Symposium: What the Body Knows

What the Body Knows: Embodied Senses & Meaning-Creation in the Biblical Imagination

3 July 2020, University of Sheffield

How do taste, smell, and touch create meaning?

This one-day symposium invites research papers that investigate embodied senses (taste, smell, and/or touch) in biblical & non-canonical texts, with a focus on the cognitive-linguistic, biological, and metaphorical ways that senses create meaning.

Scholarship on taste, smell, and touch often tends to focus on the sociological aspects of sensory experience. This symposium aims to take a cognitive approach to biblical modes of tasting, smelling, and touching in order to explore ancient religious experience. Topics for discussion include cognitive linguistics, metaphor theory, affect and the senses, biological and chemical modes of sensory experience, as well as the relationship between biblical literature and the embodiment. Studies engaging with non-canonical texts are very welcome.

The symposium will feature a keynote paper by Prof Colleen Shantz (University of Toronto).  Prof Shantz researches aspects of experience—phenomena like emotion, religious experience, and ritual—to consider their role in the meaning-making efforts of the earliest Christians. Her research bridges these questions with cognitive science approaches and the interaction of biological embodiment with culture.

She has been active in promoting attention to these questions, serving as a founding member of related sections in the Society of Biblical Literature and the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies (where she is currently Vice President) and helping to develop three volumes of essays that bring together scholars working with these approaches.

Presenters & Titles

Bart B. Bruehler, “Beings, Bodies, and Brains: The Power of Emotion, Simulation, and Conceptualization in Biblical Narrative”

Tom de Bruin, “A Bad Taste In My Mouth… Literally: Spirits as Embodied Senses in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

Rebekah Dyer, “(Re)connecting ‘Religious’ and ‘Everyday’ Experiences Through Embodied Encounters with Fire”

Chaya Halberstam, “The Scarlet Stain: Blood and Justice in Matthew’s Trial Narrative”

Shirley Ho, “To Work or Not to Work: The Hand and Embodied Wisdom of the Valiant Woman in Proverbs 31:10-31”

Ingrid E. Lilly, “Bitterness in the Body: Corporeal Hebrew Philology of a Misunderstood Syndrome”

Kirsty Louise Jones, “Sensing the Unknowable: Sensing Revelation, Relationship, and Response in Psalm 139”

Laura Quick, “Encountering the High Priest: Multi-Sensory Aspects of the High Priestly Vestments”

Megan Remington, “Embodied Touch: The Human Body and Sensorial Participation in Daniel 8-12”

Meredith Warren, “Tasting Death: Sensory Metaphors and Other Worlds”

Lyndon Webb, “Embodied Senses, Theophany, and Post-Humanist Anthropology in the Song of Songs”

Symposium Format

The format of the symposium will facilitate discussion over the reading of papers. 10-12 paper proposals will be accepted, with additional participants welcome up to a maximum of 40. Authors are asked to complete their draft papers for distribution no later than 1 June 2020. All participants will read the papers in advance of the symposium, and authors will merely present a brief 10-minute summary of their research. The majority of the workshop will be discussion of the pre-circulated papers.

Propose a Paper

Presenters whose papers are accepted will receive a stipend of £125. There are three Early Career participant bursaries of £100 available. Some meals and refreshments will be provided.

To propose a paper, please send abstracts of 500 words and CV to Applications for papers will be considered until 1 December 2019.

To apply to participate, please send a brief, 200-word description of your research aims as they relate to the symposium as well as a CV to If you wish to be considered for an Early Career participant bursary, please indicate so in your email. Applications for participation will be considered until 1 April 2020.

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