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Music, Poetry and Sense Experience
Paris, June 2005


Paris, 10 -11 June 2005

Conveners: Esteban Buch and Beate Perrey

École des Hautes Etudes et Sciences Sociales (EHESS), 105 bd Raspail, 

Friday 10 June, 2pm-6pm, salle 11

Opening lecture
Susan Stewart (Princeton University) : "Poetry and the Feel of Thought"

Jean-Marie Schaeffer (CRAL, CNRS/EHESS) : "La relation esthétique :
attention, émotion, appréciation"

Esteban Buch (CRAL, EHESS): "Histoire des sens: le Tristan de 

Beate Perrey (University of Cambridge, University of Liverpool, CRAL) :
"Perception du sens: le Tristan de E.-P. Salonen, Peter Sellars and Bill

Saturday 11 June, 10am - 1pm, salle 1

Jean Khalfa (University of Cambridge) : "Visibly meaningful"

Victoria Best (University of Cambridge) : "Disturbing the viewer :
pornography and formlessness in contemporary french film"

Peter Szendy (université de Strasbourg II) et Laura Odello (Université de
Trieste / Paris VIII) : " Ventriloques"

Saturday 11 June, 2pm - 6pm, salle 1

Lawrence Kramer (Fordham University) : "Touch(s)tone(s): The Musical Thing"

Martin Kaltenecker : "La musique invisible"

Jérôme Dokic (Institut Jean Nicod, EHESS) : "La matière de la musique"

Gillian Beer (University of Cambridge) : "Musical Settings and the senses:
poems of Thomas Hardy"

Conference Description:

Vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch - this is the hierarchy of the five
senses in their decreasing virtue as suggested by Aristotle in De Anima.
The same sequence describes also, however, the rise of sense experience
towards ever greater immediacy, from beholding before one's eyes to
holding in one's hands. In the humanities, the different disciplines have
traditionally been associated with the perception of specific senses,
hence the division into the study of art, music, literature and so forth.
Yet, synaesthesia arguably always comes into play in the encounter with an
object of art of any kind as soon as we are moved by it: we sense
cross-currents as well as resistances and we do so through our own body.
Thus, both the creation and the critique of art are tied up with the
somatic, are ultimately informed by touch, whether imagined or real.

As poetry, unlike ordinary language, is concerned with music, with meter,
rhythm, sound and silence, apart from image and figuration, it holds a
privileged place among the arts, thought to be able to encompass all the
other arts. Poetry mobilizes sense experiences through and beyond the
conventions of meaning. Music, however, imposes its own time. Set off from
quotidian time, yet using both recall and expectancy across its own
continuance. Since the 19th century it has been seen as the most abstract
among the arts, not sharing the kind of referentiality proper to language.
Furthermore, unlike the essentially frontal relation we entertain with the
visual and verbal arts, music has the particularity of enveloping and
holding the listener inside its own sonorous space, like a second skin. Is
it music after all, then, which is most directly in touch with the body?

These ways of understanding perception are, however, historically and
culturally marked. The construction and deconstruction of sense and
sensory experience during the process of reception is a touchstone of
subjectivity as much as the basis of all discourse and the various
collective forms of representation. With an emphasis on music and poetry,
this conference revisits the issue of perception and sense experience in
the arts, and the ways in which it is inscribed in the social and cultural
history of the various modes of artistic expression.

Encouraging disciplinary crossover, this conference brings together
scholars from the fields of music, poetry, literature, film studies,
aesthetics and philosophy. It will be held in both the French and English

This event is part of a continued collaborative initiative between
scholars belonging to the following research groups:

*the Centre de recherches sur les arts et le langage (CRAL) at the EHESS,
 Paris, co-directed by J-M Schaffer and Esteban Buch
*the research project New Languages for Criticism: Cross-Currents and
 Resistance, co-directed by Gillian Beer, Malcolm Bowie and Beate Perrey,
 based at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and
 Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge

All welcome. For enquiries, please e-mail Esteban Buch ( or
Beate Perrey (

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