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The Forgotten Sense

Meditations on Touch

Of all the senses, touch is the most ineffable—and the most neglected in Western culture, all but ignored by philosophers and artists over millennia. Yet it is also the sense that links us most intimately to the world around us, from our mother’s caress when we’re born to the gentle lowering of our eyelids after death.

The Forgotten Sense gives touch its due, addressing it in multifarious ways through a series of six essays. Literary in feel, ambitious in conception, admirable in their range of reference and insight, these meditations address questions fundamental to the understanding of touch: What do we mean when we say that an artwork touches us? How does language affect our understanding of touch? Is the skin the deepest part of the human body? Can we philosophize about a kiss? To aid him in answering these questions, Pablo Maurette recruits an impressive roster of cultural figures from throughout history: Homer, Lucretius, Chrétien de Troyes, Melville, Sir Thomas Browne, Knausgaard, Michel Henry and many others help him unfurl the underestimated importance of the sense of touch and tactile experience.

​The resulting book is essay writing at its best—exploratory, surprising, dazzling, a reading experience like no other. You will come away from it with a new appreciation of touch, and a new way of understanding our interactions with the world around us.

192 pages | 7 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2018

Culture Studies

History: History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


Philosophy: History and Classic Works


"This is the sort of book that might tickle the curiosity of an inquisitive undergraduate reader lured in the direction of its sources and examples, even as it reveals hidden surfaces and titillating details in those materials for a more experienced scholar. . . . A charming addition to any contemporary aesthetics collection. . . . Highly recommended."


"More than an academic work. . . . Unsurprisingly, this book is enjoyable both as an intellectual journey through the text of various works, and as a tactile account of the experience and close relation to the text of a practitioner of literature. The pleasure is enhanced by Maurette’s impeccable style and his capacity to tell stories, of books, works of art, or words."


"Immensely learned, open to a great variety of traditions and disciplines, The Forgotten Sense belongs to a new crop of readable, friendly books, reminiscent of open conversations among cultivated people. Energetic, diverse, the book agreeably jumps from one period to the next and from one issue to another, in the end succeeding to make a strong point about an invisible, yet deeply ‘touching’ aspect of art and literature."

Thomas Pavel | Between

The Forgotten Sense is one of the most intelligent, well crafted, and original collection of literary essays that I have had the pleasure to read. Maurette meditates on the many facets of the sense of touch, reflecting on some of its properties, such as pain, pleasure, pressure, temperature, speed, and balance. He then explores how touch has been represented throughout time in portraiture and sculpture, philosophy, and literature, and how it has frequently turned these forms of art into a sensorial feast.”

Enrique García Santo-Tomás, University of Michigan

"To insist on the existential urgency of staying in touch, quite literally, with the material world that we are inhabiting, has become one of the philosophical priorities of our present. Pablo Maurette, however, has opened a new dimension for this discussion by developing concrete answers to the question how the media of aesthetic experience, how texts, films, and artworks can become instrumental in initiating such closeness to the material world to which, ontologically, they do not belong. His readings, from this perspective, of Western classics like Chrétien de Troyes and Diderot, Kafka and von Hofmannsthal, inscribe themselves in an emerging new style of critical analysis."

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stanford University

“This beautiful book discovers the haptic sense, pressing close and taking the shape of its object, woven into Western literature from its earliest days. Maurette deftly unfolds and refolds history so that his thrilling discoveries—from Epicurean atomism to a sixteenth century dialogue on kissing to Marinetti's ill-fated tactile manifesto—arrive to us as though nestled side by side.”

Laura U. Marks, author of Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media

Table of Contents


A Squeeze of the Hand
Six Fingers
Torn to Pieces
Elements of Philematology
The French Connection


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