Junk wins by default : an examination of opiates on the creative mind in four key texts

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MacCarthy, Francis
Issue Date
BA (Hons) Arts
Dublin Business School
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In 1821, Thomas De Quincey’s seminal text on opium addiction, Confessions of an English Opium Eater, was published. The book combined a narrative driven by the squalor and desperation of addiction with a sense of psychological insight that shed new light on the elations of drug use, effectively redefining the way a formerly tabooed topic could be written about and examined in the public eye. Since then, many other artists have portrayed their fondness for opium and its derivatives in a similar way, highlighting some striking parallels and some fundamental differences that portray the drug and addiction as an unbelievably complex affliction. Using De Quincey’s work and three other texts – Artificial Paradises (1860) by Charles Baudelaire, Opium: The Diary of his Cure (1930) by Jean Cocteau and Junky (1953) by William S Burroughs – as a jump-off point, this Final Year Project examines the effects of opiates on the lives and creativity of four major artists. Examining the treatment of the drug in these four texts provides a greater insight into the working minds of these artists, but also arouses a better understanding of addiction and what drew them to continued use of opiates in the first place. It also sheds light on their work in a broader context, where the influence of opiates is much more recognisable in their artistic output.