Sensual Reflections: Re-Thinking the Role of the Senses in the Greco-Roman World 8th-9th December 2018, Cambridge

Sensual Reflections: Re-Thinking the Role of the Senses in the Greco-Roman World
Saturday 8th – Sunday 9th December 2018
Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge, UK.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

  • George Gazis (Durham University)
  • Emma-Jayne Graham (The Open University)
  • Katerina Ierodiakonou (University of Athens/Université de Genève)
  • Chiara Thumiger (University of Warwick/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
The study of the classical past is currently experiencing a spatial and sensory turn, affecting the work of classicists, classical archaeologists, ancient philosophers and historians alike. Despite the growing number of ideas and approaches developed by individual specialists, so far the attempts to develop an interdisciplinary conversation on the matter have been limited. The aim of this conference is therefore to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and to create a lively and challenging setting for discussion of new methodological approaches to ancient senses.

The conference will be divided into four sessions, each focused on specific aspects of ancient senses and their study:

(i) ‘Sensing the world’ will explore some of the theories of sense-perception put forward in antiquity. The emphasis will be placed on some of the epistemological issues that follow from the different ways in which ancient philosophers explained the relation between the perceiver and the external world, e.g. on the kind of knowledge we acquire through our senses, and the phenomenon of misperception.

(ii) ‘Sensing ruins’ will explore the possibilities offered by sensorial approaches to the study of material culture in classical antiquity. We invite contributions engaging with all the aspects of the physicality of the ancient world and its reception and welcome proposals which seek to present the material in a sensorially engaging and non-traditional way.

(iii) ‘Sensing the body’ will investigate the involvement of the senses in ancient beliefs and theories about disease and the body. This session will be particularly devoted to exploring the connections between literature, medicine and philosophy in the Greco-Roman world, by focusing on their relations with the senses and the human body.

(iv) ‘Sensing beauty’ will broaden the discussion, debating the role of the senses in early aesthetic theory. While encouraging contributions on traditional themes, e.g. mimesis and the sublime, the organizers will give priority to papers that focus specifically on the role of sensorial perception in the theorising of beauty in antiquity, and on how the ‘sensorial turn’ in classical scholarship can deepen our understanding of the early philosophical engagement with beauty and art.

*We aim to publish the results as an edited volume in the Mind Association Occasional Series published by Oxford University Press. Speakers will present preliminary versions of articles to be published in the conference volume.

Submission Guidelines

We especially encourage academics in the early stages of their career to apply (including final-year PhD students), but also welcome proposals from established academics. Applicants are kindly invited to submit the following documents:

1. An anonymised abstract of no more than 500 words (papers should be suitable for 30 min presentations). Abstracts should include (i) the thesis of your paper; (ii) a clear presentation of the main argument you will put forward in support of that thesis; (iii) a brief explanation of the novelty of your argument/thesis; (iv) and an indication of how the argument/thesis fits within the current scholarship on the matter.

2. A separate cover sheet indicating (a) your name, (b) the title of your paper, (c) institutional affiliation, (d) contact details, and (e) the session you would like to be part of. We particularly encourage applications from underrepresented groups in academia. Please feel free to indicate in the cover sheet whether you are a member of such a group.
Deadlines: Proposals should be sent to the organisers ( by 21 September 2018, 11:59pm. Selected applicants will be contacted by 1 October 2018 and will be expected to send a draft of their papers to circulate among speakers and attendees by 15 November 2018.

A limited number of bursaries (of around 70£) will be available for selected speakers to cover part of their travel expenses, but we encourage them to apply for bursaries from their home institutions. We are aiming to offer a limited number of bursaries to attendees too. Further details will be given at a later stage. The registration fee will be 25£ (covering welcome reception, coffee and lunches), and 15£ for graduate students.

The conference is made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Mind Association.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries at

The organisers:
Chiara Blanco (University of Cambridge)
Giacomo Savani (University of Leicester)
Rasmus Sevelsted (University of Cambridge)
Cristóbal Zarzar (University of Cambridge)


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