Workshop: Multitudo: a multisensory, multilayered and multidirectional approach to classical studies

Workshop: Multitudo: a multisensory, multilayered and multidirectional approach to classical studies

21st November 2015, Roehampton University, London

Organisers: Alessandra Abbattista (Roehampton) and Eleanor Betts (OU)

The aim of this one-day workshop is to bring together postgraduate students and early career researchers interested in taking a multidisciplinary approach to sensory studies of Greek and Roman societies, with a particular focus on performance and religion. The format is a series of paired 10 minute presentations with 20 minute discussions and group activities.

The objective of the workshop is to explore the value of applying sensory approaches to the material and literary evidence of the ancient world and illustrate how they complement and/or contradict each other. The underlying theme is an exploration of the perceptions and experiences of those who lived in the classical world and how an attempt to reconstruct these sensory experiences extends, creates, or alters our perceptions of the past and the lives and identities of its inhabitants. In particular, the workshop will ask how we might develop and apply methodologies for recreating experiences of Graeco-Roman urban and rural landscapes, as well as the activities, rites, behaviours and meanings associated with them, with a focus on how empirical sensory data may combine, or at times conflict, with that of ancient sources.

We invite contributions which address these issues from the standpoint of archaeology, ancient history and philology, focused upon any area and time period of the Graeco-Roman world. Interdisciplinarity is encouraged, and preference will be given to presentations which use non-traditional formats and/or apply innovative theoretical approaches or methodologies. Contributors should consider at least one sense beyond sight, but there is no compulsion to include all senses.


If you are interested in contributing, we invite you to present for 10 minutes on any topic relevant to sensory studies, and in any format (e.g. film, audio, installation, performance, traditional presentation). The organisers will pair each presenter with another who is proposing a related or complementary topic or approach, with the aim of fostering lively discussion. The overall format of each panel is therefore two 10 minute presentations followed by 20 minutes of discussion which explores the methodologies and/or approaches presented in these sensory studies.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

*       What is the value of taking a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the senses in the ancient world? Which are the issues of approaching antiquity from a multisensory perspective? Which are the methodological problems and the possible solutions in the analysis of past senses?

*       What is sensory archaeology? How to develop methodologies for reconstructing sensory experience of space and place? How might new, or existing, sensory approaches be applied to discrete monuments, buildings, locales and landscapes in the Graeco-Roman world?

*       What are the possibilities and risks of taking comparative approaches, such as (auto)ethnographic studies or use of historical comparisons?

*       To what extent did the senses play a central role within distinctive socio-cultural activities or locales, such as the domestic, public, political, religious, funerary or leisure spheres of the ancient world? Were sensory experiences instrumental in reinforcing the meaning of particular cultural activities or might they even serve to undermine traditional expectations?

*       How did ancient Greek and Roman poets, dramatists and philosophers translate multi-sensory experiences into aesthetic forms? Did they trigger a cognitive process through the simultaneous perception of different senses? Was their poetic writing in search of synaesthetic words, images, sounds, smells and movements?

*       What was the function of multisensory representations on the ancient Greek and Roman stage? Did ancient dramatists aim to affect the sensory experience of their audience through multimedia performances? Which was the reception of their audience in the code-breaking of visual representations?

*       How to define the relationship between the senses and the self? What is the role of sensory perception in the construction or maintenance of personal or communal identities? What is its function in processes connected with memory and the perpetuation of cultural ideologies?

*       In which terms are the senses connected to the life-course? What are the philosophical implications of approaching the past senses from the perspective of cognitive sciences? Is the dynamic body both the location for sensory experience and the translation of its meaning?

Deadline for expressions of interest: Monday 14th September. Please send your proposed topic, title and keywords to the organisers by this date, along with your intended format for presentation.

For further information please do not hesitate to contact us: Alessandra Abbattista ( or Eleanor Betts (

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