Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities

An interdisciplinary collaboration between the Faculties of Arts and Medicine & Health at the University of Leeds

Research Student Crispian Neill

Doctoral Research 

The aim of my research is to investigate the significance of smell at the beginning of the twentieth century, examining the role of odour as both historical artefact and literary metaphor in the construction of what we perceive as Modernism.

A key preliminary question is whether there is anything idiosyncratically modernist about the treatment of smell during 1900-1930. My initial survey of texts and cultural products throughout this period suggests a shift in the presentation of odour, via attempts to question smell’s established subordination to the visual regime, which offer a corresponding interrogation of odour’s lack of classification and paucity of descriptive terms.

Language’s limitation in representing smell resonates with Modernism’s questioning of language as a system of signification. Simultaneously, the urge to represent odour and its effects stimulates artistic ingenuity as a response to the emergence of smell as a cultural concern – a shift which offers correspondences with the constitution of literary Modernism and its pursuit of avant-garde aesthetics, but also invites critical ingress into cognate areas such as the resurgence of Occultism as a cultural practice, and the interrelationship between literature and osphresiology.

Supervisor 

Dr Fiona Becket

Current & Recent Activities 

March 2013 

I am co-organising and co-chairing a Medical Humanities workshop (title to be confirmed), held with the support of the Centre for Medical Humanities, based at the University of Leeds. A call for paper abstracts will be issued shortly.

December 2012

In December 2012, I won Postgraduate Research Poster of the Year after presenting my doctoral research at the University of Leeds Postgraduate Research Conference. The winning poster can be viewed here.

November 2012 

I delivered a paper – ‘Performative Polemic and the Primitive in Paleface’ – at the conference Wyndham Lewis: Networks, Dialogues and Communities, held at the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

July 2012 

In July 2012 I delivered a paper – ‘Language-Games and Narrative Identity in D. H. Lawrence and Charlotte Mew’ – at the D. H. Lawrence: Regional, National and International Contexts conference hosted at the University of Nottingham.

Biography 

I began my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2011. I graduated with a BA Hons in English Literature (First Class) from Peterhouse, Cambridge University in 1994. I received an examination prize and was awarded a retrospective scholarship. Subsequently, I worked as a journalist in print, radio and online media, before resuming further study.

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