The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-human World

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Vintage Books, 1997 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 326 pages
2 Reviews
Winner of the International Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction

Animal tracks, word magic, the speech of stones, the power of letters, and the taste of the wind all figure prominently in this intellectual tour de force that returns us to our senses and to the sensuous terrain that sustains us. This major work of ecological philosophy startles the senses out of habitual ways of perception.

For a thousand generations, human beings viewed themselves as part of the wider community of nature, and they carried on active relationships not only with other people with other animals, plants, and natural objects (including mountains, rivers, winds, and weather patters) that we have only lately come to think of as "inanimate." How, then, did humans come to sever their ancient reciprocity with the natural world? What will it take for us to recover a sustaining relation with the breathing earth? 

In The Spell of the Sensuous David Abram draws on sources as diverse as the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Balinese shamanism, Apache storytelling, and his own experience as an accomplished sleight-of-hand of magician to reveal the subtle dependence of human cognition on the natural environment. He explores the character of perception and excavates the sensual foundations of language, which--even at its most abstract--echoes the calls and cries of the earth. On every page of this lyrical work, Abram weaves his arguments with a passion, a precision, and an intellectual daring that recall such writers as Loren Eisleley, Annie Dillard, and Barry Lopez.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - willszal - LibraryThing

At first glance, you might think that the is a book about philosophy. Abram does cover German philosopher Edmund Husserl and French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Both of these thinkers were ... Read full review

THE SPELL OF THE SENSUOUS: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Philosopher and ecologist Abram writes an absorbing, challenging treatise on the power of written language to separate human beings from their experiential relationship to the nonhuman environment ... Read full review

Contents

The Ecology of Magic
3
Philosophy on the way to Ecology
31
The Flesh of Language
73
Animism and the Alphabet
93
In the Landscape of Language
137
Time Spact and the Eclipse of the Earth
181
The Forgetting and Remembering of the Air
227
Turning Inside out
261
Notes
275
Bibliography
305
Index
315
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About the author (1997)

DAVID ABRHAM, Ph.D., is an ecologist and philosopher whose writings have had a deepening influence upon the environmental movement in North America and abroad. A summa cum laude graduate of Wesleyan University, he holds a doctorate in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and has been the recipient of fellowships from the Watson and Rockefeller Foundations and a Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. He is an accomplished sleight-of-hand magician and has lived and traded magic with indigenous magicians in Indonesia, Nepal, and the Americas.

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