Sensing through Time
This final section explores the prospects and limitations of sensory history as a method for assessing the past. The importance of the senses to individual prisoners did not end in 1865 and memoirs were an important continuation of prison experience. That individual sensory experiences change over time reflects the process of historical memory—a continual construction and reconstruction of the past. The centrality of context to perception makes sensory history an exceptional way to historicize experience; however, this also limits the reconstruction of past sensory experiences. MacKinlay Kantor's novel about a Civil War prison written in the 1950s, for example, says more about the sensory worlds of the twentieth century than the nineteenth century. The importance of sensory history as a methodology is that the senses are subjective and radically contingent on time and place.
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