Book ID: CBB457783202

Sensory Experiments: Psychophysics, Race, and the Aesthetics of Feeling (2020)


Fretwell, Erica (Author)

Duke University Press

Publication Date: 2020
Physical Details: 336
Language: English

In Sensory Experiments, Erica Fretwell excavates the nineteenth-century science of psychophysics and its theorizations of sensation to examine the cultural and aesthetic landscape of feeling in nineteenth-century America. Fretwell demonstrates how psychophysics—a scientific movement originating in Germany and dedicated to the empirical study of sensory experience—shifted the understandings of feeling from the epistemology of sentiment to the phenomenological terrain of lived experience. Through analyses of medical case studies, spirit photographs, perfumes, music theory, recipes, and the work of canonical figures ranging from Kate Chopin and Pauline Hopkins to James Weldon Johnson and Emily Dickinson, Fretwell outlines how the five senses became important elements in the biopolitical work of constructing human difference along the lines of race, gender, and ability. In its entanglement with social difference, psychophysics contributed to the racialization of aesthetics while sketching out possibilities for alternate modes of being over and against the figure of the bourgeois liberal individual. Although psychophysics has largely been forgotten, Fretwell demonstrates that its importance to shaping social order through scientific notions of sensation is central to contemporary theories of new materialism, posthumanism, aesthetics, and affect theory.

Reviewed By

Review Jorge Castro-Tejerina (2022) Review of "Sensory Experiments: Psychophysics, Race, and the Aesthetics of Feeling". Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (pp. 293-296). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Robinson, David K.
Pind, Jörgen L.
Williams, Joyce E.
MacLean, Vicky M.
Meischner-Metge, Anneros
Jones, Jeannette Eileen
History of Psychology
American Quarterly
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
German History
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
University of Georgia Press
University of Washington Press
College of William and Mary
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick
University of California, Los Angeles
Science and race
Science and gender
Science and culture
Experimental psychology
Fechner, Gustav Theodor
Wundt, Wilhelm Max
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Stumpf, Carl
Lehmann, Alfred
Kroman, Kristian
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
United States
South America
Philadelphia, PA
Københavns Universitet (Copenhagen)

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