Appel à contribution – Hearing with all Senses. Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Multisensory Phenomenon (ca. 500–1500)

Organizer / Organisation: Joanna Olchawa, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Julia Samp, RWTH Aachen University
Date and conference venue / Datum und Veranstaltungsort: as part of the DFG-funded network / im Rahmen des DFG-Netzwerks „Lautsphären des Mittelalters“, March 23–24 / 23.–24. März 2023, Frankfurt am Main
Deadline: November 1 / 1. November 2022

Hearing with all Senses. Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Multisensory Phenomenon (ca. 500–1500)

Hearing occupies a prominent place within the medieval hierarchy of senses. The New Testament pericopes « In the beginning was the Word » (John 1.1) and « Faith comes from hearing » (Romans 10.17) had an immense impact in late antiquity and in the Middle Ages. For example, based on this, the ideas of the conceptio per aurem, according to which Mary conceived by hearing, develop – and these ideas find an astonishing appeal especially in the visual implementation. Exploring the medieval sensory worlds no longer from the primacy of seeing, but rather from hearing, opens up new and surprising perspectives for the evaluation and understanding of actions and rituals, media and narratives. But one sense rarely stands alone. Thus, the reception of writing and text is sometimes understood as a multisensory appropriation – signs for the eye, sounds for the ears, words for gustatory and materials for olfactory as well as haptic perception; and by ruminating on what you have read even the inner senses are involved. The interaction of the senses also facilitates memorization: Hence, the plucking or beating of the ears serves as a reminder – if you want to hear, you have to feel. During the service, in turn, incense was used as a pungent aid to manifest the audible « Word of God » in the room and to envelop those present in it. Thus, perception – especially in the

Christian-Latin Middle Ages – is fundamentally figured as a fluid, situation-dependent mutual interrelation of the senses.

The aim of the conference is to trace the special significance of hearing within multisensory structures and related patterns of perception and contexts of meaning within their specific communication contexts. This not only addresses genuine questions of the historical sciences and humanities, but also calls for interdisciplinary approaches (e.g., in the field of psychoacoustics or the neurosciences): For instance, how does what is heard change depending on what is seen or perceived with other senses? It is equally necessary to consider transcultural as well as transreligious perspectives on the phenomenon of multisensory hearing. Furthermore, it is important to question the terminology of the sensory crossing of borders (such as synesthetic, multi- or intersensory, multi- or cross-modal) regarding contemporary categories of interpretation. The possibilities of present-day mediation of medieval themes and objects in the context of the sensory interplay in museums, for example to blind visitors or in general in ears-on-exhibitions, should also be discussed. The contributions can open exemplary approaches, tackle the phenomenon on a theoretical level or outline methodological insights.

The international conference is organized as part of the interdisciplinary DFG-funded network « Lautsphären des Mittelalters ». With the aim of supporting the networking of PhD students and postdocs working on these topics, proposals from scientists at these levels of qualification are particularly welcome. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered. Please send your abstract of max. 250 words for a presentation of approximately 4.500 words in German or English language as well as a short curriculum vitae until November 1, 2022 to Joanna Olchawa ( and Julia Samp ( Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding the conference or the submission.

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