Download Common Scents: Comparative Encounters in High-Victorian by Janice Carlisle PDF

By Janice Carlisle

Who smells? Surveying approximately 80 novels written within the 1860s to reply to that rude query, universal Scents presents a brand new studying of Victorian values, really as they check the relative benefits of guys and girls, spirit and topic. In depictions of comparative encounters, the typical conferences of daily life, such fiction frequently registers the inequalities that distinguish one person from one other by way of marking one in all them with a scent. In a shockingly constant style, those references represent what cultural anthropologists name an osmology, a approach of differentiations that finds the prestige inside of a selected tradition of the people and issues linked to particular odors. that includes usually harmless or even possibly interesting aromas emanating from nutrients, plant life, and sure forms of exertions, novels of the 1860s array their characters into designated different types, discovering in a few instead of others olfactory facts in their materiality. important to this osmology is the adaptation among characters who supply off odors and people who don't, and this examine attracts upon the paintings of Victorian psychophysiologists and well known commentators at the senses to set up the subtlety with which fictional representations make that contrast. via exploring the far-reaching implications of this osmology in particular novels by means of Dickens, Eliot, Meredith, Oliphant, Trollope, and Yonge, universal Scents argues that the strikingly comparable plots and characterizations standard of the 1860s, responding as they do to the industrial and political matters of the last decade, reconfigure traditional understandings of the family members among women and men. picking out who smells finds what Victorian tradition at its epitome takes without any consideration as a deeply embedded good judgment, the popularity of whose self-evident fact seems as instinctive and automated as a reaction to an scent.

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Additional resources for Common Scents: Comparative Encounters in High-Victorian Fiction

Sample text

Over the course of a number of chapters in Tom Brown at Oxford, the hero differentiates the fellow students he meets at Oxford through the odors that he perceives when he encounters them, odors that typify the various styles of life that they represent and sort them out according to criteria that are moral and religious as well as economic and social. In the rooms of Drysdale, the foremost of the “fast” set of wealthy gentlemen-commoners, Tom encounters the mingled scents of flowers, denoting Drysdale’s effete refinement, and tobacco, denoting his dissipation.

Pip’s meeting of Jaggers immediately emphasizes a number of factors that distinguish the two characters from each other—one young and provincial, the other mature and worldly; one weak and vulnerable, the other powerful and dominant—precisely because that meeting involves olfactory stimulus and olfactory response. Similarly, the many differences that separate Felix Holt and Esther Lyon, but particularly the major factor that distinguishes them, his masculinity as opposed to her femininity, like the opposing stations in the “production process” held by Marx’s worker and capitalist (342), are registered by smells because they are differentiations of such magnitude and wideranging import.

The basic physical mechanism of this sensory modality was a mystery to Victorian science, as it remains today,36 but the cultural purposes served by the discrimination of odors were and are more readily open to analysis and explanation. Olfactory encounters in high-Victorian novels, therefore, reveal the common sense of middle-class culture as it was both enacted in and obscured by the unremarkably ordinary practices of daily life. 1 Smelling Others Of all the fictional figures of the 1860s who use their noses to recognize those whom they meet, three men serve here as their representatives.

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