The Atlantic World, the Senses, and the Arts

David S. Shields

in The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199210879
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

The Atlantic World, the Senses, and the Arts

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In 1825, the father of gastronomy, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, proposed that the perfection of the senses in Western history coincided with the European encounter with America. How exactly did novel sensations of pleasure and pain change people on both sides of the Atlantic? Smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing, and touching changed profoundly for those who experienced the opening of the Atlantic world. This article uses the classical ‘five senses’ organisation of Western physiology as an organising principle, doing so for convenience's sake rather than to suggest that it operated as a universal structure of sensing in every culture of Europe, Africa, and the Americas. For smelling, it concentrates on the East Indies and West Indies, for hearing on Africa and Ibero-America, for tasting Central America and the West Indies (with a side glance at Africa), and for seeing north Europe and North America.

Keywords: Atlantic world; Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin; sensations; pleasure; pain; Africa; five senses; physiology; Europe; Americas

Article.  8263 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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