ULIP Postgraduate Conference Summer 2013, June 28th, 2013
Throughout literary history writers have consistently been drawn to intoxication. They have used their work to ponder the temptation of intoxicants, and the altered states of perception they produce. Writers have also regularly intoxicated themselves to aid the creative process, or to escape the pressure of artistic creation and the monotony of humdrum reality.
The intoxicant of choice can take many forms. It can be legal highs: cigarettes, strong coffee and alcohol favoured by the café-frequenting auteur. It can be ‘recreational’: cannabis and so-called club drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine. It can also be more radical, pushing the writer towards the edges of both legality and experience: heroin, crack and cocaine.
Intoxication can also take a more mundane form: prescribed medication and, in particular, antidepressants. It need not involve drugs at all: adherents report that asceticism and religious fanaticism can create equivalent states of intoxication. The very act of writing itself has also been posited as exhilarating or intoxicating. In turn, the process of reading has been celebrated for its capacity to produce a similar effect.
French writing, and French writers, have been particularly fascinated by intoxication, and have frequently been intoxicated. In the nineteenth century, Rimbaud called for a ‘dérèglement de tous les sens’, Baudelaire, Gaultier and Flaubert were attendees at the Club des Hashischins, whilst the shadow of Thomas de Quincey’s opium eating has loomed large over the French creative imagination. In modern and contemporary writing, Henri Michaux and Claro have explored LSD, whilst Frédéric Beigbeder published his Nouvelles sous ecstasy. Alcohol has also had a strong grip: Debord, Houellebecq and Duras all drank heavily. Paris itself has been a frequent port of call for foreign writers seeking intoxication: Miller, Burroughs and Hemmingway all famously indulged decadently in the French capital.
This one-day conference at the University of London Institute in Paris will consider the relationship of intoxication to writing produced both in French and in France. It invites proposals for twenty-minute research papers in English or French from postgraduate and early career researchers as well as proposals for interventions around the theme from writers working outside the university community.
Themes for exploration could include, but are by no means limited to, the following:
– Ecstasy, raves and writing
– Uppers and downers
– Cigarettes and alcohol
– Writing and rock
– Hangovers and comedowns
– Parisian expatriate intoxication
– Writing and hedonism
– Alternative intoxications
Proposals (maximum 300 words), together with a short biography indicating your academic background and research interests or short CV, should be submitted via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 5th 2013. Please include your name, academic affiliation (where appropriate), and contact details.
This conference is organised by the ULIP Postgraduate Society: Russell Williams, Eugene Brennan, Katie Tidmarsh and Alastair Hemmens.