The Proust Phenomenon

Posted: 8 February 2013

image for news story The Proust Phenomenon

The Memory Network ran its first event in the autumn, 'The Proust Phenomenon', an exciting, avant garde experiment that reconsidered the iconic madeleine episode in Proust’s A la recherché du temps perdu. The "Proust laboratory" took place at the French Institut and asked a general audience to undergo a series of experiments involving smelling laboratory-generated scents that triggered strong, involuntary memories. Different perspectives on Proust’s work were offered by neuroscientists, literary critics, philosophers and psychologists.

The data gathered has rendered a number of significant findings, which will lead to a scientific paper that focuses primarily on the relationship between verbal and olfactory stimuli. Besides a number of interesting results (vanilla ‘behaves’ quite different from smells such as vanilla and cherry in terms of ‘intensity’, for instance), there is a distinct, supplementary relationship between words and smells whereby the former boosts the intensity of the latter, which our research will be able to clarify in detail.

The Memory Network is funded by the AHRC and brings together scientists, arts and humanities scholars, writers and artists together to think critically and creatively about memory in the twenty-first century. For updates on the Proust Phenomenon research and other events, see www.thememorynetwork.net

The Proust Phenomenon from University of Roehampton on Vimeo.

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