Byzantine Studies Symposium, Knowing Bodies, Passionate Souls: Sense Perceptions in Byzantium

Medieval Art Research

Smell 3“Knowing Bodies, Passionate Souls: Sense Perceptions in Byzantium”
Byzantine Studies Symposium | April 25-27, 2014
Symposiarchs: Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University and Margaret Mullett, Dumbarton Oaks.
Byzantine culture was notably attuned to a cosmos of multiple domains:  material, immaterial; bodily, intellectual, physical, spiritual; human, divine. Despite a prevailing discourse to the contrary, the Byzantine world found its bridges between domains most often in sensory modes of awareness. These different domains were concretely perceptible; further, they were encountered daily amidst the mundane no less than the exalted. Icons, incense, music, sacred architecture, ritual activity; saints, imperial families, persons at prayer; hymnography, ascetical or mystical literature:  in all of its cultural expressions, the Byzantines excelled in highlighting the intersections between human and divine realms through sensory engagement (whether positive or negative).

Byzantinists have been slow to look at the operations of the senses in Byzantium, especially those of seeing, its relation to the…

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