TASTING LICHFIELD, TOUCHING CHINA: SIR JOHN FLOYER'S SENSES

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Abstract

Recent years have seen the growth of a new and newly self-conscious cultural historiography of the senses. This article extends and critiques this literature through a case study of the sensory work and worlds of Sir John Floyer, a physician active in Lichfield during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Floyer is best known for his work on pulse-taking, something which he described as contributing to the art of feeling. Less well known is his first book - a discussion of the tastes of the world and their therapeutic possibilities. The article explicates, contextualizes, and relates these two books and uses this analysis to suggest ways of refining and developing the wider historiography of the senses. It demonstrates how they reveal that what Floyer sensed was closely bound up with the changing ways in which he sensed, particularly when he began feeling the pulse in a 'Chinese' style. This, the article concludes, suggests that historians of the senses need fundamentally to reconsider the model of culture which underpins their work, focusing less on the ways in which people have interpreted or ordered sensory stimuli, and rather analysing the senses as forms of skill or dynamic ways of engaging with the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-670
Number of pages24
JournalHistorical Journal
Volume53
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010

Keywords

  • MEDIEVAL

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