suzanne whitby: research



senstoryscapes is the research website of Suzanne Whitby, a storyteller and Classics scholar with a sensory bent who is exploring what happens when everyday landscapes intersect with stories and the senses. She is specifically interested in how multi-sensory stories told orally in landscapes affect sustainable thinking and action in the service of creating hopeful futures (or that’s the plan!)

She uses this little corner of the world wide web to document curious sensory stories that capture her interest; muse about topics like heritage vs history, the ethics of folktales, and the senses; and share interesting research from other clever people in the sensory studies space. Expect weird flights of fancy and sensory diversions from time to time…

The journey to interdisciplinary studies

Suzanne came to sensory studies whilst developing a research question for her Classics dissertation. An amateur “nose” with an interest in scent, aromatherapy and perfume-making, she started asking herself what the ancient world smelled like, and whether she could model smells using 3D scratch-‘n-sniff models, abstract representations, and maps. This led her to the vibrant world of sensory studies and she completed her MA in 2021, writing about lived olfactory experiences in Pompeii in 79 CE.

Her multi-sensory research journey led her to the work of David Howes, Constance Classen, Eleanor Betts, and a plethora of others. Far from having had a brilliant, never-before-thought-of idea, she discovered that her ideas of walking and modelling smells were not original in the least! In 1790, Jean-Noël Hallé went out for a scent walk on the banks of the Seine and nearly didn’t make it back. J. Douglas Porteous and more recently, Victoria Henshaw and Kate McLean have been inspiring role models in the urban sensescape, and specifically “scentscape”,  arena.

When thinking about continuing her studies, she battled with the idea of remaining in the world of classical studies or applying her knowledge to “sustainable futures”, a topic close to her heart, both professionally and personally. She started thinking about the spaces that people inhabit, and the multi-layered heritage therein: geological, historical, folkloric, familial, environmental, current. And then she wondered if these spaces could be “heritagescapes”, filled with heritage both objective and subjective to individuals and local communities. From there, it was a hop, skip and a jump to wanting to explore how the multitude of stories and sensory elements in these landscapes could help people connect to the world around them, and motivate environmental thinking and behaviour.

Let’s see where we go from here.

Suzanne Whitby

Curious finds on my PhD journey. Occasional tips. The odd insight. And when I get there, thoughts and reflections about experimental workshops where I test out my senstoryscapes approach.