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Daily Dose: Modernist Intoxications

Literary studies and intoxication have traditionally been associated with Romanticism and its representative aesthetic movements and Orientalist visions. But Modernism also incorporated drugs into its practices—albeit in very different cultural contexts. Still, the Romantic legacy of euphoria, seduction, and “transcendence” (as Keats put it) endures in contemporary culture, whereas Modernist experimentation with substances has made no coherent impression or supplied much productive understanding of the period. This proposed panel will consider the discourse of Modernist drug use to assess the era’s connection between creative practice and intoxication.

Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) marked a decisive shift in perceptions of narcotics and pleasure, regarding opium use as a wickedness far afield of De Quincey’s “secret of happiness.” Around World War I, now so-called “drugs” became steeped in medico-legal discourse. The nineteenth century’s mind-expanding, exploratory stimulant became the twentieth century’s “drug”—a shift accompanied by language of degeneracy, crime, addiction, and deviant sexuality. What was at stake—politically, socially, culturally, aesthetically—in modernist explorations of intoxication? How did drugs implicate and explicate literary and artistic consciousness?

Freud’s “magical substance” (cocaine) visions; Benjamin’s experiments with hashish (having read Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises, he proclaimed, “it will be necessary to repeat this attempt independently of this book”); Aldous Huxley’s mescaline-induced "sacramental vision"; Andre Breton’s hostility toward drug use in surrealist experiments with automatic writing; Alice B. Toklas’s “hashish fudge”; Antonin Artaud’s aesthetics of intoxication. And what of drug-induced prose? Jeanette Winterson’s description of the narcotic quality of Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood, suggests a possible shift from authorial intoxication to literary intoxication.

With these diverse attitudes toward being “high,” can we begin to map the contours of a Modernist drug culture?

Intersections between drug use and Modernism may be loosely interpreted. Interdisciplinary papers are welcome, as are studies of high and low cultural texts.

Please send 250-word abstract and short CV to Annalisa Zox-Weaver by March 11

Conference Location: Brighton, UK
Conference Starts: August 29, 2013
Conference Ends: September 01, 2013

CFP Submission Deadline: March11, 2013

For more information, contact:

Conference Location: Brighton, United Kingdom
Conference Starts: August 29, 2013
Conference Ends: September 01, 2013

CFP Submission Deadline: March 11, 2013

For more information, contact: Annalisa Zox-Weaver