Smelling Others

Janice Carlisle

in Common Scents

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

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This chapter sets out the osmology typical of high-Victorian fiction, identifying the principles of sensory experience, such as adaptation, that explain its structure and significance. Examples of smells represented in novels by quite different authors and in diverse genres constitute a coordinated system of references and values, one that sorts persons and things into categories. Special attention is paid to three comparative encounters in which working-class men sniff out their supposed superiors: an instance from Dickens' Great Expectations, an example featuring the hero of George Eliot's Felix Holt, and a meeting between a worker and a capitalist that Marx depicts in the first volume of Capital. Although more typical instances of such olfactory experience allow an inodorate superior to recognize the odor of an inferior, these instances of exceptions to that rule reveal the extent to which smells are related to materiality in this fiction, men who smell being associated with work, and women with reproduction.

Keywords: class; Dickens; George Eliot; Great Expectations; Felix Holt; Marx; osmology; reproduction; work

Chapter.  13350 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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