The Sensational Past

By Carolyn Purnell,

Book cover of The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses

Book description

Blindfolding children from birth. Playing a piano made of live cats. Using tobacco to cure drowning. Wearing "flea"-coloured clothes. These actions seem odd to us but in the eighteenth century they made sense.

As Carolyn Purnell persuasively shows, while our bodies may not change dramatically, the way we think about…

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Why read it?

1 author picked The Sensational Past as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The Enlightenment is often associated with intellectual changes. But the book sheds a new light on this “Age of Reason” by showing how emotions and feelings played a crucial role in this intellectually and sensorially dynamic period. Purnell tells this change by providing many interesting, and funny, episodes. My favorite, among others, is the seventeenth-century vogue for perfumes made of the excretions of the civet cat or the musk deer, and it was only in the mid-eighteenth century that floral scents became popular. This shift had to do with people’s ideas about health, cleanliness, and naturalness that changed over time.…

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