Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

‘writing, the pharmakon, the going or leading astray’: Addiction and the Pharmakon in Nineteenth-Century periodical culture

Wilkinson, Alice 2022. ‘writing, the pharmakon, the going or leading astray’: Addiction and the Pharmakon in Nineteenth-Century periodical culture. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
Item availability restricted.

[thumbnail of A Wilkinson Thesis FINAL.pdf]
PDF - Accepted Post-Print Version
Download (8MB) | Preview
[thumbnail of Cardiff University Electronic Theses and Dissertations Publication Form] PDF (Cardiff University Electronic Theses and Dissertations Publication Form) - Supplemental Material
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (810kB)


In his 1981 essay, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, Jacques Derrida explores the fundamental duality of the pharmakon, demonstrating how this ancient Greek word, which signifies both cure and poison, also fuses the material with the supernatural. My thesis examines how the pharmakon’s oppositions underpin the complexities of nineteenth-century understandings and depictions of the drug and drug user, in both specialised professional spheres and evolving literary culture. Focusing on the periodical press of the nineteenth century, I also explore how the text itself can be seen as a pharmakon, and how it was encompassed within discourses of dangerous consumption. The Introduction will establish the points of exploration of the thesis, and will provide a chronological overview of the three chapters and the material examined. Key contributions from Foucault and Derrida will be discussed, and the medical and pharmacological developments of the nineteenth century will frame the discussion of the succeeding chapters. Chapter One considers the years 1830 to 1859, a period in which the periodical press played an increasingly instrumental role in influencing how readers absorbed fiction and journalism, while the central significance of commodities was epitomised with the Great Exhibition of 1851. The status of substances such as alcohol and opium within this commercial environment was unstable, their common usage increasingly juxtaposed with fears surrounding their physiological and mental influence. Chapter Two (1860s and 1870s) considers how the connection between sensation fiction and consumption formed a central preoccupation of the culture of consumerism, emphasising concerns regarding gender and the merging of private and public social spheres. Cultural and medical concerns were also conflated in this period: as the physiological impact of drugs was identified as a cause of concern, the same rhetoric of addiction or abuse was increasingly applied to the consumption of fiction itself. Chapter Three examines how the fin de siècle witnessed a powerful Gothic discourse, which permeated both literary and scientific texts resulting in a problematic conflation of medical progression and regression. Within both literary and professional conceptions of drug use, a shifting focus reflected concerns such as degeneration on the individual and national scales and the almost supernatural powers increasingly attributed to science and medicine. The Conclusion draws together the considerations of the drug, body and text from the preceding three chapters in order to explore how these evolved over the course of the nineteenth century. The figure of the addict and habits of addiction were inextricably connected with these key concepts, and the Conclusion reflects on the ways in which the imbrication of drug/body/text created a problematic and multifaceted understanding of this disease.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 July 2022
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2023 01:30

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics