Annual Lecture Series

Brown University’s Department of the History of Art and Architecture hosted a year-long lecture series on The Sensory during the  2018-2019 academic year.

Sensory Lecture Series Poster

To sense is the body’s access to the world and the meaning ascribed to those perceptions. Art and architecture can play with the senses in both aspects of the term from spaces made to evoke physical sensations to those created for an audience’s attention to touch, noise, music, light, taste, movement, and fragrance imbued with cultural significance. The series is sponsored by the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, the Anita Glass Memorial Fund, the Margerie Cutler Endowment, and the Marshall Woods Lectureship Foundation of Fine Arts.

All lectures are free and open to the public. They take place at 5:30pm in List Art Center, 64 College Street, Providence.

October 4 at 5:30pm in List 110
Andrew M. Watsky, Princeton University
Hearing with the Eyes: Tea, Aesthetics, and the Senses in Sixteenth-century Japan

October 29 at 5:30pm in List 110
Bissera V. Pentcheva, Stanford University
Ephemeral Liveliness: Gold Relief, Chant, and the Eucharistic Rite

February 25 at 5:30pm in List 120
Annual Anita Glass Memorial Lecture
Jonathan Hay, New York University
A Visuality of Noise: Paintings by the Ming Dynasty Artist, Xu Wei (1521-1593)
Reception to follow

March 14 at 5:30pm in List 110
Nina Macaraig, Koç University, Istanbul
Sensescapes of the Topkapı Palace in Ottoman Istanbul

April 4 at 5:30pm in List 120
Michelle Oing, Yale University
The Medieval Cyborg: Performing Objects in the Late Middle Ages

April 15 at 5:30pm in List 110
Niall Atkinson, University of Chicago >
The Wandering Body and the Wondering Eye: Italian views of Cairo in Early Modern Travel


The speakers in this lecture series will simultaneously offer studies of specific relationships between the senses and art as well as methods for sensory scholarship. For an attention to the sensory draws in the disciplines of psychology, neurology, ecology, philosophy, and digital humanities to offer alternative ways of writing art and architectural history, and connects to current trends in curatorial practice towards the experiential and immersive. The sensory can both complement and push back against history as a mode of inquiry and integrate the realm of the imagination. The lecturers’ range of fields across Asia and Europe, and from the medieval to the early modern and contemporary, will encourage us to consider approaches beyond the visual in art and architectural history.