, as German sociologist Georg Simmel argued,



provided a “great preponderance of occasions to see rather than hear people” as a direct result of the time people increasingly spent staring at the person sitting opposite or next to them on streetcars, omnibuses, and railroads (Simmel cited in Otter 2008: 23), and photographs of urban life (including tourist images of slums, prisons, and insane asylums) were enlisted in the project of documenting the travails of the underclass as well as the triumphs of those in power. Photography facilitated virtual travel to the near and far, even to the life hereafter as spiritualists brought back the dead through the use of techniques such as double exposure (see Chéroux et al. 2004: 45–71; Gunning 1995). Photography’s emergence in the 1830s, the culmination of experiments by Louis Daguerre, Nicéphore Niépce, and William Fox Talbot, held out great promise for amateur explorers and scientists who were eager to add this latest device to their arsenal of techniques for recording information about the world’s exotic peoples (see Gernsheim 1986; Gernsheim and Gernsheim 1995). As I have shown elsewhere, by the mid-nineteenth century, photographs of native peoples circulated in a wide range of venues, in an equally wide variety of forms, including photographic albums, books, magic lantern slides, postcards, carte-de-visites, stereographs, cabinet cards, and newspaper and magazine illustrations (Griffiths 2002: 86–124). Thanks to its mass reproduction and portability, photography’s ubiquity was something of a double-edged sword for scientists, especially as anthropology was professionalized toward the end of the nineteenth century. While photography’s seeming objectivity and difference from non-indexical methods of ethnographic inscription such as engravings, sketches, diagrams, and written accounts might have placed it in a category of its own, its reality effect was eventually challenged (or at minimum critiqued) as anthropologists questioned the veracity of the indexical and returned to their familiar pens and paper. And given that photographs shot by trained scientists for professional use and those made by amateurs and tourists circulated (and were even published) in both professional journals and popular magazines, issues of accreditation, the enunciation of ethnographic knowledge, and crosspollination of iconographic tropes were troubling and unavoidable. If anthropologists were obsessed with recording visual data about native peoples—anthropometric photographers posed subjects in front of grid-like backgrounds standing next to wooden measuring devices—they were nonetheless fully aware of the inherently sensual nature of the ethnographic encounter, something photography could only hint at through photographing indigenous people against illusionistic backdrops. For example, studio portraitist J. W. Lindt shot Australian Aborigine Clarence River in his studio sitting naked on an animal skin in front of a painted backdrop surrounded by



corroborating flora and material culture including a boomerang and fishing net. River’s awkward and slightly ridiculous pose reinforces Daniel Novak’s argument that “rather than being bound by time, frozen in place, the impressionable, incoherent, and interchangeable photographic subject is always already out of place and time” (Novak 2011: 70). Photographed in a non-place (photographic studio) and indeterminate time, the hint of sadness in River’s eyes gazing out of the frame away from the camera imbues this image with an emotional power, evocative of Roland Barthes’s punctum, the inimitable detail in a photograph that carries its emotional and, I would argue, its sensory weight (Barthes 1981: 27). But River was a professional, part of a traveling troupe of Australian Aboriginal performers, so this was all just part of a day’s work and once the shoot was over, he slipped back into his clothes and readied for his next appearance. Photographs such as that of Clarence River from the early 1870s changed people’s understanding and perception of the world in several ways; they enshrined ideas about cultural difference, memorialized special occasions, promoted new experiences and products, and supported (and in some instances replaced) written records of people, places, and events. As cameras became easier to use and photography a pastime for a larger swath of the population, views of virtually everywhere and everything could be bought, held in the hand, framed, sold, exchanged, loaned, and secreted away as keepsakes. And just as photographs became enshrined in all manner of institutional, social, and cultural practices, from using Alphonse Bertillon’s system for identifying criminals to memorializing the death of a child in funerary photography, as material artifacts photographs engaged not just the visual register but touch and smell as well; the crinkled edges of a photograph, its glossy or matt surface along with its smell (often contingent on where it had been stored) triggered a corporeal engagement that was heavily and headily sensorial. Individuals sometimes assessed the material (and nonmaterial in the case of smell) properties of photographs unconsciously and absorbed subtle details that may have triggered all manner of associations. Color added other sensations; experiments in color photography began in the mid-nineteenth century and French cinema pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière introduced the autochrome system, the first commercially successful motion picture color process, in 1907. Photographs are powerful examples of sensory media and the practice of enframement, which included “ritual, storytelling, or most obviously, placing the valuable substance or object into a fitting container,” heightened this effect. For example, placing locks of hair into a locket with a photograph of a loved one created a reliquary that medievalist Cynthia Hahn



argues “constitutes as its very mission the support of memory” (Hahn 2011: 9). Both photograph and hair share an uncanny correspondence to their signifier and are sensual insofar as they leave traces of what has been or seen, and evoke the body without ever fully re-constituting it. It was the telegraph, however, that most engendered ideas of “presence,” what Jeffrey Sconce calls an “animating, at times occult sense of ‘liveness’” that is vital in understanding the emergence of electronic media as not only a technology but the site of projected fantasies about life, death, romance, and a new way of engaging with the modern world (Sconce 2000: 6). Experiments in electric telegraphy conducted by the German physician, anatomist and inventor Samuel Thomas von Süommering in 1809 could only communicate messages a few kilometers in distance and required multiple wires. Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber built an electromagnetic telegraph in Göttingen in 1833, connecting Göttingen Observatory and the Institute of Physics; this was followed three years later by Dr. David Alter’s first American electric telegraph. Commercial uses of the electric telegraph co-developed by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone began on the Great Western Railway in Britain in 1837, running 13 miles from Paddington to West Drayton stations (see Beauchamp 1999; Blondheim 1994; Hubbard 1965). Telegraphy’s ability to collapse spatial and temporal barriers fascinated Victorian commentators who, as historian of science Iwan Rhys Morus argues, waxed lyrically about the telegraph’s ability to break down national boundaries, increase commerce, and institute disciplinary regimes (Morus 2000: 455–75; see also Morus 1996: 339–78). Telegraph messaging demanded standardized, terse communication, eliminating idiomatic speech and forcing compliance to its codes of transmission; freeing the message from the mode of communication, the telegraph could reach people virtually anywhere. In this respect, the telegraph shared a discursive function with the ethnographic “living village” found in world’s fairs and expositions, a reconstruction of a native village where performers re-enacted aspects of their lives—material culture production such as basket weaving, cultural rituals, dance, and more prosaic activities such as childcare for the duration of the fair, living in situ for sometimes as long as eighteen months (see Rony 1996: 21–44). In both the telegraph and ethnographic “living village,” time and space were bridged (a replica of Gauss and Weber’s electromagnetic telegraph was created for the Vienna World Exposition of 1873). And just as the telegraph served as a metaphor for the nervous system and as a means to discipline and control the body politic, so too did the living village. Cordoned off from the larger fair either through a low brick wall, roped fence, or other means of demarcation, the living village was



telegraphic in the sense that it distilled into a three-dimensional enclosure synechdochal highlights of an indigenous group of people. And if the telegraph and living village were both hailed as miraculous, they differed in one important respect: telegraphy, as Menke reminds us, “signifies electric information that lacks a corporeal body, and that seems identifiable with no body in particular,” whereas the ethnographic village was all about the body, a racialized body that provoked complex responses from fairground officials and spectators. Native peoples were displayed at world’s fairs no differently to other spoils of empire, but unlike photographs, the performers in the living villages were very much alive, seeing, hearing, touching, and smelling subjects who returned the gaze and whose bodies sometimes brushed against those of other fairgoers as they became part of the midway. Physical contact with Euro-American fairgoers did not come without risk, however, as outbursts of racial hostilities, as occurred at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876, were not atypical (Howells 1876: 97, cited in Rydell 1997: 14, 63). The human sensorium was most definitely on high alert throughout the world’s fair experience. Moreover, the hegemony of the visual as the primary means for encountering the ethnographic Other was challenged, as auditory, haptic, and olfactory sensations transformed living villages into multisensory experiences. The ability to touch native peoples, something showmen exhibiting indigenous peoples and freak show managers scripted into the performance, although not sanctioned in the anthropologicallyendorsed exhibits at world’s fairs and expositions, played into transgressive fantasies about the Other. Touch, “regarded as the least regulated of sense, [and] frequently appropriated for the purposes of exploring presumably authentic and unmediated human experience,” got people into all sorts of trouble, as Constance Classen points out in The Deepest Sense, since criminal behavior was very often about unlawful touching of property and persons (Classen 2012; Colligan and Linley 2011: 4). One year after the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, Thomas Alva Edison announced the invention of the phonograph, a device for recording and reproducing sound that was patented on February 19, 1878. Though also deemed miraculous and exploited by showmen for the first couple of years, its novelty soon worn off, and, as Rick Altman argues in Silent Film Sound, Edison did not return to the subject of recorded sound until the gramophone was perfected by rivals Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester A. Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter. Edison had been interested in the synthesis of sound and moving image since 1887 (or so he claimed in a statement made in 1894), and from 1884 to 1895, W. K. Laurie Dixon headed Edison’s team to perfect a system whereby “motion and sound could be recorded and reproduced



simultaneously” (Altman 2004: 78; see Spehr 2004: 82–92).1 The phonograph’s emergence was an accidental outgrowth of Edison’s desire to perfect a device for transcribing telegraphic messages. Its uncanny abilities to reproduce the spoken word or sound made it a sure-fire hit with audiences, as traveling phonograph shows were typically structured around the before and after pattern of the visual cuing of the sound source (speech, music, a dog’s bark) followed by its phonographic repetition; as Altman argues, “the quality or interest of any particular sound was less important than its match to the original” (Altman 2004: 79; see Gitelman 2008: 25–57). Efforts to synchronize sound with moving image were undertaken by scientists as well as individuals with more commercial interests. British anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon included the phonograph as a data-gathering device in his 1898 expedition to Mer Island (part of the Torres Strait off the north-east coast of Australia). Experimental psychology student and expedition party member Charles Myers was responsible for the phonographic recordings which, in addition to native song and language, included the sound of a Mer Island woman crying following the death of her baby (Myers 1898–9, cited in Griffiths 2002: 134, n. 18). It is interesting to speculate as to why Myers chose to include the sound of a Mer woman’s grief-stricken wails among more culturally and linguistically-specific recordings; how would crying betray traces of the culture? Would the sound of the woman’s voice tell Myers anything specific about Mer Islander grieving practices or was it so primal, so trans-cultural, and so transcendent even that it bespoke something essential about the human condition? (Myers was training to be an experimental psychologist under the supervision of W. H. R. Rivers.) Re-living the grief sonically speaks to historian of sound John M. Picker’s argument about Victorian responses to the phonograph, which he claims were “inherently more personal and interactive than modernist ones to the gramophone” (Picker 2003: 112, 117). The phonograph was linked to death in other ways too; its ability to record “last words” by dying individuals shared an uncanny correspondence to the death mask, insofar as both provided indexical traces of that which had once lived. In fact, Edison’s British overseas agent, Colonel George E. Gouraud, a key proponent of the phonograph in the UK, displayed a strange propensity for recording the deathly and dying, a logical application of the phonograph in the era before mass-produced playback machines and disks replaced the phonograph (Picker 2003: 117). Edison, too, foresaw the salvage ethnography possibilities of phonography, telling an interviewer in 1878 that his device could be used to stave off the extinction of the Onondagas and Tuscaroras Indian languages (Edison called them “accents”), which were believed to be on the brink of extinction (Gitelman 2008: 32).



FIGURE 9.1: Capturing native voices: a recording session with a Blackfoot chief. Library of Congress.

The mechanical reproduction of sound and voice emerged in an “age of auscultation” in which listening was not only heightened through such inventions as the stethoscope but also associated with suffering; as Picker argues, “in more ways than one, Victorians were hearing things . . . and in newly amplified forms, as voice, noise, vibration, music, and electric echo” (Picker 2003: 4, 13). Sound



could be experienced as either the work of magic and strangely divorced from the body, as in the phonograph or its unmistakably corporeal antithesis, the noisy street musician, construction worker, or barker. Organ grinders not only drove some London residents crazy in the early nineteenth century but also symbolized a slackening of national borders. An influx of foreigners, who unlike the native peoples performing at the Egyptian Hall or exposition, were free to roam the city and encroached upon the private lives of the middle and upper classes. The performer’s music thus became “a ‘lawless’ other, a threatening double to the respectable concert or drawing-room recital” (Picker 2003: 63).2 In an age of empire, sound was culturally coded, value oriented, and invested with considerable semiotic meaning. The noisy bodies of the street musicians (they became one with their instruments which were strapped to their bodies) can be contrasted with the disembodied noise produced by the phonograph. And whereas the phonograph was framed as an uncanny scientific discovery that did the rounds on the lecture circuit with a trained operator, the music from the street organ was eventually associated with nostalgia, what Picker calls “quaint curiosities, exotic reminders of the life that once animated metropolitan streets” (Picker 2003: 77). The uncanny powers of the phonograph to seemingly resurrect the dead (at least the sound of their voices) were outdone, however, with the emergence of motion pictures in 1894. Russian author Maxim Gorky’s oft-cited recollection of seeing film for the first time at a demonstration of the Lumière Brothers, Cinématographe show in Russia is famous for underscoring how sensorially discombobulating it felt for Gorky to view motion pictures: Last night I was in the kingdom of shadows. It is a world without sound, without colour . . . The smiles are lifeless, even though their movements are full of living energy . . . Their laughter is soundless, although you see the muscles contracting in their grey faces. . . It is terrifying to see, but it is the movement of shadows, only of shadows. Curses and ghosts, the evil spirits that have cast entire cities into eternal sleep, come to mind and you feel as though Merlin’s vicious trick is being enacted before you. Gorky [1896] 1996 Cinema was not so much hyper-real for Gorky as impoverished, uncanny, contradictory, and unsettling; its liminality, its status as an absent presence affected Gorky deeply as he equated motion pictures with sorcery. One is reminded here of the nineteenth-century Phantasmagoria Show, a spectacular trompe l’oeil in which lanternists, using mirrors and lighting effects, created



the illusion of ghostly apparitions floating through the air toward a terrified audience. Several things about motion pictures affected the senses, but the most affecting was French film theorist André Bazin’s idea of the mummy complex, cinema’s ability to preserve the deceased just as the Egyptians had embalmed their leaders (Bazin 1960: 4–9). Like photographs and other technologies of virtual transport such as the nineteenth-century panorama, which as a result of its newspaper function can be considered the first mass visual medium, motion pictures looked back to earlier visual technologies as well as forward into twentieth-century electronic media. And while cinema shared certain phenomenological similarities with panoramas— they both privileged spatial and temporal dislocation, discourses of armchair travel, and via distinct means, a sense of immersion—the panorama was by no means a stepping stone to motion pictures, ebbing and flowing throughout the nineteenth century, existing simultaneously with cinema, and undergoing formal experimentation (see Griffiths 2008: 37–78). As Vanessa Schwartz has shown in her work on mass culture in fin-de-siècle Paris, panoramas shared the popular cultural stage with other spectacular realities such as the display of bodies in the morgue, waxworks in the Musée Grévin, and early cinema (Schwartz 1998). Embodied spectatorship through heightened sensory engagement was a prerequisite for commercial entertainments that comprised the entire “o-rama” craze in the nineteenth century; verisimilitude and the insertion of the spectator into the spectacle were prerequisites in the construction of the illusion, and rather than threatening panoramas, as Schwartz argues, motion pictures were incorporated into the display. For example, in 1898 Louis Régnault opened the “Mareorama” in Paris, a simulated boat ride lasting thirty minutes that took as many as 700 passengers to various Mediterranean ports (see Figure 9.2). When the lights dimmed on the ride, “instead of a painted canvas rolling by, visitors watched ‘movies’ of coastal views photographed from boats.” Incorporating a moving platform and compressed air to simulate wind and waves, the Mareorama rocked back and forth, more or less vigorously depending on the external vista; the multisensory experience was explicitly referenced in the program, which claimed that it would “make an impact on all of the senses at once and . . . obtain the most complete realistic effect” (Schwartz 1998: 171). Panoramic perception, as Wolfgang Schivelbusch argues in The Railway Journey, symbolized a new way of seeing the world; space, time, and motion were recalibrated as the train annihilated distances. The image of the world rushing past the window, reminiscent perhaps of a speeded-up moving panorama, which unlike its circular panoramic cousin consisted of a huge canvas that slowly scrolled past a seated audience, served as a potent metaphor for cinema



FIGURE 9.2: A virtual voyage: the Mareorama. Scientific American (September 29,


(see Schivelbusch 1987). This view out of the side window or, more thrillingly, from the front of a train or other moving vehicle, is known as the phantom ride in cinema, and in G. Albert Smith’s three-shot film A Kiss in the Tunnel (1899) provided the opening and closing shots in one of the earliest multi-shot films (a man kissing a woman in the darkened tunnel serves as the middle shot). Sharing the organizing principle of contemporary dark-rides at theme parks, the phantom ride became a trademark shot of Imax cinema, the sensation of penetrating space a signature feature of so many early transportation films.



In an age of empire, motion pictures performed much of the same discursive work as world’s fair living villages, shoring up colonialist projects, entrenching myths about racialized hierarchies, and commodifying indigenous culture into readily consumable visual spectacle. In this respect, motion pictures were a logical outgrowth of the vibrant visual culture of the fairground Midway; Little Egypt was the stage name for at least three popular belly dancers, one of whom, Fatima Djamile, was the subject of two Edison films: Coochee Coochee made in 1896 and Fatima from 1897.3 Little Egypt became a synonym for belly dances in general and several of these dancers performed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. So worried was Edison that Fatima’s exposed midriff and erotic gyrations might deliver almost as much sensory thrill as the live performance that he created a censored version of the film in which Fatima’s torso is covered by what looks like a white picket fence across the center of the frame. As a symbol of parochialism and small-town American values, the white picket fence is ironic, since it becomes a literal overlaying of prurient values over insalubrious ones, and yet because we can still make out Fatima’s body from behind the bars, the picket fence ultimately fails. Edison’s Coochee Coochee film transformed the place-bound experience of the Little Egypt belly dance into a circulating commodity that continued to make money, even after the show was over. And if the film fell short of the live experience of watching Fatima do her dance, it nevertheless brought Fatima to a far larger audience and over a longer period of time. In France, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière debuted their cinematographe in Paris in 1895 at the Salon Indien du Grand Café; unlike Edison’s, their camera was peripatetic from the start, making films that shored up French nationalism and brought exotic peoples closer to home through a number of titles such as Arab Cortege (1897) (see Musser 2004: 15–30). In addition to re-signifying the discursive and aesthetic logics of the world’s fair living village; ethnographic film was also indebted to the museum life group, the subject of the first of our two mini-case studies on the operationalization of sensory media in the hallowed halls of the museum and the dank cells of the penitentiary.

THE WORLD WITHOUT: MEDIA AND THE SENSES IN THE MUSEUM Museums were spaces of wonder for nineteenth-century metropolitan and provincial audiences. Whether entranced by the technological sublime of watching a machine in motion at the South Kensington Museum in London (today’s Science Museum), staring at a taxidermy specimen through the glass



at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City, or wandering the quiet corridors of a modest small-town museum where rows upon rows of stuffed birds lined the walls, the nineteenth-century museum was a portal to the “world without,” where the spoils of empire and dazzling products of scientific discovery and the Industrial Revolution were proudly on display (see Griffiths 2002: 3–45, 2008: 159–94). Natural history museums can be considered residual spaces, giant silos where the loot from world’s fairs secured permanent homes; for example, the Field Museum in Chicago absorbed a great deal of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, as did the Science Museum, which ended up with the objects from London’s Great Exhibition of 1851. As I have argued elsewhere, museums, like world’s fairs and expositions, occupied a liminal zone, neither fully part of the world nor completely outside it, brimming over with objects that through the act of display were transformed into collections. Policed by uniformed guards, museums were the outposts of empire, giant department stores showcasing Western imperialist might, the material legacy of colonialist expansion, and plastic and hyperrealist methods of display. Museum designers learnt a great deal from exhibition techniques that had been tried and tested at world’s fairs; at the same time, curators struggled to maintain a careful balance between sanctioned, so-called scientific framing mechanisms on the one hand, and the visually striking cornucopia of the department store, dime museum, and Midway on the other.4 It’s no surprise, then, that one of the most popular exhibits in museums of natural history—both in the late nineteenth century and today—was the habitat group, a glass enclosed display case containing taxidermy specimens contextualized with natural flora. An enigmatic signifier over-determined by discourses of magic, wonder, death, adventure, loss, and the uncanny, taxidermy’s mode of address, its status as an absent presence, is reminiscent of cinema; as signifying devices, both motion pictures and taxidermy perform visual alchemy, bringing back the dead through different forms of mummification (taxidermy on the one hand, photorealism and the illusion of movement on the other). The habitat group, a naturalistic diorama with painted backgrounds and an admixture of re-created and preserved specimens, contextualized the taxidermy, shoring up its reality effect via a pop-up story book aesthetic. The sensation of approaching the exhibit was akin to looking out through a very large picture window into a frozen moment in time. One of the earliest life groups to appear at the AMNH was Jules Verreaux’s “Arab Courier Attacked by Lions,” first displayed at the Museum’s original 5th Avenue location in 1869. Winning a gold medal when it was displayed in the “Maison Verreaux” at the 1869 Paris Exposition, the sensationalist display depicts a lion that has



reared up on its hind legs to try and bring down a camel and its driver (another lion lies on the ground next to the camel). Exploiting popular orientalist iconography, the group hit a home run with its integration of taxidermy and human form in the same display; the sensation of arrested motion contributes to the overall effect, since to capture this in real life would have been next to impossible. The AMNH minced few words justifying the inclusion of such a dramatic group; AMNH Director Frederic A. Lucas said the group was an attempt to “show life and action and an effort to arrest the attention and arouse the interest of the spectator” (Lucas 1814: 10). The group performed a similar ideological function to the yet-to-be-established field of modern advertising. It had the desired effect of piquing the interest of spectators who might be more motivated to take an interest in surrounding display cases once they had drunk in the visual excesses of the “Arab” group. In light of shared phenomenological correspondences across habitat and museum life groups (plaster-cast mannequins of indigenous peoples), it’s not hard to imagine that spectators made a similar associative leap when they traded standing in front of a life group to sitting in the auditorium to watch an ethnographic film. The organizational principles of the habitat and life group were re-signified in motion pictures; spectators sat before a giant screen that projected images from another time and place. Captions accompanying the habitat and life groups were substituted by the presence of a live lecturer in the film screening and by intertitles that were more common in film after 1903, although appeared as early as 1901 in a film adaptation of Scrooge, Or Marley’s Ghost. But life groups and motion pictures were linked phenomenologically in other ways as well; in both, spectators were psychically transported to the bracketed time of the illusion and while this doubtless contributed to their appeal with museum-goers, it generated consternation in some anthropologists and curators who worried that the heightened illusionism of the exhibit would undermine the ethnographic object lesson. The senses were piqued when consuming both of these displays; each had strength and weaknesses with regards to issues of verisimilitude (how they magically conjured up their absent referents). In both, the bodies of the ethnographic Other were the site of projected fantasies and sensory pleasure; real-looking hair and skin in the life group versus larger-than-scale faces and movement in the motion picture. Cultural anthropologist Franz Boas’ 1896 suggestions for the optimal viewing conditions of life groups could well be a description of an early motion picture theater; according to Boas: “In order to set off such a group to advantage it must be seen from one side only, the view must be through a kind of frame which shuts out the line where the scene ends, the visitor must be in a



comparatively dark place while there must be light on the objects and on the background” (Putnam [1896] 1985, cited in Jacknis 1985: 102). Film screenings at the AMNH, which began in 1908, were decidedly multimedia affairs, involving material artifacts, magic lantern slides, and live music, either in the form of piano accompaniment or the demonstration of indigenous instruments during a screening. Natural history and science museums began showing films shortly after the emergence of motion pictures for several reasons: to get with the times and spice up otherwise dry lectures; to document a recent expedition; and to attract a broad-based audience. Stand-alone screenings were just one of the ways museums used films; motion pictures were also used in lectures, the same footage sometimes recycled across lectures and even re-purposed for an entirely different talk. Until the late 1920s and the invention of the Dramagraph, a viewer-activated stand-alone viewing device that looped short films and could be stationed in the gallery next to an exhibit, motion pictures were seldom shown in the gallery, since the logistics of setting up a projector and screen, expense of hiring a projectionist, and building code which prohibited film screenings without a fire-proof booth, served as deterrents (see Griffiths 2008: 243–6). That said, long before screens became ubiquitous in galleries, visitors would have been accustomed to seeing all manner of residual media such as photographic transparencies displayed backlit so that the image beckoned the visitor and provided indexical proof of the animal, tribe, or phenomena. Recorded sound was also used in the gallery. For example, gramophones provided commentary on photographs and objects on display in some of the galleries of the 1908 International Tuberculosis Exhibit at the AMNH, and while there is no extant discussion of a rationale for their use, one cannot help think that the novelty alone of the technique (gramophones were not used routinely in museum displays until the 1930s), as well as their role in imparting vital information to the significant percentage of illiterate visitors to the exhibit, must have played no small role in the phenomenal success of this temporary show (Griffiths 2008: 236).5 Though hardly cutting edge in their showcasing of new media—permanent galleries are hugely expensive to renovate, one of the reasons for the disjunctive feel one sometimes gets walking around museum galleries that contain a mix of old and new displays, techniques and installations—museums are nevertheless fascinating spaces to examine with regards to sensory media since they brought under one roof both familiar and unfamiliar ways of processing the world and making sense of cultural difference. Many of the visual display techniques found in museums were derivative, as curators drew freely from the worlds of science, commerce, and popular culture. The exposition pavilion, department



store window, art museum period room, dime museum display case, and natural history museum gallery borrowed freely from one another and, were it not for the broader interpretive context, visitors might be confused as to where they were. Museums were, after all, giant advertisements for imperialistic and paternalistic endeavors that said as much about the culture doing the displaying as the culture on display. Embedded as they were in the geopolitical formations of the day, museums were always on the lookout for wealthy benefactors, new members, and eager to be high on the list of a city’s cultural patrimony. One of the biggest shifts in curatorial practice during this period was a move away from typological presentation of material culture to region-based, contextual exhibits influenced by theories of cultural relativism, pioneered by German-American anthropologist Franz Boas. Old and new media coexisted in the museum; photographs, sound recordings, and motion pictures took up a place alongside more traditional representational forms such as panel paintings, display cases, and labels. The museum was an emporium of visual culture, taking visitors on a simulated journey through cultural geographies that were wondrously different from the one they lived in, yet strangely inviting (and through representation of the nuclear family in many life and habitat group display cases, reassuringly familiar), for they represented a forgotten time, the pre-modern, where people felt less harried. The uncanny and mimetic properties of dioramas and motion pictures were largely responsible for their powerful effect on the human sensorium; perpetuating the old adage that seeing is believing, they shone light (literally) on distant worlds and peoples, although the diorama’s circumscribed world could not begin to compete with cinema’s capaciousness. Both illustrated a tension between imitation and authenticity that Miles Orvell argues was a key constituent of American culture, and while only one of them (cinema) was involved in the mechanical reproduction of images, both were fundamentally concerned with ways of restructuring the world that looked, paradoxically, both from the outside in and from the inside out (Orvell 1989: xvi). As technologies of reification, dioramas and motion pictures were designed to be consumed collectively, no different from other, coterminous forms of mass consumption. They are examples of what Miriam Hansen calls “vernacular modernism,” emerging modes of “organizing vision and sensory perception, a new relationship with ‘things,’ different forms of mimetic experience and expression, of affectivity, temporality, and reflexivity, a changing fabric of everyday life, sociability, and leisure” (Hansen 1999: 60). Most closely affiliated with the textual forms and ideologies of the travelogue, both ethnographic cinema and the diorama life group engendered what Jennifer



Peterson calls a form of “poetic reverie” that was deeply sensual, erotic even, and tinged with nostalgia. A vast world could be scaled to fit into the glass enclosure of the life group or the frame of the screen. And in both, an essentialized and miniaturized world came alive. Let us turn, then, to a world culturally far removed, though geographically often near by the museum, where the human sensorium underwent an experience as radical as one could imagine and where new and old media coexisted in a delicate balance.

THE WORLD WITHIN: MEDIA AND THE SENSES IN THE PRISON Known variously as a gaol, jail, penitentiary, reformatory, house of refuge, detention center, borstal, or correctional facility, the prison is far less indeterminate than the name suggests. Prison is an intensely corporeal experience, depriving and numbing the senses, and, paradoxically, heightening them (see Classen 2012: 171–81). Prisoners display many of the same neurotic behaviors as caged animals, and studies on the effect of incarceration indicate that prisoners are at higher risk of mental illness than the general population, especially if they are held in solitary confinement. Prison is one of those spaces that acts upon the body. Inmates are victims of assault, communicable diseases, depression, bad diet, physical inactivity, and boredom. Hermetically sealed from the outside world, the prison is a gray, noisy, unforgiving world. For obvious reasons, the prison serves as a powerful antipode to the museum, and yet there are points of convergence as well as divergence in the way both institutions police their occupants and inculcate ideas of uplift, reform, and national identity in the organization of space, human senses and value systems. The case of the prison calls out for a reconsideration of received historiographic models of the media consumption in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially the traditional model of a paying audience attending a theatrical screening on their own volition. Given the unique conditions of reception in the prison (similar to schools and other non-theatrical venues in some ways and the persistence in prisons of the older exhibition practice of mixing magic lantern projections, motion pictures, and the phonograph in the public lecture and cell block, what it means to “got to the cinema”—the social experience of film behind bars—resists standard explanations of early film attendance and requires considerable nuance (see Griffiths 2012: 420–40). Sensory media were heavily imbricated in the prison, including the rationed, and highly sought after, visual culture of books, magazine subscriptions, and illustrated educational lectures; the audio-escape



FIGURE 9.3: Sensory deprivation in Newgate Prison, illustration by Gustave Doré.

Blanchard Jerrold, London: A Pilgrimage. London: Grant & Co., 1872.

of the phonograph, especially its therapeutic role on death row where “last request” Vitagraph records were played to break the deathly silence and soothe the nerves of the condemned; the radio headset in individual cells that allowed only sanctioned stations from the prison’s central receiver; and, starting around 1905, motion pictures.



Long before any of these media forms found their way into the prison, inmates enlivened the senses via other means, through music, reading, and feats of imaginative fancy. In Auburn Prison, near Syracuse in upstate New York, inmate number 25,551 coined the term “air castles” in an 1899 article published in the Star of Hope, a bi-weekly magazine published by Sing Sing’s Mutual Welfare League. The author challenges the hegemony of vision in the hierarchy of the senses, a logical move if we consider the prisoner’s poverty of visual variety. “Did you ever stop to realize that the vision of the eye is an impediment to the vision of the mind in abstract thinking? It is when we built ‘air castles’ with the eyes shut that our mental vision is clearest” (Auburn 1899: 2). Music from neighboring cells was another way to trigger the building of air castles, since music can stir the memory and arouse the senses in all sorts of provocative ways. Permission to play a musical instrument in the cell was considered a milestone for men “whose minds tire of reading and walking from one end of the cell to the other, and staring blankly at whitewashed walls, who wish to drown the dark thought that cross[es] their unhappy minds, and who wish to be spared from insanity and worse.” Unlike the concert performances, music coming from the cells had an ethereal quality to it, since it was often hard to know exactly where it was coming from, and men playing other instruments would often join in. Auburn inmate number 26,336 had this to say about the sounds he heard: “As I write these lines, from the Gallery below comes a sweet, faint murmur of music, played softly on a guitar. The melody is taken up by a violin and harmony added by a banjo, played by a man on the Gallery above. The music swells—nothing is heard except these sounds that seem to come from heaven” (Auburn 1901: 57).6 Thomas Mott Osborne, prominent prisoner reformer and creator of the Mutual Welfare League, arranged to be confined for one week in Auburn under the name Tom Brown so he could experience prison life first hand; he described the exact same sensation of a (this time discordant) soundscape slowly building from the initial sound of Mendelssohn’s Spring Song (what he called a “musical pandemonium”): “unfortunately he has not played many bars before more instruments join in—jew’s harps, harmonicas, and other things. It is an extraordinary jumble of sounds—a wild pandemonium after the deadly quiet of a few moments ago. A train blowing off steam . . . is also contributing its quota of noise” (Osborne 1937: 47). Even the more prosaic sounds that made up the auditory landscape, an “occasional cough, the sound of a stealthy football, the jar of some iron door or the clank of a distant bolt or bar” were magnified as the mind filled in a visual corollary (Osborne 1937: 62). Sound could also provide vital clues as to the time of day, something else undermined by the ban on watches in the cells. Admitting that “usually [I am]



very good at guessing time, but in this place I am utterly unable to make an accurate calculation,” Osborne’s ability to sense time underwent a bizarre shift, as ordinary sensory stimuli were replaced by a void that paradoxically made the senses razor-sharp to subtle changes in the environment (Osborne 1937: 62). Osborne wrote passionately about the sensory deprivation of life behind bars, which made the experience of the music so memorable. We should remember, too, that Osborne lived in a period of “unprecedented amplification” according to historian John M. Picker, “alive with the screech and roar of the railway and the clang of industry, with the babble, bustle, and music of city streets, and with the crackle and squawk of acoustic vibrations on wires and wax” (Picker 2003: 4). No surprise then that the auditory faculties of prisoners at Sing Sing prison, whose prisoners stemmed mostly from New York City, were especially heightened as a result of possessing an ear practiced in the acoustic vibrancy of urban life, an era of “close listening . . . an auscultative age” hastened by the invention of the stethoscope in 1816 (Picker 2003: 6). Sounds in the prison cell could very well have been stimuli for “air castles.” The sounds of keys, slop buckets, metal doors, a train whistle, the night-time tapping of pipes as a medium for telegraphic communication, and the human voice, were all amplified, creating a kaleidoscope of sounds that rarely changed (see McGowen 1995: 106). Outside of the cell, organized concerts and community singing were designed to lift spirits and alleviate boredom and during inclement weather, the inmate population was frequently “turned into the auditorium where they are allowed to participate in a period of community singing. These sings [sic] cheer up the group, encourages them to forget their troubles and influences them into a buoyant spirit which is conducive to resocialization” (Christian n.d.: 9). Writing poetry was another way prisoners built “air castles” and was a serious business behind bars, “not written solely for the purpose of whiling away the dreary moments of leisure when the thoughts try to find utterance in some way, nor to calm the mind only, but because the composer knows it is his moral duty.” Poetry was seen as mind food, a mental workout that would strengthen the moral compass and have an effect upon the entire body, as an anonymous contributor to The Star of Hope explained in 1900: poetry was capable of “stimulating and strengthening the readers mind, thereby reacting upon his body, weakened from long and close confinement in prison, making him stronger, wiser, and better” (“Undercurrents” 1900: 17). More so than reading or listening to lectures, composing poetry triggered a mental release, regenerating not only the mind but also the entire body. Poems were regularly



submitted to the Star of Hope; for example, during the magazine’s first year, 388 poems of various kinds and styles of verse were submitted, constituting 11,958 lines of poetry. Reflecting on all aspects of the incarcerated self, these poems were composed in the smallest of prison spaces, the cell, where the mind was arguably the most active (Editor in Chief 1901: 1). In addition to writing poetry, reading in the cell was somewhat similar to reading in other confined quarters where people increasing found themselves from the 1840s onwards: the nineteenth-century railway car, a transitional space where new patterns of Victorian readership and social mores emerged (and, based on A Kiss in the Tunnel, were challenged). While there are obvious differences between the railway car and the prison, both produced captive subjects that turned to reading to either while away the time, avoid having to talk to people, or create some-time out of what would otherwise be a non-time, before arriving at a destination or getting out on parole. Of course, this does not factor in the experience of travel as novelty, the journey culminating in a new locale, or the sheer thrill of moving at speed. And while the subject of the railway and cinema has generated considerable scholarship, cinema was literally conjoined with trains in 1909, via a plan by an Italian engineer to install moving picture screens in railway cars. Touted as a “powerful advertising scheme,” the traveler would “see on a screen in the car the different views, buildings, monuments, art treasures, etc. of the different countries they were passing through . . .[and] the different local industries” (see “Cinematography on railroad cars” 1909: 363; Furstenau 2011; Kirby 1997; Schivelbusch 1987). An announcement for an American version appeared in the trade press two years later, although this version offered a prototype of today’s electronic train indicator, in which lantern slides with the latest train information would be displayed on the platform. Train depots were also considered potentially profitable parallel spaces of entertainment along with moving pictures on trains (“Another good suggestion” 1910: 1525). The idea of “air castles” is significant, therefore, not only for clawing back agency on behalf of the prisoners but for better understanding how they tried to stay sane using techniques that share an affinity with Kierkegaard’s theories of mental circumvention. Existentialist thought could even be used to explain the discrete pleasure of the motion picture: “Amusement . . . will lift those who see it out of themselves, out of their surroundings, which for one reason or another may be irksome, or depressing, and place them, temporarily, at least in an imaginary world where things seem to go right, and where discouragements and disappointments are apparently alike unknown” editorialized the Moving Picture World in 1908 (“Future of the motion picture” 1909: 234). The fact that many of the fantasies prisoners wrote about involved virtual travel is



almost too clichéd to be true (who wouldn’t, when banged up, fantasize about being some place else?). In similar ways to the books, journals, newspapers, poems, and magazines consumed in the cell, motion pictures punctured the routine by introducing a new one: going to the movies behind bars. It’s hardly surprising, then, that when films first began appearing in prisons, journalists jumped on the novelty of film being shown to audiences that were literally incarcerated. This imbued much of the coverage of motion picture use in prisons with a pseudo social scientific feel, as if journalists were reporting on a social experiment in which the prison served as a laboratory and cinema the experimental variable. Rather than view cinema as an apotheosis of new media developments in the prison, I argue that one evocation of the cinematic experience—the sensation of staring at the rectangle of light of the cell window—helped lay the ground for the arrival of motion pictures behind bars. One could argue that prisoners were sensorially primed for cinema long before it made its (relatively) late appearance in United States penitentiaries between 1905 and 1914. And while cinema brought the outside world it, it also turned the prison inside out, as a result of location shooting making it more visible to the outside world on film.

FIGURE 9.4: New spectacles of light: Reynaud’s Théâtre Optique by Louis Poyet. Public




CONCLUSION Prisons and museums are iconic nineteenth-century institutions that wreaked havoc on the senses; the museum delivered sensory overload, physical and mental fatigue as the body traversing the halls had few opportunities to sit down, the prison, the opposite, inserting the body into a gray, inhospitable world where agency, dignity, and sensory pleasure were in small supply. Media, in the form of books, magazines, photographs, magic lantern slides, phonographs, and motion pictures (and later radio and television) were integrated into and spun off from these institutions (both Sing Sing and the AMNH published magazines, the Star of Hope and the Museum Journal respectively, and countless movies would be set in prisons and museums. And whereas media use in the museum played second fiddle to the more spectacular, wondrous, and visually arresting mimetic exhibits, in the prison, media were salves, in some cases preventing inmates from transforming into “stir-bugs”—Sing Sing Warden Lewis E. Lawes’s term for incarceration-induced mental sufferers (Lawes n.d.: 2). Individuals passing through these institutions brought with them sense memories of where they had encountered these media before; the prison and museum called for adjustments, behavior modification that fitted the institutional decorum. Entertainment in the prison was free, relished with immense gratitude, and served as portal to the outside world; Lawes wrote that the most “appreciative movie fans are to be found within the grim, gray walls of a prison” (Lawes n.d.: 1). In both spaces, we see evidence of residual media, older forms persisting longer than in commercial settings where motion pictures replaced the lantern show; even the telegraph, as we saw in Warden Thomas Mott Osborne’s recollection of being incarcerated at Auburn, was refashioned in the pipe tapping undertaken by inmates. In the museum and prison, the outside world was not only miniaturized—one could traverse vast continents walking through the halls of the AMNH, and the prison was a virtual city, with its own hospital, commissary, morgue, and auditorium—but the importation of the world’s objects and representations were strictly curated in both institutions. In the museum world, over-abundance was in tension with singularity, the idea of a surplus of indigenous artifacts that can be offloaded to the museum versus the unique objects, the rarely obtained that triggered an overflow of Benjaminian aura. Knowing one’s place was vital in both institutions. Euro-Americans traversing the galleries of the AMNH knew just where to position themselves on the evolutionary ladder, as did inmates, prior to the abolishment of the prison stripes in 1901 when they wore stripes on their arms to indicate whether



they were first-, second-, or third-termers. Prior to this, the inmate was little better than an automaton: “his eyes never beamed, but kept themselves fastened on the guard and the walls. His nerves were frayed beyond conception. He couldn’t even force a laugh. Deprived of the right to express his emotions, he had none . . . In short, he forgot he was a human being” said Lawes (n.d.: 5). New media were thus enlisted to train the senses and morals of citizenry in a wide swath of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century institutions: their usefulness (see Acland and Wasson 2011) was defined by governances, civic mandates, and at times ad hoc policies such as when Sing Sing introduced nightly screenings in the late teens to lessen prisoners’ exposure to the severe damp in the cells and to mitigate (or so they thought) same-sex practices (Griffiths 2012). New media were conscripted in discursively similar ways to pre-cinematic entertainment forms, although as I’ve shown in this chapter, issues of liveness, immediacy, presence, embodied spectatorship, and the organization of time and space stimulated the senses, if not with uniform effect. In the ocularcentric modern city, urban dwellers and visitors were subject to a kaleidoscope of sensory attractions, novel diversions, and the hegemony of the visual in a burgeoning commodity culture. Photography and cinema revealed and reified the underworld of modern society and criminals, like native peoples in the ethnographic field, were measured, documented, and finger-printed using Alphonse Bertillon’s infamous project of human cartography; perceived as “urban” as opposed to “ethnographic savages,” who came from “outer” rather than “inner” worlds (the metropole’s grimy underbelly), criminals and the poor were surveilled in a similar manner to other subject peoples. Photography and film assisted immeasurably in the Victorian project of positivistic knowledge that divided the world, as Thomas Richards argues in The Imperial Archive, into “little pieces of fact” (Richards 1993: 6). Looking at the uses of media at the margins of society, the museum and the prison, helps us see more clearly how it shaped mainstream culture and how the senses responded to a world that was inexorably changed by mediation and intermediality, a defining feature of our contemporary media landscape.


Chapter Two 1. Surely Madame de Girardin was insinuating this when she somewhat pessimistically wrote on October 21, 1837: “Those who do not wash their hands will always hate those who wash their hands, and those who wash their hands will always despise those who do not wash their hands. You will never be able to bring them together, they will never be able to live together . . . because there is one thing which can not be overcome and that is disgust; because there is another thing that can not be tolerated, and that is humiliation” (Lettres parisiennes quoted in Corbin 1986: 270, n. 4). 2. However, if one goes by the volume of publications, the censitaire monarchy remains the golden age of neo-Hippocratic “medical topography.” 3. In some passages Louis-Sébastien Mercier anticipated the tone of later descriptions. An example is his appalled recoil before the animality that prevailed in the faubourg St.-Marcel (see Roche 1981: 100). Nevertheless Roche recognized that medicine was at the time encroaching on private life. 4. This theme was expanded at length in Spain in the Golden Century (see Lapouge 1980: 117). 5. Domestic servants, chamber pots, and linen drying round the stove all came under this proscription from the nursery. These social perceptions, however, did not prevent improvement in the status of domestic servants (see Roche 1981: 76ff.). 6. There are also innumerable other references to the stench and foul impregnation of the ragpicker. 7. “The odor exhaled by these sorts of places is one of the circumstances which a very numerous category of pederasts seek, as it is indispensable to their pleasures” (Carlier 1887: 305, 370). 8. Itard attributed this indifference to lack of education of the senses. See also Lane (1976).




9. Parent-Duchâtelet’s attitude is significant from the point of view of the fear of infection. Here are two examples of the precautions advised when visiting the sick. Fodéré recommended: “One must keep one’s clothes entirely buttoned up . . . one must never swallow one’s saliva; one must spit and blow one’s nose every time the need arises and, as in hospitals, wear an apron on which one frequently wipes one’s hands . . . after having had the covers raised, one must wait a few moments before bending down and breathing [the invalid’s] first emanations; moreover, one must always avoid his breath and keep at a reasonable distance from his mouth” (quoted in Corbin 1986: 272, n. 49). A policy of keeping at a distance from foul bodies was formulated in this way. Tireless visitor to prisons, lazarettos, and hospitals, Howard confessed that he always avoided standing to leeward of the invalid. He constantly strove to hold his breath as much as possible (see Howard 1784: 451, 1789: 232). 10. Revealing on this subject was the foul odor of Brother Archangias in Zola’s La Faute de l’abbé Mouret. 11. On these fringe workers see Rancière (1981).

Chapter Three 1. On “the slipperiness of the borderline between the visible and the invisible” in Victorian literature and culture, see Flint (2000: 2). 2. For an overview of this huge literature see the introduction to The City and the Senses: Urban Culture Since 1500 (Cowan and Steward 2007: 1–22); Frisby (1985, 2001); Sennett (1994); Charney and Schwartz (1995); and Schwartz (1998). 3. This is part of a trend in the contemporary study of consumption as well. See, for example, Jansson-Boyd (2011). 4. A number of new studies have considered a wider variety of retail settings. See, for example, Edwards (2005); Curth (2006); Hussey and Ponsonby (2008). 5. Important older studies are Pasdermadjian (1954); Jefferys (1954); and Briggs (1956). For an overview of this historiography and its shifts, see Crossick and Jaumain (1999: 1–45). 6. There was no firm border between these spheres but in the nineteenth century they were imagined in that way. For an overview, see de Grazia and Furlough (1996). On men’s engagement with urban consumer culture, see especially Breward (1999). 7. William Allen, “The duty of abstaining from the use of West Indian produces: a speech delivered at Coachmasters’ Hall, January 11, 1792,” quoted in Sussman (2000: 40).

Chapter Four 1. On religion and the British Empire see Etherington (2005) and Porter (2004). 2. For further discussion of this image and American Evangelical print culture see Morgan (2007: 7–36). 3. Carey ([1792] 1942: 67–8). The biblical text was Isaiah 60:9. 4. Duff (1840: 246–47). Emphasis in original. An insightful study of British and Indian engagements over religion is Pennington (2005).



5. See several relevant essays in Scott and Griffiths (2005: 137–202). 6. Roy’s work in English is extensive: see Roy (1978). For an introduction to his career as reformer, see Hay (1965); for a more recent study of Roy’s career see Crawford (1987). 7. See Rammohun’s brief tract, “Answer of a Hindoo,” (Roy 1978: 201–3). 8. For an authoritative treatment of Olcott see Prothero (1995).

Chapter Six 1. All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated. 2. The narrative and analysis that follow are adapted from Barnes (2005, 2006). Permission from the University of Minnesota Press and Johns Hopkins University Press to use portions of those works is gratefully acknowledged. 3. See anonymous articles in The Standard (London), June 15 and June 17, 1858, and The Morning News (London), June 26 and June 30, 1858. 4. See anonymous article in Le Siècle (Paris), August 21, 1880.

Chapter Nine 1. Even though Edison conceived of the phonograph for the business community, he was savvy enough to see its popular cultural applications and recorded singers and public figures, and began working on a talking doll in 1888. By 1890, a toy version of the phonograph was in the works (Spehr 2008: 197, 82–92). 2. City dwellers dealt with the “problem” in incrementally harsher ways: whereas some complainants resorted to paying off some street musicians to play someplace else, in July 1864 the British Parliament unanimously passed the Anti-street Music Act (Picker 2003: 63). 3. The other two dancers are identified in Wikipedia as Syrian born Farida Mazar Spyropoulos (1871–1937) and Canadian Ashea Wabe (born Caterhine Devine [1871–1908]). No birth date is listed for Fatima Djemille, although she died in March 1921 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Egypt_(dancer)). 4. Of course, issues of sustainability, especially with endangered species, and taxidermy’s shifting meanings, come into play in contemporary museum display politics; for example, some of the display cases in the British Museum have signs saying that the reason some of the taxidermy looks as if it should be replaced is deliberate, since the BM now has a policy of not replacing or restoring old cadavers. 5. Ten thousand visitors turned up on the opening day of the show, a total of 753,954 over the course of the seven-week run, 72 percent of the AMN’s recorded attendance for 1908–9. To accommodate the crowds, the Museum stayed open thirteen hours a day on weekdays and until 8 p.m. on the weekends (Griffiths 2008: 236). 6. According to the author, inmate musicians were model prisoners as well as being thoughtful, remorseful, and optimistic about a brighter future. Music drove the monotony of life away and made “less irksome the restraint under which they were placed” (Auburn 1901: 57).



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notes on contributors

David S. Barnes is Associate Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Making of a Social Disease: Tuberculosis in Nineteenth-Century France (1995) and The Great Stink of Paris and the Nineteenth-Century Struggle against Filth and Germs (2006). He is currently writing a history of Philadelphia’s Lazaretto quarantine station (1799–1895). Other interests include public history and the history of disgust. Constance Classen is a cultural historian and director of an interdisciplinary project on art, museums, and the senses. She is the author of Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and Across Cultures (1993), The Color of Angels: Cosmology, Gender and the Aesthetic Imagination (1998), and The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch (2012), as well as the co-author of Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society (2014). Alain Corbin is Professor Emeritus at the University of Paris I PanthéonSorbonne. Described as an “historien du sensible,” he has made a major contribution to the development of the cultural history of the senses through such works as The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination (1986), Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the NineteenthCentury French Countryside (1998), and Time, Desire and Horror: Towards a History of the Senses (1995). Nicholas Daly is Professor of Modern English and American Literature at University College Dublin. His books include Modernism, Romance, and the




Fin de Siècle (1999) and Sensation and Modernity in the 1860s (2009). He is currently working on a study of transatlantic urban culture in the nineteenth century. Kate Flint, Provost Professor of English and Art History at the University of Southern California, is author of The Transatlantic Indian 1776–1930 (2008), The Victorians and The Visual Imagination (2000), and The Woman Reader, 1837–1914 (1993), together with numerous articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century cultural history, literature, painting, and photography. She is completing “Flash! Photography, Writing, and Surprising Illumination,” and writing a history of the concept of ordinariness between 1850 and 1950. Alison Griffiths is Professor of Film and Media at Baruch College, The City University of New York and a member of the doctoral faculty in Theater at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is the author of numerous essays and books on visual culture, museums and cinema, including the award winning Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture (2002) and Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View (2009). Her forthcoming book, Screens Behind Bars: Cinema, Prisons, and the Making of Modern America, examines the pre-1930 penitentiary as a unique yet overlooked space of film exhibition and reception. Robert Jütte is currently Director of the Institute for the History of Medicine of the Robert Bosch Foundation and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Stuttgart. He is a social and medical historian and the author or editor of over thirty-five books, some translated into English and into other languages, among them A History of the Senses: From Antiquity to Cyberspace (2005). He is a member of the steering committee of the Scientific Board of the German Medical Association. David Morgan is Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University and chair of the Department of Religious Studies. He is author of The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture and the Social Life of Feeling (2012), The Lure of Images: A History of Religion and Visual Media in America (2007), The Sacred Gaze (2005), and Visual Piety (1998). He is co-founder and co-editor of the journal Material Religion. Erika D. Rappaport is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End (2000) and numerous articles and essays



on the history of gender, as well as urban and consumer culture in Victorian and Edwardian England and its empire. Recently, she has been focusing on the cultural history of food and drink and is currently completing “An Acquired Taste: Tea, the British Empire, and the Creation of a Global Consumer Culture.”



advertising 51–2, 54, 80, 86 Aestheticism 174–80 aesthetics 43–4, 186–0 Africans, sensory representations of 3, 5, 20 see also slavery After London 38 Against Nature 43, 178–80, 196 Allen, W. 84 Aready Always New 211 Altick, R. 34 anatomy 138, 145 animals 20, 55, 74 in museums 223–4 senses of 34, 43, 126–7 Appadurai, A. 41 arcades 72–3 architecture 199–203, 208 À rebours see Against Nature Arnold, M. 176 Arnout, A. 73 Aronsohn, E. 130–1 art 44, 183 painting 186–94 sculpture 194 see also aesthetics; craft; specific movements and works Arts and Crafts 26, 195, 202–3

Audible Past, The 35 Austen, J. 165 automobiles 24, 173, 208 avant-garde 206–9 Babbitt, I. 205 bacteriology 146, 154, 155–6 Bain, A. 31 Balla, G. 208 Balmes, J. 113 Balzac, H. 57 Baratay, E. 55 Barret-Kriegel, B. 60–1 Barringer, T. 31 Barthes, R. 214 Bass, M.T. 30 Baudelaire, C. 173–4, 175, 183, 191 Bazalgette, J. 152 Bazan, A. 220 Beauty and Ugliness 44 Beckford, W. 200–3 Beeton, I. 86 Bell, A.G. 24. 216 Bell, C. 133 Bell, C.A. 216 bells 6, 49, 55, 98 Benjamin, W. 35, 73, 173 Bennet, T. 72 267


Berenson, B. 44 Bergson, H. 36 Berlioz, H. 191 Bertillon, A. 214, 234 Besant, A. 108 Bible, the 99, 101 Bichet, X. 138, 145, 146 Bistolfi, L. 194 Black Beauty 170 Blanqui, A. 64, 65 Blavatsky, H. 108 Bleak House 170 Blix, M.G. 134 Boas, F. 224, 226 Boccioni, U. 208, 209 Boehme, E. 22–3 Bogue, D. 102–3 Bonheur des Dames, Au 13, 80–1 Bon Marché 13, 14, 78–9, 79 Boucicault, D. 171 Boulevard des Capucines 189–90 Bowlby, R. 80 Braddon, M.E. 171 Bradley, W.H. 180, 182 Brahms-Phantasie 196 Bright, R. 143 Brooke R. 23 Brouardel, P. 154, 155 Browning, R. 38 Brussels 73, 74 Buddhism 109–10 Bulwer, E. 166 Buntline, N. 169 Burette, T. 64 Burke, E. 164–5 Burke, T. 84 Cameron, D. 169 Canada, stores in 85 capitalism 15, 117 see also marketing Carey, W. 101, 106–7 Carlyle, T. 166 Carrà, C. 208 Carlisle, J. 31


Carlyle, T. 166 Carus, P. 109–10 Catholicism 12, 95–6 and art 198 Chadwick, E. 148 cholera 58 Christianity, globalization of 98–106 see also Catholicism; Church of England; Protestantism; Quakers Church of England 96–8 cinema 219–22, 225, 234 in prison 227, 231–2 cities disease in 146–55 sensory aspects of 5–6, 47–67 passim, 208 see also specific cities City, The 206 Civilizing Process, The 42 Clark, T. 48 class differences 1–3, 56–7 Classen, C. 82, 216 Claudel, C. 194 Cloquet, H. 130 clothing 11, 17, 40, 70, 80, 166 Coca-Cola 24 coffee 1, 10, 84 cognition 17, 115, 121 Coleridge, S. 162 Collins, W. 170 colonialism 11–12, 17, 19–20, 23, 84, 213–14 see also imperialism color in advertising 52 in Aestheticism 177–8 in art 91, 196, 199 of cloths 80 in fashion 166 and music 196 perception of 120–1, 126 in philosophy 116 in photography 214 of skin 5 Comedie humaine, La 56


Common Scents 31 Condition of the Working Class in England 168 Conrad, J. 172 Coochee Coochee 222 Courbet, G. 189 countryside 55 degradation of 38–9 see also gardens Covent Garden Market 28–9 Cowper, W. 10 craft 18, 186–8, 195, 202–5 Cronin, R. 166 Czermak, J. 132 Daguerre, L. 213 Daly, A. 171 dance 196–7, 199 and nationalism 18 Danius, S. 182 D’Annunzio, G. 198 Darwin, C. 18–19 Das, S. 33 Dawson, E. 177 Debussy, C. 196, 198–9 Decadence 177, 205–6 Deedat, A. 89 Degas, E. 189 Degeneration 205–6 Delacroix, E. 186, 191 Delaunay, R. 206, 207 Demoiselles d’Avignon, Les 206 Dennery, A.P. 171 De Quincey, T. 36–7 department stores 13–14, 70–1, 77–9, 83–4 d’Hervilly, E. 81 Djamile, F. 222 Dickens, C. 29, 49, 147–8, 162, 168, 170 Dickenson, E. 162 Dickson, W.K.L. 216–17 diorama 223–5, 226 Disraeli, B. 151–2, 166 Dombey and Son 169


Doolittle, H. 180 Dracula 172 dreaming 116 Dreiser, T. 80 drill, military 15–16 Dublin 183 Duchamps, M. 205 Duff, A. 103–4 Duff-Gordon, L. 80 East India Company 98–9 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 26 Edison, T.A. 216–17, 222 education 11, 15–17 Edgeworth, M. 6 electricity 212 elements, four 116 Elements of Physiology 119 Elias, N. 42 Eliot, G. 31–2, 34, 171 Eliot, T.S. 181 Elliot, E. 164 Emerson, R.W. 162 Engels, F. 16, 30, 168, 176 etiquette 42 Expressionism 206–7 factories 12–13, 62–4 Fechner, G. 123 Felix Holt 32 Feuerbach, L. 117 Fichte, J.G. 116–17 filth 57 First World War 21–3, 31, 33, 208–9 Flaubert, G. 62 flaneur 53–4, 69 Flugel, J.C. 166 Fonthill Abbey 200–3 food 70 in art 43–4 globalization of 10–12 industrialization of 13–14 in Judaism 95 in modern society 18, 42


retailing of 86–7 shopping for 73, 68–7 tinned 22, 86 Ford, F.M. 33 Forster, E.M. 43, 172, 173 Fourier, C. 117 France sensory traits of 3 fashions of 17 see also Paris Freud, S. 18–19 Frey, M. von 135 Friedberg, A. 72–3 Friedberg, S. 87 Fuller, L. 196–7 Futurism 161, 180, 207–9 Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert 73, 74 Gandhi, M. 84–5 gardens 200, 202 garlic 86 Gaskell, E. 39, 167 Gauguin, P. 90–1 Gautier, T. 165 Gerbod, P. 66 gesamtkunstwerk 198–9 Ghana 85 Girardin, D. de 148 Gitelman, L. 211 Gissing, G. 80, 172 Goldschneider, A. 134 Goncourt, E. and J. de 195 Gorky, M. 219 Grangé, E. 171 Grazia, V. de 71 Great Britain empire of 10–12 religion in 95–8 sensory traits of 3 see also London Great Exhibition 7–8, 72 Great Stink 5, 29–30, 150–4 Grüsser, O.J. 126 Guys, C. 173


Habits of Good Society 42 Haddon, A.C. 217 Hahn, C. 214–15 Hahn, H. 51, 73 hair, as memento mori 214–15 Haller, A. von 133 Handbook of Physiological Optics 125 Hardy, T. 32 hearing in aesthetics 188, 191 attention to 28 in diagnosis 140–2 in the First World War 21, 33 physiology of 123, 126–9 theories of 114, 120 see also music; noise Hegel, F. 23, 114–15, 117, 128–9 Helmholtz, H. von 120, 124 Hemmingway, E. 181 Henkin, D. 34 Henley, W.E. 181 Hering, E. 120, 123, 126 Hildebrand, A. 44 Hinduism 107–9 Protestant impressions of 103–6 Hoffman-Axholm, D. 121 Holmes Sr., O.W. 93 homosexuality 180 sensory representations of 61 Hopkins, J.M. 96–7 housing 1–2, 60, 65 Howards End 43, 172 Hugo, V. 57 humoral theory 144 Husserl, E. 118 Huysmans, J.K. 43, 180, 195, 198 Imperial Archive, The 234 imperialism 10–12, 84, 161–2, 172, 223 see also colonialism Impressionism 189–90, 205 incense 97–8 Incense 194


India colonialism in 11 evangelism in 103–6 nationalism in 85 individualism 53–4, 56 industrialization 12–15, 172–3, 208–9 Invisible Man, The 69–70 Jäger, G. 131–2 Japan, Western influence on 11 Jefferies, R. 38 Jerusalem 93, 94 Jews sensory representations of 58 in the West 93–5 Jolts of a Cab 208 Journal of a West India Proprietor 163 Joyce, J. 176, 183–4 Kabuki 198 Kaiser, M. 43 Kandinsky, W. 199, 207 Kastner, G. 47 Kay, J. 168 Keats, J. 38 Kerner, J. 126 kinaesthesia see dance Kiss, The 194 Kiss in the Tunnel, The 221, 231 Klinger, M. 194, 196 Khnopff, F. 194 Külpe, O. 120–1 Lachaise, C. 149 Lady Audley’s Secret 171 Laënnec, R. 140–2, 146 Last Man, The 39 Lawes, L.E. 233–4 Lecouturier, H. 148–9 Ledain, H. 62 Lee, V. 44 Leger, F. 205 Léonard, J. 62 Lesage, A.-R. 169


Levin, P. 28, 29 Lewes, H. 26, 33, 44 Lewis, M. 164, 165 light electric 8–9 gaslight 8, 10, 15, 51 Lindt, J.W. 213–14 Linné, C. von 129, 133 literature Gothic 164–5 Imagist 181 Romantic 162–6 Sensation 171–2 Victorian 166–81 see also specific novels literacy 16 “living village” 215–16 Lombroso, C. 135–6, 172 London 28–31, 36–7, 49–51, 69–70, 77, 147–8, 150–5 Louis, P. 145, 146 Lucas, F.A. 224 Lumière, A. and L. 214, 219, 222 Lynch, K. 53 Mach, E. 118, 129 machinery 12–13, 15 Macdonald, M. 194 Mackenzie, H. 164 Mackintosh, C.R. 203 McLuhan, M. 16 Maeterlinck, M. 198 Magendie, F. 126 Mallarmé, S. 174 Man of Feeling, The 164 Mansfield Park 165–6 Matter and Memory 36 maps 8 Marcy, E.J. 183 Mareorama 220, 221 Marinetti, F.T. 207, 208 market halls 74–6 marketing global 10–12, 39 in market place 28–9


see also department stores; market halls; retailing Marx, K. 15, 18, 26, 116–17, 120, 176 Mary Barton 167 mass media 17, 23 see also cinema; print medicine diagnostic technologies in 156–60 “heroic” 144–5 odors in 57–8, 65, 144–5 Paris School of 145–6 Meiji, Emperor 11 Melanesia 19–20, 217 men sensory representations of 3, 4, 207–8 social status of 64 Memke, R. 212 microscope 138–40 Middle East sensory representations of 81–5, 223–4 Middlemarch 171 Miller, M. 78 Millerites 111 Minne, G, 194 modernism 161, 180–4 see also avant-garde modernity 17–18, 24, 35, 37, 49–9, 51–2, 70, 78, 98 111, 161, 165, 172 Monet, C. 189–90 Monk, The 164 Moonstone, The 171 Mormons 111 Moreau, G. 192, 193 Morgagni, G.B. 138 Morgan le Fay 194 Morris, T. 180 Morris, W. 174, 202–3 Morrison, A. 172 Mrs Dalloway 30–1, 33 Müller, J. 118–20, 124 Munch, E. 206 muscular sense see proprioception museums 222–7, 233 disciplining of senses in 15, 188


music 6, 188, 195–9, 205 in prison 229 street 30, 49, 50, 70, 170–1, 219 Myers, C. 217 Mystères de Paris 169 Mysterium 199 Mystery of Edwin Drood 162 nationalism 17–18, 204 Native Americans 23, 217–18 Nead, L. 34 New Laokoon, The 205 Newman, J.H. 95–6 New York City 34, 94, 230 News from Nowhere 203 Niépce, N. 213 Nietzsche, F. 35 night 8–9, 51 Nkruma, K. 85 No More Parades 33 Nordau, M. 172, 205–6 noise in art 206, 207, 208 factory 12 urban 5–6, 28–9, 30–1, 49–50, 53, 170–1 of war 21 North and South 39–40 Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 206 Nunokawa, J. 178 odor in art 196, 198–9, 204, 207–8 and disease 155–6 social 3–4, 55–67 factory 12 urban 5–6, 29–30, 31–2, 50–1, 147–56, 167–9 Ohm, G.S. 129 Ojibway 23 Oken, L. 114 Olcott, H.S. 108, 109 Oliver Twist 147 On the Aesthetic Education of Man 186


On the Sensations of Tone 120, 128 On the Temperature in Diseases 157 Orvell, M. 226 Osborne, T.M. 229, 230 Otter, C. 34


prostitutes 58 Proust, M. 181–3 Pugin, A. 200 pulsetaking 158 Quakers 111

pain, sense of 135–6 painting see art Paris 48–9, 51–2, 66, 73, 148–9, 152–5, 220 Parish, E. 43 Pasteur, L. 154, 155 Pater, W. 43, 174, 176, 191 Patronage 6 Pelham 166 Pélleas and Mélisande 196 perfume 1, 2, 178 Pfeiffer, C.L. 56 phonograph 217–19 photography 7, 15, 54, 93, 183, 211–15, 234 Physiology of Common Life, The 26 Physiologie du fumeur 64 Picasso, P. 206 Picker, J. 30, 170, 171, 217, 218, 230 Picture of Dorian Gray, The 177 Poe, E.A. 168–9 Polanski, F. 127 politics 3, 204, 208 Politzer, A. 127 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 183 Pound, E. 181 Prelude, The 36 Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun 196 print 18–17, 34 and evangelism 98–106 prison 58–60, 227–32, 233–4 disciplining of senses in 15–16 Problem of Form, The 44 Prometheus: A Poem of Fire 196 proprioception 44, 121–2 see also dance Protestantism 12, 91–3 Evangelical 98–106

ragpickers 60 railway 13, 15, 163–4, 169–70, 171–2, 220–1, 231 Red House, the 202–3 Remembrance of Things Past 181–3 retailing 71–2 Reynolds, G.W.M. 169 Richards, T. 72, 234 Ricketts, C. 180 Riehl, A. 118 Rimbaud, S. 174 Rimsky-Korsakov, N. 196 River, C. 213–14 Rodin, A. 194 Roinard, P.N. 198 Romans, J. 21 Romanticism 161–6, 186–7, 191, 195 Rook, C. 172 Rosetti, C. 170 Rosetti, D.G. 174 Roy, R. 107–8 Ruskin, J. 26, 32, 34, 176 Sabanayev, L. 198 sailors, sensory representations of 61–2 Samaj, B. 108, 109 Sandys, F. 194 St Denis, R. 197 Saint Paul’s Cathedral 7 Salome Dancing Before Herod 193 Sartor Resartus 166 Satie, E. 196 Scheerer, E. 114, 118 Schelling, F.W. 113–14 Schiller, F. 166, 186 Schinkel, K.F. 200 Schivelbusch, W. 220–1 Schoenberg, A. 196, 207


Schopenhauer, A. 115–16 Schwalbe, G. 134 Schulter, M. 130 Schultz, M. 130 Schwartz, V. 220 Scream, The 206 Scriabin, A. 196, 199 sculpture see art Secret Agent, The 172 Sennet, R. 53 Sense of Touch and the Common Sense, The 135 senses distraction of 28–9, 35–6, 44–5, 53 hierarchy of 3, 17, 114, 141, 172, 180 number of 113–16, 121–4 physiology of 118–21, 124–36 in social life 2–5, 15–17, 25–6, 56–7, 203–6 theories of 18–20, 26–8 see also specific senses, e.g. hearing, smell, taste Senses and the Intellect, The 31 sensuality 174 Sewell, A. 170 sewers 51, 59, 151–5 sewing 187–8 Shakers 111 Shelley, M. 38 shops 167 see also arcades; department stores; market halls Shore, L.E. 134 Shows of London, The 34 sight in aesthetics 186–8 across cultures 19 disciplining of 16 in cities 6–10, 51–2 in factory 12–13 in the First World War 21–2 in medicine 141, 143 physiology of 123, 124–6 in prison 229


theories of 114 see also color; visualism Simmel, G. 37, 53, 212–13 Sketches by Boz 29, 147–8 skin, as social marker 3, 5, 62, 64 slavery 3, 5, 10–11, 17, 84, 165 smell in aesthetics 196, 207 disciplining of 16 in the First World War 21–2 low status of 19 and memory 181–2 in medicine 144–5 physiology of 123, 129–32 theories of 114 working class 2 see also odor; perfume Smith, G.A. 221 Song of Songs 198 Soul of the Forest, The 194 Soul of the Rose, The 194 Spain empire of 10, 12 sensory traits of 3, 17 speech, transformed into print 16 speed 172, 180, 207 spygmomanometer 158 Sports and Amusements 196 stethoscope 140–2, 230 Stoker, B. 172 Stowe, H.B. 165 Street Noises Invade the House 208 Sterne, J. 35, 42 Stewart, S. 26 Street Music of the Metropolis 30 Studies in the History of the Renaissance 176 Sue, E. 49, 169 sugar 10, 84 Suzuki, D.T. 89 Swinburne, A. 174 supermarkets 87 Suzuki, D.T. 89 Symbolism 177, 191–4, 198–9, 203–5 synaesthesia, in art 91, 191–9, 207–8


Tableaux de Paris 48 Tainter, C.S. 216 Talbot, W. F. 213 taste disciplining of 16 in the First World War 22 and imperialism 10–11, 86 physiology of 123, 132–4 theories of 114 see also food; specific foods and drinks tea 10, 26, 84, 86 telegraphy 212, 215–16 Tess of the d’Urbervilles 32, 38 texture in art 193 of skin 4–5 theater 198–9, 208 thermometers 157 Thiel, P. 169 Three Brides, The 193–4 Three Perfumes, The 194 Tiedemann, F. 122–3 Tiersten, L. 81 time, mechanization of 15, 215, 220–1 tobacco 64 Toorop, J. 193–4 Toronto 23–4 Torres Strait Expedition 19–20, 217 touch 32–3, 40–1 in aesthetics 186–9 disciplining of 16 in Christianity 95 of human exibits 216 in medicine 140–1, 159 physiology of 134–6 in stores 82 theories of 114 see also dance; texture Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature 33 trenches 21–3 Treviranus, G.R. 123 Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes, A 196 Tristan and Isolde 195


Trollope, F. 12 Truquin, N. 67 Ulysses 181, 183–4 Uncle Tom’s Cabin 165 Unique Forms of Continuity in Space 208, 209 United States, the religion in 91–5 sensory traits of 8 Van Gogh, V. 90 Vathek 200 Verdun 21 Verlaine, P. 174 Verraux, J. 223 Victoria, Queen 1, 10 Victorian Babylon 34 Victorian Eye, The 34 Victorian Soundscapes 30, 170 Villermé, L.-R. 60, 148, 149 Vintschau, M. von 133 Virchow, R. 118, 140 visualism 35, 48, 72, 234 Vivekananda, Swami 89, 108–9 Vivian Grey 166 Wagner, R. 195–6, 198–9 Walkowitz, J. 76 Walpole, H. 200 warfare 20–3, 30, 33, 208–9 see also drill, military; First World War Waterhouse, J. 194 Watts, G.F. 194 Wave, The 194 Webb, P. 202 Weber, E.H. 122, 123, 127, 134–5 Wells, H.G. 69–70 Wheatley, F. 170 Whistler, J. 174, 191 Whitman, W. 7 Wilde, O. 166, 174–5, 179, 180, 198 Williams, R. 26, 171


Wood, J. 44 Woolf, V. 30, 34 Woman in White, The 171 women 40–1 in art 187–8, 204, 207–8 sensory representations of 3, 4, 204 as shoppers 77–8, 81–2, 85 social status of 17, 23 Woolser, J. 183 Wordsworth, W. 36, 162–4 working classes 1–3, 6–7, 12–13, 56–7 and art 208 living conditions of 147–9, 167–70


World as Will and Representation, The 115–16 world’s fairs 215–16, 222 see also Great Exhibition Wundt, W. 132 Wyatt, J. 200 X-rays 158–9 Yellow Sound, The 199 Young, T. 125–6 Zola, É. 13, 80 Zwardemaker, H. 123, 132