Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Both William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez introduce the olfactory as a focal element in their writing, producing works that challenge the singular primacy of sight as the unrivaled means by which the New World might be understood. As they translate experiences of the New World into language, both writers record the power of olfactory perception to reflect memory and history, to shape identity, to mark unmistakably certain crisis moments of ethical action, and to delineate a form of knowledge crucial to their New World poetics of the novel. Observing and analyzing the olfactory language particular to the cultural spaces in and around Yoknapatawpha County and the village of Macondo, respectively, provides a means to enter the imaginary landscapes not only of these major novelists but of Plantation America and the New World in general. In line with those studies that examine tropes, issues, and themes common to U.S. and Spanish American literature, this study comprises an analysis of how the olfactory environment serves Faulkner and García Márquez as symbol and subject in the heroic diachronic sweeps of their respective Yoknapatawpha and Macondo narratives. Both authors use smells in order to get at truth –to get closer to knowledge, and smell becomes the intersection between the structure of experience and the structure of knowledge. Their olfactory passageways mark out the South and the Caribbean, leading to a rooted, complex, nuanced understanding of truth in a world that modern civilization has paved over. In this way, their fictional olfactory situations and language establish a critique of the modern era, of an all-too-Cartesian modernity in the world, and point to a new poetics specifically for the New World, where there might still be hope for the memory and the promise of a land that is “fresh from the hand of God.”



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Bainard Cowan