Olfaction and Literature


André J. Fabre                juin 2009

 Olfaction has always fascinated writers and poets, even if words can only bring back poorly an odor. This study intends to confront literature to current scientific advances in the field of olfaction.

The so-called "olfactive connectivity" has been closely as a synesthetic perception, becoming a leit-motiv in literature (cf the famed Madeleine cake of Marcel Proust). Current techniques in brain imaging show that cerebral cortex can differentiate pleasant odorants from less attractive "trigeminal" sensations : poets had, long time ago, anticipated.....

 Olfactive physiopathology also brings support to understand literature works as "Voyage au bout de la nuit" from Dr Destouches, alias Céline. A substantial progress came from the discovery of pherormones, chemical signals attracting some people and driving away some others. A close relationship between olfaction and love has been well demonstrated in Antiquity and also in modern times, from  Casanova to Huysmans and Apollinaire.

conclusion, literature has widely used olfaction as instrument of memory and communication, to stimulate imagination, give life to the past and enhance our present.

Key words : Olfaction, synesthetic perception, olfactive connectivity, olfactive physiopathology



Date de dernière mise à jour : 30/07/2013

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