Mr Crispian Neill

Research Postgraduate Student

Summary: 'The Smell of Modernism'

Doctoral Research

The aim of my research is to investigate the significance of smell at the beginning of the twentieth century, examining the role of odour as both historical artefact and literary metaphor in the construction of what we perceive as modernism.

A key preliminary question is whether there is anything idiosyncratically modernist about the treatment of smell during 1900-1945. My initial survey of texts and cultural products throughout this period suggests a shift in the presentation of odour, via attempts to question smell’s established subordination to the visual regime, which offer a corresponding interrogation of odour’s lack of classification and paucity of descriptive terms. 

Language’s limitation in representing smell resonates with modernism’s questioning of language as a system of signification. Simultaneously, the urge to represent odour and its effects stimulates artistic ingenuity as a response to the emergence of smell as a cultural concern – a shift which offers correspondences with the constitution of literary modernism and its pursuit of avant-garde aesthetics, but also invites critical ingress into cognate areas such as the resurgence of occultism as a cultural practice, and the interrelationship between literature and osphresiology.


Dr Fiona Becket


Refereed Journal Articles


'D. H. Lawrence and dogs: canines and the critique of civilisation', Journal of D. H. Lawrence Studies (2015), Vol. 4, No. 1,  95-118.

'The afflatus of flatus: James Joyce and the writing of odour', James Joyce Quarterly (forthcoming).


‘“The Incident [...] Is Spoiled Inevitably in the Telling”: Language-Games and Narrative Identity in Charlotte Mew and D. H. Lawrence’, D. H. Lawrence Review, 38 (2013), 45–57.

Forthcoming reprint in Short Story Criticism, ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau, Vol. 221, Prod. Layman Poupard (Detroit: Gale, Cengage, 2016) 216-222.

Conference Proceedings


(Co-authored with Georgina Binnie) 'Sensory Modernism(s): Reflections And Further Directions', James Joyce Broadsheet, No. 102, October 2015, p.3.


Funding Activities


Co-founded the Sensory Modernisms Research Group at the University of Leeds. The group was awarded £200 by the Leeds Humanities Research Institute to cover conference activities.


Contributed with the preparation of an AHRC Collaborative Skills Development Bid, working in conjunction with the Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities.

Research Activities


Contributing editor to the Open Modernisms Project.

Conference Activities


March 10: 'The smell of modernism: malodour, olfactory activism and futurity', at 'Mapping the Olfactory: Modernist Representation of Body and the Sensory Aesthetics', held at The School of Advanced Study, University of London. 


December 11-12: Organiser of 'Sensory Modernism(s): Cultures of Perception #2'. A two-day conference to be held at the University of Leeds.

May 21: Organiser of 'Sensory Modernism(s): Cultures of Perception #1'. A one-day conference held at the University of Leeds.


December: ‘‘Outside human limits … outside canine limits’: Dogs, Dasein and Human/Animal Interontology in Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence’ at the one-day conference hosted by Scottish Network of Modernist Studies (SNoMS) in conjunction with the London Modernism Seminar, the Northern Modernism Seminar, and the British Association of Modernism (BAMS) in Edinburgh.

March: Co-organised and co-chaired a workshop, '(Re)finding a place for medicine within the humanities: methodological approaches in the Medical Humanities' (Guest speaker Brian Hurwitz, Department of English and Centre for Health and Humanities, King’s College London).


November: 'Performative Polemic and the Primitive in Paleface', at the conference Wyndham Lewis: Networks, Dialogues and Communities, held at the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

July: 'Language-Games and Narrative Identity in D. H. Lawrence and Charlotte Mew', at the D. H. Lawrence: Regional, National and International Contexts conference hosted at the University of Nottingham.

Teaching/Courses Taught


Twentieth Century Fiction in English module.


Twentieth Century Fiction in English module.

Awards & Honours


Second-place, Postgraduate Research Showcase Movie of the Year.


Postgraduate Research Poster of the Year.


Awarded Scholarship by Peterhouse, Cambridge.


Awarded Exhibition by Peterhouse, Cambridge.

Other Activities

Currently serving as a postgraduate research representative for the Student:Staff Forum at the School of English.