Research Project: Work and Smell: Studies on German, French and English Prose

Frank Krause

Punch, July 21,1855, Caricature: Faraday giving his card to Father Thames (Wellcome)

For literary texts, the topic of work is largely of interest as a practice which impacts on the scope for social recognition: work matters insofar as it stabilises, enhances or detracts from the esteem or respect sought by individuals. Whether recognition consists in the alienating or enriching award of social credit, in the social affirmation of one’s status as a morally self-governed person or in the ascription of the right to pursue the reconciliation of inclination and duty: to be acknowledged in the eyes of the other is of vital importance for the freedom of action.

When literary texts depict work-related issues of recognition, smell motifs tend to highlight the emotive significance of pertinent situations with particular intensity. Frank Krause‘s research project on Work and Smell traces uses of such motifs in German, French and English prose narratives from selected literary-historical periods and asks how they engage with ideas about work in the social imaginary of their time.


The conference “Work and Smell: Comparative Perspectives”, held at the Centre for Comparative Literature on 25-26 April 2024 (online), is part of this research project. For conference concept, programme, abstracts and speakers’ biographies, please go to the Work and Smell conference webpage.