The relationship between literature and certain substances (alcohol, primarily) is startling and fascinating, when you notice it. These relationships function on two levels. Possibly three. The first of these is present in the creation of a text - often, the substance of choice plays a large part in the process. Coleridge and Kubla Khan, for example.
The second level, and the more obvious, is the inclusion of certain substances in the actual work itself. Sometimes this is a cheap cop-out when a writer has nothing better to talk about - a certain demographic can be trusted to go wild for descriptions of drug use, for example. More often it is simply a marker for character development or scene setting: the intertextuality of human consumptions and bodily function. An important point is that a lot more substances are thought-altering than you might think. Alcohol, pot, opium &c are blatantly so. But a good cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit can also holistically elevate your state of mind.
The third level is an addendum to the overall effect a reader has on a text they read. One might experience poetry differently when intoxicated than when sober. Your opinion of this third level’s validity will vary based on which literary school of thought you lean toward. Who has more power over a text: the author or the reader?
Published on May 24th, 2010