Colloque international IMAGINES/ International Conference IMAGINES
18-20 Octobre 2018, Toulouse

The Fragrant and the Foul: the Smells and Senses of Antiquity in the Modern Imagination

The classical tradition has long confined Antiquity to an immaculate, sanitized whiteness : thus idealised, it was deprived of its multi-sensorial dimension, and conveniently limited to the visual paradigm. Olfaction, in particular, has often been overlooked in classical reception studies due to its evanescent nature which makes this sense difficult to apprehend. And yet, the smells associated with a given figure, or social group convey a rich imagery which conotes specific values : perfumes, scents and foul odours both reflect and mould the ways a society thinks or acts. The aim of this conference will be to analyse the underexplored role of smell – both fair or foul – in relation to the other senses, in the modern rejection, reappraisal or idealisation of Antiquity. We will pay particular attention to the visual and performative arts especially when they engage a sensorial response from the reader or the viewer.

We therefore invite contributions focusing not only on painting, literature, drama, and cinema but also on advertising, video games, television series, comic books and graphic novels, as well as on historical re-enactments which have recently helped reshape the perception and experience of the antique for a broader
audience.

Conference papers (in English or French) will be twenty minutes in length. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

The materiality of smell: what are the substances, plants and/or objects associated with antique smells in the modern imagination? To what extent may we confront current archeological data concerning the fragrant objects used in Antiquity with representations of smell in modern works? What new technical means are now mobilized to make modern audiences ‘smell’ and sense Antiquity (for instance in museums and multi-media productions)? We also invite papers that address the role flowers play in the modern construction of the antique smellscape and how this connects with the other senses.

The sensoriality of antique rituals: How do fragrances (incense, burnt offerings, perfumed oils) shape modern representations of antique ritualistic and magical practices? To what extent does the staging of ritualistic gestures and objects associated with smell (and notably the burning of incense) create a form of estrangement between past and present, and deepen the rift between polytheistic and monotheistic faiths?

The erotics of smell and scent: How was the antique body (both male and female) made desirable thanks to the use of perfume and cosmetics? How was this in turn exploited in painting, films, advertisement etc. – especially in connection with Orientalism? What role does smell play in gendered constructions of the antique body? What relation can we establish between the fragrant and the (homo)erotic? We also welcome discussions of
modern representations of antique baths, hygiene and ‘sane’ classical bodies in relation to
scent.

Foul smells and diseased bodies: to what extent did the hygienistic shift which affected Western societies in the modern age (as described by A. Corbin) influence the perception of the antique smellscape? When did Goethe’s conception of the classical as ‘sane’ start being challenged? More generally, how are antique illnesses and decaying bodies depicted in the modern imagination and for example performed on stage or in historical reenactments
aiming to recreate ‘authentically’ the experience of antique battles? Does smell have a specific social/national identity? Since Antiquity, whose bodies have been most recurrently perceived as pestilent: those of enemies, foreigners, lower social classes (artisans, peasants, slaves…)?

Proposals (300 words) and short biographies should be sent to Adeline Grand-Clément (adelinegc@yahoo.fr) and Charlotte Ribeyrol (ribeyrolc@gmail.com) no later than 15th December 2017.
The contributions must be original works not previously published. The abstract should clearly state the argument of the paper, in keeping with the topic of the conference.
A selection of contributions (in English) will be considered for a volume publication by Bloomsbury in the series ‘Imagines – Classical Receptions in the Visual and Performing Arts’.