Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Sharp Sense for Scents: New Book

Assistant professor James McHugh, who teaches religion courses at USC College, is working on a book - one of the first of its kind - that will explain some of the mysteries behind scents and perfumes. [...]McHugh has been studying the role of scents in medieval Sanskrit texts since his undergraduate days, culminating in his 2008 doctoral dissertation at Harvard University on the subject.
“Once I started looking, there were loads of material, and no one had really touched it,” McHugh said. “People talk a lot about ritual and art, but not about incense recipes for temples. Nobody had written about how scents and our sense of smell worked in these texts.
“Perfume recipes turned out to be complicated, and recipes and text were actually poetic and words had double meanings. So I explored all different angles because no one had done it, and I was on my own.” Read more about the upcoming book on this interesting link.


  1. Fernando14:49

    There's an interesting book in French about the ideas of smell in the Christian though of medieval Europe. I think it's called something like "L'Inteligence dun Sens", but my copy is in another town so I can't check right now. But who could resist a book with a chapter called "La puanteur du peché"? (Well, probably most of you could... I didn't.)

  2. Fascinating stuff. The spiritual properties of scent are long recognized, but it's great that someone is doing some serious scholarly work on the subject.

    Fernando, I like to think Lanvin already captured the "stink of sin." It's one of my favorites. ;-)

  3. F,

    thanks for the additional info, can't recall if I have actually read that one or not. The chapter your speak of doesn't ring a bell, although the title does (odd). I will be sure to search in my library for it to make sure and if not, to remedy my loss. (I wouldn't be able to resist either)

  4. M,

    indeed! I am always enthused for the really thorough and scholarly investigation of any given subject that has to do with scent, even just because so often it's glossed over instead!

    And like you, I share the predeliction of Mon Peché :-) Simply wonderful!


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