Odorous preoccupations of James Joyce – the low down [study]

James Joyce may not have had particularly good eyesight, but (some say) he at least partially made up for it with a heightened awareness of smells. Especially bodily ones. Which he often wrote about. In great detail.

But do academic works about Joyce’s evident preoccupations with flatulence – which have led some scholars to suggest that he might have been an eproctophiliac, or even a renifleur – sometimes have a whiff of overegging about them?

Dr Crispian Neill (University of Leeds, UK) points out that :

“Joyce’s taxonomy of flatus does not provide a differentiation based upon odorous characteristics. Rather, the characteristic intangibility of the fart as a gaseous emanation is offset by the narrative’s ascription of spatial and auditory properties, which enables the encoding of flatulence within the text.”

And further :

“The unstable linkage between an odor and its presumed source or odor object recalls the linguistic unit’s arbitrary pairing of sign and object, an interconnection signaled in representations of odor throughout Joyce’s writing, as smells—flatulent or floral—become aromatic signs that float free from their original referents.”

See: The Afflatus of Flatus: James Joyce and the Writing of Odor in the journal James Joyce Quarterly, Volume 53, Number 3-4, Spring-Summer 2016 pp. 307-326, and which can be savoured in its entirety here.

[Research research by Martin Gardiner]