Altered states/other worlds : romanticism, nitrous oxide, and the literary prehistory of psychedelia / Nese Lisa Devenot.

Devenot, Nes╠že author.
xxii, 272 leaves ; 29 cm
[Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] : University of Pennsylvania, 2015.

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Penn dissertations -- Comparative literature and literary theory. (search)
Comparative literature and literary theory -- Penn dissertations. (search)
This project explores the relationship between experimental poetry and experimental science as it relates to the multidisciplinary discourse on self-actualization in the medical humanities. Engaging with the history of medicine and narrative medicine during the Romantic era, I demonstrate the mutual constitution of medicine and poetics in this formative period for both disciplines. In examining the ongoing legacy of Romantic-era formal innovations in self-experimentation, I argue for the mutual dependence of science and poetry in both catalyzing and documenting the lasting impact of heightened aesthetic experiences. Further, the project reads Romantic poetry as an early prototype of present-day psychedelic psychotherapy, since both activities explicitly aim to promote psychological healing by inducing ecstatic states of consciousness. This intervention reads canonical Romantic lyric poetry by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a specific mode of self-experimentation, wherein the poet isolates and reproduces natural scenes that reliably stimulate ecstatic states of consciousness. Their procedure arises verbatim in Romantic scientific investigations of mind-altering chemicals, demonstrating that nitrous oxide and developments in the science laboratory are equally essential to understanding Romantic poetry as are the more-familiar themes of opium, Nature, and the sublime. I trace the afterlife of this function of lyric poetry through Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception (1954) to 21st-century psychedelic medicine, all of which rely on Romantic experimental methods to heal intractable psychic wounds. With Humphry Davy's 1799 discovery of nitrous oxide's psychoactivity as a case study, I demonstrate that the collaboration between poetry and science is fundamental to any project of mapping new realms of subjective experience. Collectively, my conclusions expand conceptions of Romanticism's ongoing heritage, arguing for renewed, interdisciplinary scholarship on altered states and the therapeutic impact of heightened aesthetic experiences on consciousness.
Ph. D. University of Pennsylvania 2015.
Department: Comparative Literature and Literary Theory.
Supervisor: Charles Bernstein, Michael Gamer.
Includes bibliographical references.
Bernstein, Charles, 1950- degree supervisor.
Gamer, Michael, degree supervisor.
Tresch, John, degree committee member.
Doyle, Richard, 1945- degree committee member.
University of Pennsylvania. Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory.