Post-classical history

Sensing the Sacred in Medieval and Early Modern Culture

Sensing the Sacred in Medieval and Early Modern Culture

This volume traces transformations in attitudes toward, ideas about, and experiences of religion and the senses in the medieval and early modern period. Broad in temporal and geographical scope, it challenges traditional notions of periodisation, highlighting continuities as well as change. Rather than focusing on individual senses, the volume’s organisation emphasises the multisensoriality and embodied nature of religious practices and experiences, refusing easy distinctions between asceticism and excess. The senses were not passive, but rather active and reactive, res-ponding to and initiating change. As the contributions in this collection demonstrate, in the pre-modern era, sensing the sacred was a complex, vexed, and constantly evolving process, shaped by individuals, environment, and religious change. The volume will be essential reading not only for scholars of religion and the senses, but for anyone interested in histories of medieval and early modern bodies, material culture, affects, and affect theory.


Part I: Prescription and practice

Chapter 1. Problems of sensory history and the medieval laity

Chapter 2. Virtus regens animam: William Peraldus on guiding the pleasures of the senses

Chapter 3. What makes things holy? The senses and material culture in the later Middle Ages

Part II: Concord and conversion

Chapter 4. Double conversion: the sensory autobiography of Sir Kenelm Digby

Chapter 5. The senses and the seventeenth-century English conversion narrative

Part III: Exile and encounter

Chapter 6. Hearing exile and homecoming in the Dutch Stranger church

Chapter 7. A sense of place: hearing English Catholicism in the Spanish Habsburg territories, 1568–1659

Chapter 8. Sensing sacred missives: birch bark letters from seventeenth-century missions in New France

Part IV: Figuration and feeling

Chapter 9. “O, she’s warm”: evidence, assent, and the sensory numinous in Shakespeare and his world

Chapter 10. Robert Southwell’s intimate exegesis

Chapter 11. God’s nostrils: the divine senses in early modern England

Afterword: making sense of religion

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