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Forgot your password? Table of Contents. Related Content. The contributors go beyond treating humans as the sole object of research and comprehension, and focus primarily on non-human animals. This book results from intellectual exchange between Polish and foreign researchers and highlights cultural perspective as an exciting language of animal representation.

Thereafter, the order can vary,but the traditional hierarchy has smell in the middle, followed by taste andtouch. The logic behind this ranking seems to be that the senses which canact at a distance are admired and honoured over the senses which requirecloser degrees of contact. For us, smell has probably declined in importancebecause of the deodorisation of the soul and the animalisation of smell thathas steadily taken place in the chilly, inodorous cultures of the North.

For Freud, smellsignifies in particular the bestiality of sexual desire, centred on the closeproximity of genitality and excrement, from which man distances anddivides himself by standing erect, lifting his nostrils away from the rich fugof sexual odour. For earlier periods, smell could have a nobler signification,precisely because it could operate at a distance, and could thus seem subtleand spiritual a word that has breath in it.

This valuation of smell survives. In the late medieval and early modern periods, animals had more particularapplications to the senses. For, although the senses as such were thought ofas animal in general, it was widely acknowledged that humans were outdoneby particular animals in all their sensory powers. Nocturnal vision providesone example; The Book of the Bee, a work of Nestorian sacred history writtenin about A.

AsLouise Vinge has shown in admirable detail, certain animals wereconventionally associated with particular senses in the medieval and earlymodern worlds Vinge , Other animals were recruited indifferent renderings of the series, for example in a series of engravings byRaphael Sadler, after Martin de Vos, in which the eagle symbolises sight, thehart, or stag the powers of hearing, the dog the powers of smell, and thetortoise and the parakeet tactile sensitivity, Many of these illustrations showthe refinement of the animal powers in the exercise of human arts orcapacities.

The difference seems to be thatwhile animals merely employ their senses, human beings construct theirs, asand through artefacts, or construct themselves through them. Animals here are used to fix in place a series ofconventional representations of the senses.

In The Sense of Taste, the lady. In the tapestrydepicting the sense of hearing, a little dog in the foreground listensattentively to the music emanating from the organ the lady is playing. In The Sense of Sight, the lady holds up a mirror for her attendantunicorn. The emblematic animal here is again the lynx, which was reputed tohave sharp sight, partly because of the optical suggestions of the ocelli thatspot its skin.

As Michel Serres suggests in his reading of this series of tapestries in his LesCinq sens, all the senses have their proper object or symbolising animal — all,that is, apart from the sense of touch. In the tapestry representing touch, thelady herself touches the horn of the unicorn, thereby acting as a bridgebetween the world of albeit fabulous nature and the world of signs thestandard she holds has the crest of the Le Viste family, a member of whichcommissioned the series.

It seems as though the sense of touch — which isanyway to the fore in a woven work such as a tapestry — is being presentedas that in which all the other senses merge, and out of which they emerge. The sense of touch predominates again in the sixth tapestry in the series,which seems to emblematise the half-open, half-closed condition of thesenses, in the two images of the half-open box and the half-open tent.

Thetwo flaps of the latter are being held upon by the lion and unicorn. If thetent represents the interiority of the soul that is scooped out behind orwithin sensory perception, it seems telling that it should be two animals whohold open the way to this secret place of absolute desire. Pierre Charron, a friend ofMontaigne who wrote at the turn of the seventeenth century, makes thispoint in an interesting way in his exposition of human and animal sensoryrankings: In the Senses of Nature the beasts have as well part, as we, and sometimes excell us: for some have their hearing more quicke than man, some their sight, others their smell, others their taste: and it is held, that in the sense of Hearing, the Hart excelleth all others; of Sight, the Eagle; of Smell, the Dogge; of Taste, the Ape; of Feeling, the Tortuis: neverthelesse, the preheminence of that sense of Touch is given unto man, which of all the rest is the most brutish.

Now if the Senses are the meanes to attaine unto knowledge, and that beasts have a part therein, yea sometimes the better part, why should not they have knowledge?

Charron , This reflects the ambivalence attaching to touch itself. Onthe one hand, touch is the most elementary of the senses, since the thingtouched must always be in immediate contact with the toucher. Theassociation with sexuality gives touch animal associations, too. Manysystems of evolutionary thinking beyond the seventeenth century continueto see touch as the most primitive sense, possessed by the protozoon beforeother forms of sensitivity and responsiveness to environment come about.

In the early nineteenth century, the German Naturphilosoph Lorenz Oken developed an entire scheme of evolution in which he divided theanimal kingdom up on the basis of which particular organs predominated intheir constitution; most primitive of all were the snails, worms andarthropods, in whom touch performs the office of the subtler sensesdeveloped in more complex creatures. Oken proposed a similar typology fordifferent kinds of human.

And yet, on the other hand, touch is also the most diffused of the senses,since there is no single, located organ of touch touch seems to migratefrom place to place across and even inside the body and because all theother senses have at one time or another been construed as a mode oftouch, whether direct or indirect.

Determined to reduce the senses to four,in order to match them up with the four elements, Aristotle decided thattaste was in fact simply a specialised form of touch — something of which Iam always reminded when I see the name of that fizzy drink called Tango. Man has the capacity to reform and refine the animal senses. In his NosceTeipsum , a long poem on the immortality of the soul, Sir John Daviesalso represented touch as the most extensive sense, which binds together thehuman frame. Though he does not make the analogy explicit, the spider towhich he compares the human sense of touch appears to be the soul wemight note that the spider, unlike the other creatures represented intraditional illustrations, exercises touch at a distance, by means of the remotesensing technology furnished by its web.

