The Foul & the Fragrant

By Alain Corbin,

Book cover of The Foul & the Fragrant: Odor & the French Social Imagination

Book description

In a book whose insight and originality have already had a dazzling impact in France, Alain Corbin has put the sense of smell on the historical map. He conjures up the dominion that the combined forces of smells--from the seductress's civet to the ubiquitous excremental odors of city cesspools--exercised over…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Foul & the Fragrant as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A classic of cultural history that shows how thoroughly smell shapes our lived experience.

Corbin details how different (and generally worse) France smelled in the past, and how this world of miasmas and insalubrious airs dictated hygiene practices and social interactions. More recent works, like Jonathan Reinarz’ Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell have further built on the treatment of odor as a powerful cultural force.

From Theresa's list on perfume and scent.

In The Foul and the Fragrant, Corbin offers an extraordinary historical examination of the experience and perception of smell in France from the mid-18th century to the end of the 19th century.

Drawing on diverse disciplines from architectural studies and the history of medicine to literary criticism, this book does not merely recount the array of pungent odours from past societies - although the colour with which it depicts the many fetid, sometimes glorious odours of historic France are eye-opening when compared with the relatively deodorised world we inhabit today.

Rather it examines the crucial role of smell in understanding…

From Hannah's list on multisensory history.

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