From the antiquity of Homer to yesterday's "Naked Lunch," writers
have found inspiration, and readers have lost themselves, in a
world of the imagination tinged and oftentimes transformed by
drugs. The age-old association of literature and drugs receives its
first comprehensive treatment in this far-reaching work. Drawing on
history, science, biography, literary analysis, and ethnography,
Marcus Boon shows that the concept of drugs is fundamentally
interdisciplinary, and reveals how different sets of connections
between disciplines configure each drug's unique history.
In chapters on opiates, anesthetics, cannabis, stimulants, and
psychedelics, Boon traces the history of the relationship between
writers and specific drugs, and between these drugs and literary
and philosophical traditions. With reference to the usual suspects
from De Quincey to Freud to Irvine Welsh and with revelations about
others such as Milton, Voltaire, Thoreau, and Sartre, "The Road of
Excess" provides a novel and persuasive characterization of the
"effects" of each class of drug--linking narcotic addiction to
Gnostic spirituality, stimulant use to writing machines, anesthesia
to transcendental philosophy, and psychedelics to the problem of
the imaginary itself. Creating a vast network of texts,
personalities, and chemicals, the book reveals the ways in which
minute shifts among these elements have resulted in "drugs" and
"literature" as we conceive of them today.
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