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Title: Scented visions : the nineteenth-century olfactory imagination
Author: Bradstreet, Christina Rain
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 6021
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis considers the role of smell in art and aesthetics during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It explores the growing interest of a number of artists and literary figures, c.1860 - 1910, in cultivating an olfactory aesthetic. Through examination of artistic engagements with the sense of smell, it reveals how and why artists became occupied with olfactory perception and its representations, arguing that scents were increasingly perceived as an important means of communication in art, being influential in the life of the imagination owing to their emotional reverberation and associational nature. The thesis also examines popular ideas about the aesthetic status of perfume and argues that it was the perceived contradictory nature of smell as both sensuous and spiritual that rendered it so problematic and ripe for discussion in late-nineteenthcentury writings about the nature of art, beauty and aesthetics. This project carves out new territories within the history of visual culture through exploration of the areas of overlap and interplay between the visual and the olfactory, from the visualisation of invisible odour to the influence of scent upon mental imagery. Artistic sites of interaction between smell and the visual, such as perfume concerts that triggered visions of place, paintings of women smelling roses or bodily representations of incense in dance, provide new and fertile grounds for exploring the social and cultural fabric of the period. By drawing upon culturally specific ideas about smell, with reference to such themes as female sexuality and the erotic imagination as well as the Orient, health and disease, spirituality and the soul, this thesis offers fresh interpretative insights, being the first art historical project to bring into play the growing body of cultural and historical research on the sense of smell.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available