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“That Vast Quantity of Laudanum I Have Been Known to Take”Globalization, Empire, and the Performance of Addiction in the Eighteenth Century

“That Vast Quantity of Laudanum I Have Been Known to Take”Globalization, Empire, and the... An impostor who claimed to be a refugee from Formosa (present-day Taiwan) named George Psalmanazar (1679?–1763) embodied two key aspects of addiction in eighteenth-century Europe: its connections to globalization and imperialism, and the complex interplay between the concept of “positive” addictions (such as addiction to study, devotion, or duty) and the growing attention paid to “negative” ones (addiction to superstition, sexuality, or intoxicating substances). Constantly changing his identity in response to his audience’s expectations, Psalmanazar lived a life of continual performance—performance that hinged on trading one set of addictions for another. As he abandoned his falsified persona as an opiate-addicted, sexually licentious Taiwanese aristocrat, Psalmanazar embraced a postimposture persona as a pious scholar of religion who, like the holy men he studied, was “addicted to the reading . . . [of] sacred writings.” Strikingly, however, this second life as a humble scholar was sustained by regular opiate use. What had changed was how Psalmanazar thought about his use of the drug: no longer in the service of “vanity” or “extravagance” but instead in the service of God. With their blend of introspection and self-deception, Psalmanazar’s Memoirs (1764) index the changing social and cultural roles of opiates and the concept of addiction in eighteenth-century Europe and beyond. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png English Language Notes Duke University Press

“That Vast Quantity of Laudanum I Have Been Known to Take”Globalization, Empire, and the Performance of Addiction in the Eighteenth Century

English Language Notes , Volume 60 (1) – Apr 1, 2022

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Copyright
Copyright © 2022 Regents of the University of Colorado
ISSN
0013-8282
eISSN
2573-3575
DOI
10.1215/00138282-9560232
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

An impostor who claimed to be a refugee from Formosa (present-day Taiwan) named George Psalmanazar (1679?–1763) embodied two key aspects of addiction in eighteenth-century Europe: its connections to globalization and imperialism, and the complex interplay between the concept of “positive” addictions (such as addiction to study, devotion, or duty) and the growing attention paid to “negative” ones (addiction to superstition, sexuality, or intoxicating substances). Constantly changing his identity in response to his audience’s expectations, Psalmanazar lived a life of continual performance—performance that hinged on trading one set of addictions for another. As he abandoned his falsified persona as an opiate-addicted, sexually licentious Taiwanese aristocrat, Psalmanazar embraced a postimposture persona as a pious scholar of religion who, like the holy men he studied, was “addicted to the reading . . . [of] sacred writings.” Strikingly, however, this second life as a humble scholar was sustained by regular opiate use. What had changed was how Psalmanazar thought about his use of the drug: no longer in the service of “vanity” or “extravagance” but instead in the service of God. With their blend of introspection and self-deception, Psalmanazar’s Memoirs (1764) index the changing social and cultural roles of opiates and the concept of addiction in eighteenth-century Europe and beyond.

Journal

English Language NotesDuke University Press

Published: Apr 1, 2022

References