Public lecture

Sensing risk: smell and early modern English literature

  • 29 June 2023
  • 10:30 am - 12:00 noon
  • Hybrid - International House & Zoom Webinar

IAS Visiting Fellow Associate Professor Holly Dugan delivers a seminar on their research.

Because smell has been positioned as a ‘fugitive’ sense within Western philosophical traditions, it is a powerful medium for representing what literary critic Hsuan Hsu describes as ‘risk perceptions’ in literature. Whereas Hsu’s analysis focuses on the links between modern and postmodern literary genres and environmental health hazards, olfaction also conveyed fears about contagion and risk in the past. In this short presentation, I argue that olfactory tropes were deployed by poets and artists in strategic ways to represent risk, fostering a sense of danger through an implicit and associative logic. I’ll present evidence about festering lilies and their smell in early modern lyric poetry. I argue that histories of gender and race are embedded in these associations of certain flowers with blight and decay. My hope is that this case study will open up a broader conversation about olfactory tropes in literature and their role in representing danger and risk.  

This event is hybrid format, please use the required booking button at the bottom of the page to choose either in-person or online attendance.
(Please note that in-person spaces are limited and booking is required, so we can manage numbers for catering and also the space inside International House)

By booking a place at this event, attendees agree to behave in a respectful manner such that everyone feels comfortable contributing as they wish. The IAS reserves the right to eject anyone who does not abide by this policy.

IAS seminars are typically recorded, minus any Q&A sessions at the end, again to encourage contributions. The recordings are then uploaded to our website on a Fellows bio page and/or Programme page, along with our IAS YouTube Channel. If you are not able to attend a seminar live, please do still register as we will email everyone who registered to let them know once the recordings are made available.

Contact and booking details

Email address
Booking required?