Joe Moshenska

All Touchy-Feely

The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses

By

W W Norton 302pp £20 order from our bookshop

A brief internet search suggests that, while there are many books of inspiring quotations by Benjamin Franklin available for purchase, none seems to include one of his indisputable exclamations: ‘What Comfort can the Vortices of Descartes give to a Man who has Whirlwinds in his Bowels!’ Carolyn Purnell argues that we should take Franklin’s flatulent fascinations seriously, and that they were just one aspect of a multifaceted concern, throughout the Enlightenment, with the sensory capacities and outputs of the human body.

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