Olfactory Ghosts: Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White

  • Silvana Colella


In a general sense, all neo-Victorian novels are haunted. They are haunted by the ghosts of other texts and forms of writing, by authoritative voices from the past, by the spectral traces of Victorian characters whose actions still resonate within contemporary narratives, and by the shadows of histories and plots that resist closure. This haunting process may take different shapes. In Byatt’s (1990) novel, it instigates the quest for ‘possession’ of the material and symbolic traces of the past. Sarah Waters’s novels — Affinity (1999) and Fingersmith (2002) — are informed by ‘the promise of a haunting to come’ which always accompanies the spirit of the gothic, as Wolfreys claims (2002, p. 10). Clare Clark’s The Great Stink (2005) is disrupted by moments of return which occur in the sewers of Victorian London where ‘knee-deep in the effluvia of the largest city on earth’ (2005, p. 10) the distraught hero, William May, finds his freedom.


Object World Original Emphasis Century Realism Olfactory Perception Epistemological Question 
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Copyright information

© Silvana Colella 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvana Colella
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MacerataItaly

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