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Literature on Drugs

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Organizer: Trisha Urmi Banerjee

Co-Organizer: Catarina von Wedemeyer

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Drugs can lead to addiction or exorbitant wealth, friendship or incarceration, championship titles or memory loss. Against the backdrop of fervent contemporary conversations spanning domestic and international law, medicine, economics, politics, sports, and culture high and low, this seminar proposes to examine the powerful kinship between drugs and literary practice and imagination.

We welcome scholars from any field who are interested in the role of intoxication and substance use in the literary and dramatic arts (including television and film), exploring such questions and topics as:

-- intoxicated writers writing on intoxication (e.g. Henri Michaux; Benjamin, “Haschisch in Marseille”; Artaud, Les Tarahumaras; Gabriela Wiener, “Ayahuasca”; Zadie Smith, “On Joy”; Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater)

-- intoxicated writers (e.g. Coleridge; Lost Generation; Cortázar)

-- poetry of intoxication (e.g. “Fleurs du mal”; Georg Trakl)

-- intoxication as a metaphor, whether for literary experience or within literary arts (e.g. “Le Bateau ivre”; Yellow Submarine)

-- intoxication and genre: comedy (e.g. Lucky Jim; Charlie Chaplin, “The Champion” ; The Hangover), horror (e.g. Shrooms

-- literature and theories of drugs and intoxication (e.g. Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy”; Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era; Bjelić, Intoxication, Modernity, and Colonialism: Freud’s Industrial Unconscious, Benjamin’s Hashish Mimesis; Herlinghaus)

-- problems of agency (e.g. in Naturalism, Zola’s Coupeau or Hardy’s Henchard)

-- creativity and drugs (e.g. “Les Paradis artificiels”; Doors of Perception)

-- fictional drugs (e.g. Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Limitless)

-- literary arts and historical or contemporary problems, politics, and policies around drugs (e.g. international drug trafficking, the War on Drugs, the American opioid crisis, the legalization of marijuana, the decriminalization of possession, the pharmaceutical industry, doping, drugs and gender, drugs and race, drugs and health, drugs and disability) 

-- literary representations of drug use and/or the experience of intoxication (e.g. Sherlock Holmes; Taipeii; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test; The Moonstone; Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; David Copperfield; Under the Volcano)

-- tv and film representations of drug use and/or the experience of intoxication (e.g. Breaking Bad; Rush; Requiem for a Dream; Valley of the Dolls; Trainspotting; A Clockwork Orange; Apocalypse Now; The Acid House

-- literary, tv, film representations of drug trafficking (e.g. Narcos; Drug Lords; Breaking Bad; The Wire; Weeds; Disjointed; Traffic; Blow; American Gangster)

-- as a counterpoint, the relation between drugs and non-literary media

-- aspects of the relation between drugs and literature not mentioned above


Please submit a 300-word abstract and 100-word bio through the ACLA website by September 23rd.


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