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Title: Novel Under the Influence: Modernism and Intoxication in Baudelaire, James, Proust, and Rhys
Authors: Barton, Robert
Advisors: DiBattista, Maria
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Intoxicaton
Subjects: Comparative literature
American literature
French literature
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines intoxication as a recurring thematic and conceptual touchstone in the work of several late nineteenth and early twentieth century writers from France, America, and the Caribbean. It addresses these writers’ contributions to broad contemporary debates about the nature and function of aesthetics through a particular analysis of their varied reformulations of Classical and Romantic tropes in which intoxication and artistic creation or inspiration are closely associated. Descriptions of intoxication come to put pressure on any strictly conceived binary opposition of the external and the internal, and thus provide space for a reevaluation of the kind of aesthetic autonomy formulated by some Romantics as an artist’s reliance on nothing outside him- or herself in creating work. Elsewhere, these writers compare the specifically perceptual effects of intoxicating substances to poetic ways of seeing, or to the alterations of perception instigated by encounters with art, under a theory of defamiliarization widespread among modernists in Western literature. The project begins with Baudelaire’s treatment of wine, opium, and hashish throughout his work: whereas many of Baudelaire’s contemporaries conceived of intoxication and literary writing as sharing a fundamentally solipsistic hallucinatory quality, Baudelaire insists on drunkenness as an essentially poetic perceptual means of representing a shared external urban modernity. The second chapter examines intoxication in two of Henry James’s novels as well as his literary criticism, revealing a through-line of thought in which intoxication comes to represent a kind of simplistic psychology and clichéd plotline at odds with James’s commitment to rigorous examination of the most complex aspects of his characters’ subjectivity and motivations. The next chapter tracks the term “ivresse” in Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, focusing especially on the stylistic shifts in the novel’s prose that accompany instances where the narrator himself becomes drunk, and suggesting the ways in which these episodes contribute to and contrast with the well-known explicit theories of art in the novel’s final volume. Finally, the fourth chapter is a reading of addiction and psychosis in Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight, in which psychosis and alcoholism are treated not as diagnoses of Rhys or of her heroine but as a structuring characteristic of the novel’s language and plot.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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