HomeSmells and their meanings: A litterary and communication issue

HomeSmells and their meanings: A litterary and communication issue

Smells and their meanings: A litterary and communication issue

Sens et senteurs : une question d’expression et de communication

An international and interdisciplinary conference in human sciences on smells

Colloque international et interdisciplinaire en sciences humaines et sociales sur les odeurs

*  *  *

Published on Monday, May 28, 2018


Ce colloque international réunira des spécialistes en littérature française, étrangère ou comparée, également des spécialistes en sciences de l'information et communication pour mieux comprendre le « discours olfactif » dans notre société (perspective synchronique ou diachronique).


University of  Lille and University of Bourgogne (France,  5-6 october 2018 at University of Lille (Pont de bois)

Associated laboratories : ALITHILA, CECILLE, GERIICO, CIMEOS


The sense of smell is certainly less developed in humans than sight or hearing, both of which enable us to orient ourselves in space. This is why the social sciences and humanities have been more inclined to study the other senses. Although it is more difficult to verbalize an emotion from a smell (Dubois, 2009), human beings are nonetheless able to perceive thousands of them and internalize them with a strong emotional charge (Le Guérer, 2002), with the understanding that the "olfactory discourse" also enables humans to express their relationship with respect to the world - adaptation or alienation – based upon a given communicative situation. Given the close link between the sense of smell and the brain, this discourse has a powerful influence on human behaviour (be it a question of food, sexuality or business, for example). Smells, good or bad, generate strong emotions and play an essential role in the construction of memory, especially in the case of remembrance such as Proust's Madeleine (in Du côté de chez Swann); a scent - like a flavour - is a reminiscent medium.  The ALITHILA laboratory (French language and literature), the CECILLE laboratory (foreign languages and literatures), the GERiiCO laboratory (information sciences and communication), all three part of the University of Lille, are partnering with the CIMEOS laboratory (information sciences and communication) at the University of Bourgogne, to pursue this new field of research in the humanities and social sciences. They call on other researchers to share their interest in sensory meaning and the symbolism of communicative postures related to smell. Members of the research community in the humanities and social sciences are therefore invited to share their work on the olfactory experience by distinguishing the sensory domain (aesthesia) from the reflective sensitive domain (aesthetics), with an eye to reflecting on the meaning and symbolism of this experience (possibly resulting in a kind of "olfactory ethics"), in reference to the "trinity of the senses" of J.-J Boutaud (cf  Parizot, 2013). The interdisciplinary challenge, at the crossroads of literary and info-communication approaches, is to decipher a "rhetoric of scents" (Perrouty, 2006).  Smells not only structure our relationship to time and space, but also fix our social representations and evoke shared emotions. The point of this symposium is to show that the olfactory sense, forgotten by the philosophical tradition  ̶  except for Condillac and Nietzsche (Jaquet, 2010)  ̶  is fundamental to our construction of meaning, and to show that smell is an inevitable social marker. This implies certain problems of expression: how can one express the unspeakable smell? What are the words and linguistic expressions characteristic of the olfactory experience? To what extent does smell structure the imagination or inspire poetics? There are also a number of communication-related problems: how can one exchange and document information from the olfactory point of view? What role can a smell play in cultural mediation processes? How, with the help of smells, can one be persuasive, and even to encourage us buy via advertising in a commercial context? What are the social rites related to smell? The "Sens et Senteurs" ("smells and their meanings") symposium will be held on Friday 5 October and Saturday 6 October at the ‘Pont de Bois’ campus of the University of Lille (registration fee: 50 euros for full-time professors and researchers, 40 euros for doctoral students).

Main axis

Axis 1 : Smell as a medium of social communication

  • Interpersonal communication through smell
  • Smell in intercultural communication
  • the use of smell in commercial communication
  • the symbolical dimension of smells in social rites
  • smell in cultural mediation
  • smell as an olfactory signature of organizations

Axis 2 : olfactory lyricism

  • How to convey smells ? through which words ?
  • which rhetorical device can we use to speak of smells ?
  • how can olfactory imagination serve a literary project ?
  • which aesthetic discourse about smell ?
  • to what extent does a discourse use smell in order to touch the reader ?

