Past Scents

Paperback | March 30, 2014

byJonathan Reinarz

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In this comprehensive and engaging volume, medical historian Jonathan Reinarz offers a historiography of smell from ancient to modern times. Synthesizing existing scholarship in the field, he shows how people have relied on their olfactory sense to understand and engage with both their immediate environments and wider corporal and spiritual worlds.

This broad survey demonstrates how each community or commodity possesses, or has been thought to possess, its own peculiar scent. Through the meanings associated with smells, osmologies develop--what cultural anthropologists have termed the systems that utilize smells to classify people and objects in ways that define their relations to each other and their relative values within a particular culture. European Christians, for instance, relied on their noses to differentiate Christians from heathens, whites from people of color, women from men, virgins from harlots, artisans from aristocracy, and pollution from perfume.

This reliance on smell was not limited to the global North. Around the world, Reinarz shows, people used scents to signify individual and group identity in a morally constructed universe where the good smelled pleasant and their opposites reeked.

With chapters including "Heavenly Scents," "Fragrant Lucre," and "Odorous Others," Reinarz's timely survey is a useful and entertaining look at the history of one of our most important but least-understood senses.

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From the Publisher

In this comprehensive and engaging volume, medical historian Jonathan Reinarz offers a historiography of smell from ancient to modern times. Synthesizing existing scholarship in the field, he shows how people have relied on their olfactory sense to understand and engage with both their immediate environments and wider corporal and...

Jonathan Reinarz is Reader and Director at the History of Medicine Unit, School of Medicine, University of Birmingham (U.K.). He is author of A History of the Birmingham Teaching Hospitals, 1779-1939 and coeditor of A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface.

other books by Jonathan Reinarz

Format:PaperbackDimensions:280 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:March 30, 2014Publisher:UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0252079795

ISBN - 13:9780252079795

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"This book suggests that engagement with the cultural work of smell both in the past and in the present can be richly rewarding. Reinarz's timely survey of historical perspectives on smell will (hopefully) inspire further research that will move us beyond simple binaries of fragrant/foul and self/other toward more redolent possibilities."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History