I know, the name’s a little cheesy and tongue-in-cheek, but throughout literary history, alcohol has served as a muse and maiden to our greatest authors and poets. Since my freshman year of college, I have been fascinated by the ways in which writers employ alcohol both in their art and as a means to that art. The line between genius and insanity is usually blurred, and generally more so when an outside substance is involved. With this blog, I hope to share my own scholarly findings, as well as my general amateur opinions, about the use and abuse of alcohol in literature.
The first recorded alcoholic drink was an ancient version of what we now call wine. Many scholars claim that wine has existed since 4000 B.C., and so it is at the heart of human history to partake in this fermented juice. The first written reference to wine was in 2500 B.C., in ancient Egypt, where it was frequently used in postmortem preparation for the afterlife. However, the first written account of viniculture (or the art of wine cultivation) was in the Old Testament’s Book of Genesis, in Noah’s story. Since then, wine has not only become an integral part of Jewish and Christian religious ritual, but of literary ritual as well.
Whether it warns us of excess or encourages our creative impulse, alcohol is a nearly unavoidable part of literature. It is used to bring to light man’s greatest evils, as well as mask his most sociopathic desires. Intoxication has brought about the demise of some of our greatest writers (Charles Bukowski, Edgar Allan Poe), but it has also created some of the greatest works of fiction (“Kubla Khan,” Naked Lunch). (I should note here, in lieu of the fact that “Kubla Khan” was technically produced by an opium dream, that while when I reference “intoxication” I am usually referring to alcohol, it also serves as an umbrella term for any sort of chemical influence .)
As for who I am, well, I’m no one special. I’m not a scholar (yet), nor do I own some gigantic vineyard on the coast of France (though, I hopefully will one day), nor can I boast an outstanding knowledge of the crippling grip of alcoholism (thank God). I’m just a girl with an intense (perhaps perverse) interest in the issue of intoxication as a literary trope. After a freshman-encounter with Euripides’s The Bacchae, I fell instantly and irrevocably in love with the manner in which intoxication motivates and influences a narrative. My educational background is predominantly in Modern European literature and French Symbolist poetry (and you wonder why I can’t find a steady day-job). I developed my undergrad thesis on la fee verte (absinthe, the green fairy), and since then, have focused my intellectual pursuits on the subject of literatures of intoxication. Hopefully, in a year’s time, I will be pursuing these studies through the grad program of some well-known university, but until then, I’m using this blog as a venue for my thoughts and findings on the subject.
This blog will be inquisitive, experimental, and (hopefully) entertaining. If you’re a stranger and stumble upon this, I would love for you to leave a comment, even if it’s just with a book recommendation. If you’re a friend and concerned that I’ve finally become one of those people holed up in the recesses of some dark library all day, talking to finger puppets in Old English, well, we all knew it would eventually come to this.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. I’m currently streaming the new CD from Them Crooked Vultures, and it is rock star quality.