Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reefer Madness

One sees, starting with the 19th Century, gaining speed into the 20th, the merging of interest in an unlimited, visionary subjectivity (a la Romanticism) and the recreational use of perception-altering drugs. Conveniently, the ritual serves as a leisure-time demonstration for what is being said by an emergent psychology field: that subjectivity is a chemical, biological process, not a transcendent one.

A notable contribution from the 19th is the European and North American para-literature on opium use and the confessional of addiction. Thomas DeQuincey establishes the genre. Charles Baudelaire adds to the correspondence between drugs and psychological states a hammy, character-actor's brogue. Writerly observations of opium dens become faddish.

Into the 20th, there is Celine whose take on hardboard realism is tantamount to hallucination (the subject of literal drug use is not explored). Aldous Huxley is perhaps the prominent idealist and optimist of drug use, holding it dear for tapping into hitherto under-experienced adventures in subjectivity, explorations aligned with mysticism. Shortly later, Timothy Leary follows his example. William Burroughs is less rosy: drug use being the commodification of subjectivity--subjectivity given an external, material form--turns subjectivity over to the laws of commodities: trade, regulation, policing, negotiable ownership.

Hashish and Opium Literature

Other Narcotics Literature

Contemporary Resources

In Film
Curious Alice - 1970s After School Special

Reefer Madness 

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