Synaesthesia… au Texas !
Cette semaine ont lieu deux congrès auxquels les membres du projet Synaesthesia vont participer et présenter leurs travaux de recherche. Ces deux congrès se tiendront à San Antonio au Texas (USA)
Du 16 au 19 novembre, le premier congrès est organisé par l’American Schools of Oriental Research qui réunit des chercheurs de tous horizons, travaillant sur le monde oriental passé et actuel. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel intervient dans le cadre d’une session organisée par Kiersten Neumann de l’Oriental Institute (University of Chicago), sur Senses and Sensibility in the Near East. (résumé de l’intervention ci-après).
Du 19 au 22 novembre, le deuxième congrès est organisé par la Society of Biblical Literature en partenariat avec l’American Academy of Religion. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel y intervient dans une session consacrée au thème du Silence dans le monde méditerranéen ancien: Speech and Talk in the Ancient Mediterranean World (résumé ci-après). D’autre part, Adeline Grand-Clément et Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel proposent deux communications dans une session dirigée par Greg Schmidt Goering (University of Virginia) consacrée à la Synesthésie et la Poly-sensorialité: Senses and Cultures in the Biblical World (résumés ci-après).
Affaire à suivre !
Vendredi 18 novembre. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel: “Meeting the Divine in Rituals: Substances, Material, and Multi-Sensory Experiences in Cuneiform Texts”
Theorized by Artistotle, the five-senses model of modern Western societies may not always be applicaple to other cultures, especially those of the ancient Near East. In human experience, senses usually merge and interact with each other. Inviting modern scholars to cast aside their own bearings regarding perception, a multi-sensory approach is fruitful and crucial for understanding the significance of cultural concepts related to the senses in a community, as the anthropologist Joël Candau (2011) has shown. In the cuneiform sources, the efficiency of the ritual procedure depends on the right manipulation of different objects. With the sensory phenomena they produce, a new atmosphere is created. The place is neither human, nor divine. It is a liminal space where two realms of different natures meet, communicate, and interact with each other. The ritual scene is then full of sensations: the sounds of musical instruments, the sweet-smelling fragrance of cedar doors at the entrance of the temple, the shiny colors of precious stones, the brightness of metal objects… The human and the divine bodies are fully solicited, acting on each other thanks to the sensory phenomena. Focusing on ritual texts of the 1st millennium BCE, this paper will investigate the role played by substances and materials in various ritual procedures. Activating more than one single sense, the ritual objects and their sensory properties come together to contribute to a multisensory experience.
Lundi 21 novembre. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel: “The Sound of Silence: Nocturnal Noises in Akkadian Rituals”
The cuneiform tablets of Ancient Mesopotamia offer descriptions of rituals involving various sensory effects: sounds of musical instruments, voices, lights, odors of cedars, etc.. All these phenomena help to create a particular atmosphere where human and divine meet each other. The ritual scene seems then to be a noisy and luminous place. But in the so-called Prayer to the gods of the night, known from the Old Babylonian period to the 1st millennium BCE, the officiant waits the night and its special sensory effects to accomplish the procedure. During the night, people are all asleep and the city is plunged into silence and also obscurity. In the present paper, I will investigate the symbolism of silence in the ritual context of the Prayers to the gods of the night: the merging of visual and acoustic effects is of the utmost importance to perform the ritual and to convoke the divine entities in the ritual scene.
Mardi 22 novembre. Adeline Grand-Clément. “Searching for ‘Cultural Synesthesia’: The Kaleidoscopic Way of Sensing in the Archaic Greek World”
Some recent studies by C. Classen and D. Howes have paved the way for new avenues of enquiry concerning sensory interplay and the different ways each society shapes its own sensorium. The ethnologist is often confronted in his fieldwork with intersensory crossings and overlappings which are not individual-specific phenomena but rather are shared by the whole community. D. Howes proposes to name these phenomena ‘cultural synesthesia’ and emphasizes the necessity to take into account the material culture and the technological tools developed by the society under study. But to what extent can the notion of ‘cultural synesthesia’ be useful to historians of Antiquity? Comparing the documentation at our disposal with the data collected by anthropologists and neuroscientists reveals that our sources – be they literary, epigraphical, iconographical or archaeological – deal more often with multisensoriality than with true synesthesia. In this paper, I will track examples of ‘cultural synesthesia’ that could be characteristic of Greek society. I will focus on the archaic poems, especially on Homer, Hesiod and the Homeric hymns, and try to reinterpret some oddities of the color lexicon that were seen in the 19th century CE as proof of some deficient visual perception, and that were later on interpreted as poetic metaphor – e.g., the lily-voice (leirioeis) of the cicadas, the pale-green (khlôros) song of the nightingale, the many-coloured (poikilos) snake, the purple (porphureos) rainbow. My main argument will be to show that these expressions are manifestations of ‘cultural synesthesia’ and are due to a specific way of sensing: during the Archaic period, the Greek sensorium was not organized in the same manner as it would be described later on by Aristotle (who was the first one to demarcate the five sense).
Mardi 22 novembre. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel. “The Caterpillar that Shouted: Akkadian Omens, Synesthesia, and Multi-sensoriality”
From the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE, the diviners of ancient Mesopotamia outlined and organized their knowledge in long, thematic omen lists. Beyond simple descriptions of the observation of a phenomenon, the diviners make associations between a sign and a potential outcome. These signs have to be clearly deciphered, read, and understood by these scholars. Diviners link them to religious, political, or social events. The divinatory series are an intellectual production, elaborated by scholars who manipulate words, sounds, and cuneiform signs, questioning the boundaries between the likely and the unlikely, the real and the impossible. In describing signs, diviners use a precise vocabulary that includes sensorial metaphors and comparisons. What is perceived in the surrounding environment can not only be seen, but also heard, smelled, and so on. Sensations are sometimes intertwined in these associations, creating a new divinatory configuration: for example, the thunder, the Storm-god’s voice, can literally « light up like the sunrise », or can be as painful as the sting of a scorpion, as it said in the Enūma Anu Enlil.