Writing on Drugs  

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Writing on Drugs (1999) is a book by Sadie Plant. It explores the link between drugs and literature and, amongst other things, makes the causal connection of the wide availability of opium in 19th century England with the rise of industrialization.



Barthes’ ‘death of the author’ is oddly implicit in ‘Writing on Drugs’. Sadie Plant is almost totally invisible throughout the text (rather than those she examines.) Her academic style is thick in quotations and references but often lacks cohesion and direction; the result is a bewildering tour of culture through drugs that lacks originality. Nearly the whole book is regurgitation and the manner of its construction, although seemingly thorough, tends to obscure any possible original meaning. [1]

From the publisher

Sadie Plant traces the history of drugs and drug use through the work of some notable writers. Rather than exploring drug use as an avenue to spiritual transcendence, Plant focuses on the way that drugs themselves make precise, recognizable interventions in consciousness, in cultural life, in politics. She argues that the use, production, and trafficking of drugs--narcotics, stimulants, and hallucinogens--have shaped some of the era's most fundamental philosophies and provided much of its economic wealth.
"The reasons for the laws and the motives for the wars, the nature of the pleasures and the trouble drugs can cause, the tangled webs of chemicals, the plants, the brains, machines: ambiguity surrounds them all. Drugs shape the laws and write the very rules they break, they scramble all the codes and raise the stakes of desire and necessity, euphoria and pain, normality, perversion, truth, and artifice again."
Through examinations of post-Romantic writers on drugs, including Thomas de Quincey and Coleridge on opium, Freud on cocaine, Michaux on mescaline, and Burroughs on them all, Writing on Drugs exposes this most profound and pervasive influence on contemporary culture.

Table of contents


Private Eyes 3

opium, opium and Romanticism

Artificial Paradises 32

hash, photography, Artificial Paradises, Charles Baudelaire

Unconscious 54

general anaesthesia

White Lines 61

cocaine, Freud, Holmes

Magicians 93

ergotism, LSD

Pilots 119

benzedrine, speed, Philip K. Dick, Walter Benjamin

Ghosts 139

Antonin Artaud, Alexander Trocchi, Tom Wolfe, William Burroughs, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari

Dancers 174


Gray Areas 182

Henri Michaux

Trade Wars 217

drug trade

Black Markets 222

black market

Double Agents 251

double agent

Bibliography 267

Index 279


See also

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