The Senses in Late Medieval England - Woolgar, C.M. - Yale University Press
Literary Studies

The Senses in Late Medieval England

  • C. M. Woolgar
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"The author deals with a fascinating topic in creative ways. Woolgar has a vast familiarity with primary sources, as well as with existing secondary literature. . . . This is a fine study, and it will be an excellent addition to undergraduate as well as graduate libraries."—Susan Mitchell Sommers, The Historian

Crucial to an understanding of life in the past is an appreciation of how individuals perceived their world. This book captures the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the late medieval period to recreate and explain the kinds of lives lived then. Based on a wide range of sources, from saints' lives, collections of miracles, and literary works to domestic financial records and the remains of buildings, the book reveals a physical experience unlike our own. And it was a world that thought differently, one in which the luster of a color might be more important than its hue, and where moral qualities might attach to sound.

As well as examining individual senses, the book considers how sensation functioned in practice—in the households of bishops of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, of the queens of late medieval England, and of the aristocracy at the end of the Middle Ages. Woolgar's deft and scrupulous text recovers an elusive and fascinating world.

C. M. Woolgar is reader and head of special collections at the University of Southampton Library. He is the author of The Great Household in Late Medieval England,  published by Yale University Press.