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Title: Smell, smells and smelling in Victorian supernatural fiction of the fin de siècle
Author: Giblin-Jowett, Hellen
ISNI:       0000 0004 5365 2870
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2014
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My PhD examines how writers at the fin de siècle responded to new understandings of smell, smells and smelling in their representations of the supernatural, demonstrating how those understandings were harnessed to nascent disciplines and technologies concerned with the limits and potential of the human subject. It recovers a lost history of smell and explains how shifts in the meaning of ‘smell’ (verb and noun) were witnessed and interrogated by writers in the period. Drawing attention to significant omissions from foundational accounts of olfaction in the nineteenth century, the thesis performs five key reclamatory readings to illuminate a number of supernatural stories. Firstly, it considers cross-channel influences on the articulation and reception of smell- description, drawing out a specifically British experience of scent that relates to the defaecalisation of the River Thames between 1858 and 1875. It then uncovers the origin, and demonstrates the literary manifestation, of analogies between music and scent. The thesis analyses how smells and noses in fin-de-siècle supernatural tales responded to new discursive possibilities afforded by late nineteenth-century developments in rhinoplasty, anaesthesia, nursing and Tractarian theology. The possible over-estimation of H. G. Wells’s reputation for early alignment with Darwinian theory is also considered through a recuperation of George William Piesse’s The Art of Perfumery (1855). Finally, it considers smellers and noses in Henry Rider Haggard’s She (1887), Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and a range of prose fiction by Vernon Lee and Arthur Machen. Overall, it argues that in fin-de-siècle supernatural fiction the epistemology of smell, smells and smelling provided writers with new ways of testing, expanding and representing the boundaries of human identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available