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Early Modern Discussion Group | Claire Turner

25 March @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Claire Turner (University of Leeds), ‘ “No corruption may come in by the windows of your eyes”: Outbreaks of Plague and the Sense of Sight in Seventeenth-Century London’.


Claire Turner is a PhD student at Leeds studying how people experienced and perceived epidemic disease through their senses in seventeenth-century England. Her research explores interactions between the traditional five senses (sight, smell, sound, taste and touch) and assesses how sensory interplay affected the way that people experienced, perceived, and remembered the plague.


The seventeenth century was a key period in the development of new theories and ideas about the sense of sight. However, the same period witnessed a series of devastating plague outbreaks. This paper explores the intimate relationship between the sense of sight and epidemic disease in seventeenth-century London. Through an investigation of the significance of not seeing, seeing, and being seen, this paper argues that the sense of sight acted as a gateway to the inner body during outbreaks of plague. It was prone to being obscured, attacked, and penetrated by a variety of substances both associated with the plague itself and with its prevention and treatment. Sight was not the cognitive, intellectual, and largely distant sense that many scholars have proposed it was and still is. Instead, outbreaks of plague have illuminated the vulnerability of both the viewer and the viewed.


This seminar will be held online on Blackboard Collaborate. Registration will be via Eventbrite (forthcoming).


25 March
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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Early Modern Discussion Group