Aside from Jocasta and (I hope) a Pikachu gijinka for ACEN, I have one other big project I’m working on right now: the dissertation!! (Cue dramatic music!)
Remember that? It’s the thing I generally don’t post about because I figure no one really wants to hear me ramble about smell, although I will happily do so! Anyway, I’m applying for a fellowship for the upcoming academic year and one of the requirements is a dissertation abstract, aka “What is your dissertation about in 150 words or less?” So, for those curious, here is what my dissertation is about in 127 words, title and all!
“Malo quam bene olere nil olere”: Odor in Roman Thought and Literature
This dissertation explores the role of odor in Roman thought and literature from approximately 200 BC to 200 AD. It aims first to understand smell from a specifically Roman perspective, arguing that the Romans considered odor a source of information which could reveal aspects of a person’s identity and character; a potentially polluting force against which there was no defense; and a means of deception employed to conceal flaws and frustrate attempts to determine identity. Secondly, it demonstrates the importance of references to odor in Latin literature beyond the merely aesthetic. It reveals how Roman authors exploited or overturned cultural assumptions about smell in order to create literary, moral, and social effect within their texts.
And now you know. Wish me luck!
P.S. The Latin in the title says, “I’d rather smell like nothing than smell good” and is from Martial’s Epigrams 6.55, where he suspects that someone who smells strongly of perfumes is actually trying to hide something.