Axis 3 : Smells, representations and the introduction of plots

  • how to narrate smells ?
  • is there an olfactory storytelling in the media ?
  • how does society represent smells through a particular period ?
  • what are the gender stereotypes linked to smell ?
  • how to picture a smell ?
  • how to figure smell and taste ?

Submission guidelines

Proposal abstracts in french or english, with a brief biographical sketch, should be sent to and 

before 15 June 2018.

Following a double-blind review of the proposals, the scientific committee will inform participants of their acceptance no later than 14 July 2018.

Web site :

Scientific committee

  • Michèle Aquien (Paris)
  •  Jean-Jacques Boutaud (Dijon) Patrice de la Broise (Lille)
  • Anne Parizot (Besançon) Cécile Tardy (Lille)
  • Paul-Henri  Giraud (Lille) Paul Rasse (Nice) Annick Le Guérer (Paris) Yves Baudelle (Lille) Joël Candau (Nice) Jérôme Hennebert (Lille)
  • Andrée Lerousseau (Lille) 
  • Constantin Bobas (Lille)
  • Audrey Moutat (Limoges)

Managing committee

  • Jérôme Hennebert (ALITHILA, Lille)
  • Valentine Coppin (ALITHILA, Lille)
  • Jessica Kounda  (ALITHILA, Lille)
  • Andrée Lerousseau (CECILLE, Lille)
  • Patrice de la Broise (GERIICO, Lille)

Bibliographical references

  • Barbet Virginie, Le Marketing olfactif, Paris, Presses du management, 1999
  • Boutaud Jean-Jacques, Sémiotique et Communication. Du signe au sens, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1998
  • Candau Joël, Mémoire et expériences olfactives, Paris, PUF, 2000
  • Corbin Alain, Le Miasme et la jonquille : l’odorat et l’imaginaire social XVIIIe-XIXe siècles, Paris, Flammarion, 2008
  • Dubois Danièle, Le sentir et le dire, concepts et méthodes en psychologie et linguistique cognitives, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2009
  • Eliena Jean-Claude, Le Parfum, PUF, coll. « que sais-je ? », 2015
  • Jaquet Chantal dir., L’Art olfactif contemporain, Paris, Garnier, 2015
  • Jaquet Chantal, Philosophie de l’odorat, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2010
  • Julien Mariette, L’Image publicitaire des parfums, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1997
  • Lardellier Pascal dir. , À fleur de peau : corps, odeurs, parfums, Paris, Belin, 2003
  • Le Guérer Annick, Les Pouvoirs de l’odeur, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2002
  • Le Guérer Annick, Le Parfum des origines à nos jours,  Paris, Odile Jacob , 2005
  • Parizot Anne, « Ici, tout est… Sens : vers un partage des sens en harmonie », Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication [Online], 3 | 2013, Online since 01 August 2013, connection on 19 March 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/rfsic.570
  • Perrouty-Perret Stéphanie, Rhétoriques des senteurs, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2006
  • Revue Autrement, série mutations, « Odeurs : l’essence d’un sens », 1987, n°92
  • Revue Hermès, « La voie des sens » , 2016 / n°74
  • Revue Langage : « Pour une linguistique des odeurs » 2011, n°181
  • Revue Littérature, « Sociabilités du parfum », 2017 /1, n°185.
  • Revue Moebius, « Le Parfum », 2013, n° 137
  • Revue Terrain, « Les odeurs », 2006, n°47


  • site Pont de Bois
    Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France (59)


  • Friday, June 15, 2018


  • parfum, odeur, olfaction, senteur, rhétorique, style, information, communication, représentation, littérature


  • Jérôme Hennebert
    courriel : jerome [dot] hennebert [at] hotmail [dot] fr
  • Patrice De la Broise
    courriel : patrice [dot] delabroise [at] univ-lille3 [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Jérôme Hennebert
    courriel : jerome [dot] hennebert [at] hotmail [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Smells and their meanings: A litterary and communication issue », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, May 28, 2018,

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search