Calvin before the Genevan Council, 1549.
Project (2015-2017)

Disciplining the Sense of Hearing: Auditory Practices in Mid Sixteenth-Century Geneva

This PhD project investigates new modes of listening ("attentive listening"), speaking ("plain" and "sincere speech") and remembering ("word memory") as they appear in mid sixteenth-century Geneva in the context of religious Reformation. I study the Consistory of Geneva—its church discipline and surveillance policy—in connection with a more general "acoustic turn" that can be observed in the period. In sixteenth-century Geneva, spectacular means of communication were partly rejected in favor of verbal instruction in the vernacular. In the Calvinist regime of the management of the senses, the sense of hearing acquired new epistemic functions, and novel rules governing auditory communication emerged. This shift in the interplay between visually and orally/aurally transmitted religious knowledge is examined against the background of a cultural history of hearing and the gradual emergence of acoustics as a scientific discipline. The projects examines historical arrangements of different disciplinary and educational practices, media technologies, and objects of material culture that came together in articulation of new sensory relations with the world in Calvinist Geneva.