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'The Apish Art': Taste in Early Modern England

Swann, Elizabeth Louise (2013) 'The Apish Art': Taste in Early Modern England. PhD thesis, University of York.

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The recent burgeoning of sensory history has produced much valuable work. The sense of taste, however, remains neglected. Focusing on the early modern period, my thesis remedies this deficit. I propose that the eighteenth-century association of ‘taste’ with aesthetics constitutes a restriction, not an expansion, of its scope. Previously, taste’s epistemological jurisdiction was much wider: the word was frequently used to designate trial and testing, experiential knowledge, and mental judgement. Addressing sources ranging across manuscript commonplace books, drama, anatomical textbooks, devotional poetry, and ecclesiastical polemic, I interrogate the relation between taste as a mode of knowing, and contemporary experiences of the physical sense, arguing that the two are inextricable in this period. I focus in particular on four main areas of enquiry: early uses of ‘taste’ as a term for literary discernment; taste’s utility in the production of natural philosophical data and its rhetorical efficacy in the valorisation of experimental methodologies; taste’s role in the experience and articulation of religious faith; and a pervasive contemporary association between sweetness and erotic experience. Poised between acclaim and infamy, the sacred and the profane, taste in the seventeenth century is, as a contemporary iconographical print representing ‘Gustus’ expresses it, an ‘Apish Art’. My thesis illuminates the pivotal role which this ambivalent sense played in the articulation and negotiation of early modern obsessions including the nature and value of empirical knowledge, the attainment of grace, and the moral status of erotic pleasure, attesting in the process to a very real contiguity between different ways of knowing – experimental, empirical, textual, and rational – in the period.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.581634
Depositing User: Ms Elizabeth Louise Swann
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2013 15:51
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2018 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4359

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