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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: October 2020

Chapter 2 - Anatomizing Taste


This chapter turns to medical writing in order to probe the relationship between literary taste and taste as an object and faculty of empirical investigation. In anatomical textbooks – notably Crooke’s Mikrokosmographia – ‘taste’ slides referentially between gustation and readerly discrimination. Against a conventional scholarly supposition that anatomical history follows a trajectory away from classical authorities towards the empirical certainties of sense experience, I contend that this semantic flexibility emblematises an early modern insistence on the productive complementarity of proto-scientific empiricism and philological erudition, bodily sensation and mental judgement. The complementarity also has implications for our understanding of early modern subjectivities, pointing to a notion of selfhood that is simultaneously sensorially and textually inscribed, grounded both in physical experience and in the acquisition of knowledge.

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