The Poetics of Smell as a Mode of Knowledge

“The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking itself. Immediately, at the very moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertoires throughout the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, old memories, connections. This is as it should be, I suppose, since the cells that do the smelling are themselves proper brain cells, the only neurons whose axones carry information picked up at first hand in the outside world…”

This is an extract from a larger essay on the sense of smell smell. The original source: Thomas, L. (1983). On Smell. In L. Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (S. 40–44). New York: Viking Press.

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