Summary

Notes

  • Reinarz’s book is an attempt at a comprehensive “introduction to the history of smell”; as such, I think it’s most useful for me in mapping out a field (1). My notes proceed accordingly.
  • Two key publications in the 1980’s as a “watershed for smell”: Corbin’s The Foul and the Fragrant and Süskind’s Perfume (a novel).
  • “A further reason for studying the senses individually is that there is still so much to discover…” which dovetails w/ Parisi’s note that we might need to think beyond the Aristotelian senses. Indeed, it would be useful to think about the limits of Aristotelian categorization across the senses and the elements; how one field is finding it useful while another is trying to get beyond it.
  • So this is an interesting note re: mediation; the Greek roots of smell’s devaluation: “Likewise, the ‘half-formed nature’ of smell, regarded to be ‘an intermediary state’ created by a change in the environment and the nature of an object, made its perception difficult” (5); sourced from A. Le Guérer, Scent pp. 142.
  • “One of the reasons for smell’s consistent lower ranking compared to other senses is related to the difficulties faced when attempting to characterize scents. . . . As has been iterated repeatedly by those studying scent, the language of smell has always been underdeveloped. In general, odors smell like something else—a rose, freshly cut grass, or sewage, for example” (5).
  • The classification of smells is an interesting ongoing problem from the Pre-Socratics on, and seems to be a major stumbling block for digital smell mediation (8). Classification dovetails with the elemental frame that allows me to speak of air and the environment at all. Humoral theory: “As this implies, the sun became associated with fragrance across cultures, while the moon was linked to foulness, notions that underline how these beliefs were part and parcel of a wider cosmic, or, perhaps more appropriately, osmic, world order” (11).
  • From all these different philosophers who have treated smell, it seems better to say that it’s treated frequently, but in the negative, rather than absent entirely from “the literature,” whatever that means (13).
  • Classifications of smell trapped in a binary model: either good or bad (15).

Archive

  • In Reinarz’s estimation, which bears out from Hsu, some of the most influential work on smell today is from anthropology. In a way, this bears out similar trends in Anthropocene thinking.