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

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

by David Abram


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679776390
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/1997
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 130,510
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

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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The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Few works command the senses of the reader as this one does. I feel the world Abrams describes. I can smell the air after it rains. I can see the delicate silk of the spider. I can taste the earth as I can see the imagary between the words. I am now reading the bibliography and using the material as a source for an even greater understanding of the world around me. David has proven that Dr Doolittle exists in us all.
sweetsapling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has become a touchstone for me since I read it: one of the most thought-provoking and life-changing books i've read. That said, it's been a while, so I don't want to try to write a detailed review at the moment, but the others currently here ring true to me.
pansociety on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A dense but fascinating account of how we lost and can regain a close relationship with the natural world. Abram combines science and mysticism to rekindle an animistic dimension of perception and feeling without jettisoning rationality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago