29 May 2012
Venue: ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, ArtsTwo Building, Mile End Campus
Scents and Sensibility: The Fragrance of Decadence
This lecture examines perfume in decadent writing with special reference to two male authors – Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons – both of whom have a strong awareness of fragrance and present themselves as olfactifs, individuals with a refined sense of smell. Establishing the prevalence of references to scent and perfume in Wilde and Symons’s writing, I ask what purpose do these references serve and what do they signify? And, in answering these questions, I consider whether such references to perfume reflect the taste and use of the time, taking note of the scents liked or cultivated by both writers.
Catherine Maxwell is Professor of Victorian Literature in the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London, and author of The Female Sublime from Milton to Swinburne: Bearing Blindness, and Second Sight: The Visionary Imagination in Late Victorian Literature (MUP, 2001, 2008), and Swinburne, Writers and Their Work (Northcote House, 2006). She has edited Swinburne’s poetry (Orion, 1997), and co-edited Vernon Lee’s Hauntings and Other Fantastic Tales (Broadview Press, 2006). She is guest-editor of ‘Victorian Literature and Classical Myth’, Victorian Review 34 (2008), and co-editor of Vernon Lee: Decadence, Ethics, Aesthetics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), The Yearbook of English Studies – The Arts in Victorian Literature (2010), and Algernon Charles Swinburne: Unofficial Laureate, forthcoming (MUP 2012).
A reception will follow the lecture