ACCESS lecture on the history of smell

Holly Dugan, The George Washington University

‘Seeing Smell: Renaissance Pomanders and the History of Perfume’

ACCESS and Graduate School for Humanities, VU University Amsterdam

Friday 28 February, 15.30-17.00hrs, drinks after

VU University, Main Building, Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam (room 1 E – 24)

Please register below if you would like to attend.

ACCESS is pleased to invite you to a lecture on a synaesthetic approach to sensory history. Holly Dugan will talk about her research into early modern English pomanders and the smell of old books on Friday 28 February.

Come smell the historical odours of pomander and ambergris, with a brief introduction to her collection of historical odours by Rijksmuseum curator and olfactory art historian Caro Verbeek.

In this paper Holly Dugan explores the decorative qualities of early modern English pomanders in order to examine the relationship between early modern perfume and the objects designed to dispense them. Perfume was an important plague preventative in early modern England: because the plague was believed to be an airborne disease—and because outbreaks of plague in England were episodic, sporadic, and uneven—early modern English men and women often carried small, portable perfume dispensers known as pomanders to protect the nose from surprise engagements with foul air. The term itself—pomander—evolved across the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries from a description of a small ball of aromatic paste to an elaborate metal container designed to hold such pastes and resins. By the sixteenth century, pomanders were so powerful that they were often invoked metaphorically as a spiritual defense.

pomander

In this lecture, Holly Dugan grapples with the synaesthetic paradox of pomanders: visibly small yet powerfully odoriferous, pomanders vex traditional scholarly methods towards material culture. These small, ornate objects were elaborately decorated and exist in a range of forms, including globes, skills, snails, cathedrals, and ships; very few are engraved with the scent ingredients they dispensed.  By examining the complicated relationship between the olfactory aspects of these objects and their decorative materiality, she argues for the usefulness of a synaesthetic approach to understanding of sensory history.

hollyduganHolly Dugan is Associate Professor of English at The George Washington University. Her research and teaching interests explore relationships between history, literature, and material culture. Her scholarship focuses on questions of gender, sexuality, and the boundaries of the body in late medieval and early modern England. In 2011 she published The Ephemeral History of Perfume: Scent and Sense in Early Modern England (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press).

 

Directions

The lecture is held in room 1E-24 (PKU-room at PThU). The PTHU is located on the first floor of the main building of te VU-university. Please use the main entrance and turn left past the bookshop to take the stairs to the first floor. The E-Wing is past the yellow elevators. Unfortunately, these elevators do not stop on the first floor. If you have any problems in finding the room or are physically unable to use the stairs, please ask the receptionist for help.

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