Janice Carlisle

in Common Scents

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780195165098
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787685 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


By examining Victorian assumptions about the senses promulgated by psychophysiologists and popular commentators, this introductory chapter examines the cultural values attached to sensory experience, particularly as they are evidenced by representations of odors in Victorian fiction of the 1860s. Such instances of olfaction typically mark the inferior party involved in a comparative encounter, a meeting of individuals of unequal status. But depictions of odors may also signal what this study calls an exchange, a reversal of the conventional values that define one person as better than another. Analysis of a passage from George Eliot's Felix Holt indicates the extent of her characters' awareness that an osmology, a categorization of smells, can reveal the workings of class as a practice of everyday life. Finally, this section of the study introduces the wide variety of smells registered in this fiction and their relatively mild and inoffensive quality, even when they emanate from working-class men.

Keywords: class; George Eliot; exchange; Felix Holt; olfaction; osmology; psychophysiology; senses; smell

Chapter.  9563 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.