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Conferences & lectures

Sensitivity Training

Date & time
Friday, November 4, 2022
11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Registration is closed


Erica Fretwell


This event is free


Craig Farkash



Details of images from Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development (1883), by Sir Francis Galton

This talk takes the primary classroom as a point of entry into the history of the haptic. There, a Progressive-era program called "sensitivity training" first flourished.

Originating in nineteenth-century psychophysics, sensitivity training, the refining of the perceptual faculty, was popularized as a pedagogical method by Maria Montessori, who located touch at the core of her program for early childhood education: children trace letters on textured sandpaper, acquiring a "feel" for the sound and shape before all else.

By revisiting Montessori's cultural aims, as well as situating her program along a scientific history of touch originating in philosophical and philanthropic discussions of blindness, this talk suggests that the judgments typically taught in the college classroom inhabit a continuum of "sensitivity training" that begins in the general primary classroom, where touch discrimination and language are entangled in and as, to borrow from Henry James, a "grasping imagination."

This event is part of the Sensation Lecture Series

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