Perception and Action in Medieval Europe (Hardback)
Can dancers dance for a year and a day without drinking, eating or sleeping? Can pictures be made to speak to their viewers? Can lavender purify the soul? In his new book, however, Harald Kleinschmidt argues that we should not be so swift to dismiss such matters. In this thought-provoking study of the logic of perception and action behind these and other stories, and of the history of the five senses, he argues that modern Western rationalism is peculiar in seeing an opposition between perceivers and the targets of their curiosity, actors and their environments or, in general terms, subject and object. Instead, he shows that whether active or passive, people saw their deeds as correlated and mutually dependent. Using a wide range of textual and pictorial sources, he goes on to demonstrate that the assumption of an opposition between subject and object resulted from fundamental changes of standards of perception and patterns of action that took place during the Middle Ages, resulting in the emergence of a new rationalism.