Much like a subtill spider, which doth sit. Davies , 1. Most early books on the nature of animals are full of beliefs about thevirtues or powers that they possess, and that may be appropriated by variousmeans. The magical book known as The Book of Secrets, attributed to AlbertusMagnus, has many recipes for acquiring such powers and effects. But one can find traces within it of more mobile forms ofimagining.

Often this attaches to imaginary animals. BartholomaeusAnglicus remarks in his De proprietatibus rerum on the legendary powers ofsmell possessed by the gryphon, which he then immediately takes as a tokenof the power of intuition to move from outward to spiritual things Also smelling is in Fowles, and specially in Griphons, the which, as saith Ambrose in Exameron, and Isidore hb.

And this that is said of the smelling shall suffice. Anglicus , f. In no creature is this paradox more marked than in the fly. The sensory powers of the fly represented a particularscandal.


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Early Christian writers used the light-loving fly to contrast themerely corporeal apprehension of the light with the apprehension of thehigher light of the mind. It became a traditional consolation for those losingtheir sight to be told that they should hold in contempt a bodily faculty thatthey had in common with mere flies. Didymus the Blind of Alexandria, alearned man of the fourth century, confessed to St Anthony that the loss ofhis sight at the age of four had been a grief to him. Here, the thought of what we must look like in the eye of afly humbles and degrade human self-regard: For whoever looks at the things that happen in front of him, with only those eyes which, like us, lizards and flies have, a corpse is a horrible spectacle and fearful to behold.

What is now a corpse could a little earlier listen and look with a good and lively air and appearance, make merry and enjoy this world, just as though all his body was his alone, practically many lives and souls in one, so many senses had they, that life and that soul. Now each of these senses is a cadaver. The eyes are dead to light, the ears dead to sound, the tongue dead to words, the heart feels no affection, the face cannot express it, all is horror, smell, silence and squalor, so that a friend can hardly stand to look at him.

Bartoli , , quoted in Camporesi , The microscope was the single most important influence in transformingthe deprecation of what were thought to be imperfect and accidentalcreatures into confirmations of the extent and orderliness of divine design. Henry Baker had a particular fondness for flies, thebeauty and variety of which makes them even more fitted to connect therealms of the very small and the infinitely great: It would be endless to enumerate the different Sorts of Flies, which may continually be met with in the Meadows, Woods and Gardens; and impossible to describe their various Plumes and Decorations, surpassing all the Magnificence and Luxury of Dress in the Courts of the greatest Princes.

The Czech poet Miroslav Holub makes the fly the vehicle for a ratherdifferent meditation on the intertwining of incompatible perspectives.

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During the fourteenth charge of the French cavalry she mated with a brown-eyed male fly from Vadincourt. She rubbed her legs together as she sat on a disembowelled horse meditating on the immortality of flies. The compound eye of the fly isactually rather an ordinary affair, on the insect scale. Many writershave speculated about how and what a fly sees. Robert Hooke sets the tonefor these accounts, when describing the apparent largeness of view of thefly: in each of these Hemispheres, I have been able to discover a Land- scape of those things which lay before my window, one thing of which was a large Tree, whose trunk and top I could plainly discover, as I could also the parts of my window, and my hand and fingers, if I held it between the Window and the Object.

Hooke , Hooke follows others in seeing the finger of the Almighty in the fashioningof the eye of the fly: we need not doubt, but that there may be as much curiosity of contrivance and structure in every one of these Pearls, as in the eye of a Whale or Elephant, and the almighty's Fiat could as easily cause the existence of the one as the other; and as one day and a thousand years are the same with him, so may one eye and ten thousand. Hooke , There is a curious effect of perspective inversion in the case of the fly, sincenot only do human beings see a great deal of flies, flies reciprocally see agreat deal of us, and in our most intimate circumstances.

Pliny reports that the Roman Consul Mucianus carried a flysewn into a linen pouch to protect him against eye diseases. And yet flies are also sometimes thought to be distinguished by defectivevision. Aristotle thought that the insect he knew as the muops, or the gad-fly,died of dropsy in its eyes. Aristotle , Vol 4, V. Pliny said thesame thing of the tabanus, or stinging horse-fly. Pliny , XI, 43, Vol 3 , p. The condition of the glasses parallels themove from assisted long-sight to the immediate gratifications of instinct andappetite.

Later, one lens is smashed, reducing the depth of field available viastereoscopic vision. Finally, they are destroyed altogether. The loss ofperspective and parallax is associated with the growing dominion of the fliesin the novel. The book pits signals against noise, with signalsdepending upon the establishment and articulation of various kinds ofdistance: the visual signal representing by the fire on the mountain, and theauditory signal represented by the conch.

Against this, there is the principleof formless noise, which is at once dispersed and indistinct. The butterflies are seen again, dancing, preoccupied, in the clearing wherethe boys kill a sow Golding , The flies in the novel are heard indirectly too, in the inchoate murmurings,humming and buzzings of the boys Golding , 29, 43, 90 , againstwhich Ralph and Piggy must struggle to be heard. Golding , Close, close, close! Why things are what they are?