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A Study on the Ambivalence of Smell in “Un Fantôme” and “La Chevelure” of Charles Baudelaire

  • Journal of Humanities
  • 2022, (85), pp.327-352
  • DOI : 10.31310/HUM.085.09
  • Publisher : Institute for Humanities
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : April 6, 2022
  • Accepted : May 5, 2022
  • Published : May 31, 2022

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ABSTRACT

This study analyzes the ambivalence of smell shown in “Un Fantôme” and “La Chevelure”, which are included in the collection of poems Les Fleurs du Mal. The poet’s attitude towards the sense of smell in his works is always ambivalent. Firstly, ‘Incense’ and ‘Musk’, which induce the narrator into memories in “Un Fantôme” have opposite characteristics. Fennel, made from aromatic plants, symbolizes religion, worship, and spatiality, while musk made from civet cat excrement signifies the body, worldliness, and temporality. In the end, the ambivalent two scents, meaning the past in poetry, cannot handle the present and future of time visualized as ‘Nothing but a very pale drawing, with three pencils’. Secondly, in “La Chevelure”, the narrator smells the body of a lover embodied in hair, which is Baudelaire’s representative metaphor, and dreams of an ideal love opposite to this. The sense of smell works ambivalently in that the narrator longs for infinite and ideal love with the sense of smell that embodies physicality and transitivity. The ideal love of Baudelaire is a divine and eternal love that goes against the physicality and ephemeral nature of the sense of smell.

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