Knowing by Sensing


Course Objective

This course teaches students to use the senses and as analytical tools
in academic study, and even in daily life. They will learn to use
different kinds of knowing through sensing and enhance sensory skills,
to use this sensory information analytically, enlarge their sensory
vocabulary and (re)construct sensory objects and (re-)enact sensory
events on an accessible level.

Course Content

The senses offer scholars intriguing topics that transcend disciplinary,
chronologic and geographic boundaries. But beyond this the senses are
valuable methodological tools, that provide us with different types of
knowledge than text and image alone can provide. In our digital and
visually oriented age of social media and the internet, the senses and
the body are undervalued and underestimated – especially in academia.
Even when scholars study the senses, they are hesitant to engage with
them: they remain the object of study, but aren’t considered informative
in themselves.

This course teaches students to include the different senses in the
production of knowledge, to train their sensory gaze, and to be able to
describe sensory phenomena. The course addresses disciplines such as
medicine, medical history, archaeology, (art-)history and non-academic
topics such as gastronomy, art and dance. An inter-disciplinary team of
experts will address the sense of touch, smell, sight, taste, hearing,
synesthesia and even our interoceptive senses (balance, weight, etc.).
It challenges the classical hierarchy of the senses in which only sight
and hearing are considered aesthetic and informative tools. Senses, body
and mind will work together to fundamentally transform the way in which
we know, study and understand.

Students will participate in a wide variety of lectures, workshops and
experiments offered by specialists, including visits to the Rijksmuseum
and Oosterdok, and a wine tasting. They will keep track of their
experiences and progress in a multi-sensory ‘sense-log’, and (learn to)
present their research in a multi-sensory presentation.
This course is part of the specialist Master Track in Medical and Health
Humanities. Students who wish to complete the full track are also
required to take the course Introduction to Medical and Health
Humanities (Block 4), Objects of Knowledge (Block 5) and Research
Seminar: Medicine in Society (Block 5). It is also possible to take just
one, two, or three courses.

Teaching Methods

The course consists of lectures, experiments, excursions and workshops,
including visits to relevant institutions and laboratories. During the
course, students will keep a ‘sense log’ in which they record their

Method of Assessment

The course will be concluded with a multi-sensory presentation and a
paper. The final grade will be determined on the basis of the sense-log
(20%), presentation (40%) and paper (40%).


David Howes, Empire of the Senses (Oxford, 2005).
Additional literature (aimed at all the senses) will be provided during
the course.

Target Audience

The course is open to all interested MA or MSc students. This includes,
but is certainly not limited to, students of history, art-history,
medical history, literature, anthropology or psychology.

General Information

Course Code L_GAMAGES034
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator W.J. de Vries MA
Examiner W.J. de Vries MA
Teaching Staff drs. C.L. Verbeek MA
W.J. de Vries MA

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

This course is also available as: