The Rise of Psychopharmacological Fiction

  • Natalie Roxburgh
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


The chapter surveys narrative fiction published since the 1980s that incorporates discourses from pharmacology. While fiction has explored drugs and drug effects since the nineteenth century, recent works take seriously the science of human cognition in unprecedented ways. The pharmacological sciences offer particularly interesting fodder for contemporary fiction because the object of inquiry—the drug—is somewhere between science and technology, a medicinal substance and a product of manufacture. This opens up questions about the mind versus the brain, medical treatment versus optimization, the risk of addiction, and the question of what it means to be a natural human. In so doing, these works explore what is at stake in a risk society, particularly by honing the logic of the pharmakon.

Works Cited

  1. Armstrong, Nancy (1987). Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bakhtin, M.M. (1981) [1934–5]. “Discourse in the Novel.” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. M. Holquist. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 259–422.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, Ulrich, Anthony Giddens, and Scott Lash (1994). Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (2000). Trans. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  5. Buell, Lawrence (2001). Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 30–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Collins, Wilkie (2008) [1868]. The Moonstone. Ed. John Sutherland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Conrad, Joseph (2016) [1899]. Heart of Darkness. Ed. Paul B. Armstrong. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  8. Croft, Ashley M. (2007). “A Lesson Learnt: The Rise and Fall of Lariam and Halfan.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 100.4: 170–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. De Boever, Arne (2013). Narrative Care: Biopolitics and the Novel. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  10. DeLillo, Don (1984–5). White Noise. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club.Google Scholar
  11. De Quincey, Thomas (2013) [1821]. “Confessions of an English Opium Eater.” Confessions of an English Opium Eater and Other Writings. Ed. Robert Morrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 3–79.Google Scholar
  12. Derrida, Jacques (1981). “Plato’s Pharmacy.” Dissemination. Trans. Barbara Johnson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 61–172.Google Scholar
  13. Donovan, Gerard (2005). Doctor Salt. London: Scribner.Google Scholar
  14. Franzen, Jonathan (2001). The Corrections. London: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  15. Glynn, Alan (2001). The Dark Fields. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  16. Hailey, Arthur (1984). Strong Medicine. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  17. Heise, Ursula K. (2004). “Toxins, Drugs, and Global System: Risk and Narrative in the Contemporary Novel.” The Holodeck in the Garden: Science and Technology in Contemporary American Fiction. Eds. Peter Freese and Charles B. Harris. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive. 263–287.Google Scholar
  18. Herz, Christopher (2011). Pharmacology. Las Vegas: Amazon Encore.Google Scholar
  19. Hickman, John (2009). “When Science Fiction Writers Used Fictional Drugs: Rise and Fall of the Twentieth-Century Drug Dystopia.” Utopian Studies 20.1: 141–170.Google Scholar
  20. Huxley, Aldous. (n.d.). Brave New World (1964). London: Chatto & Windus.Google Scholar
  21. Jenner, F.A. (1994). “Medicine and Addiction.” Beyond the Pleasure Dome: Writing and Addiction from the Romantics. Eds. Sue Vice, Matthew Campbell, and Tim Armstrong. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 18–22.Google Scholar
  22. Johnson, Gary (2008). “Consciousness as Content: Neuronarratives and the Redemption of Fiction.” Mosaic 41.1: 169–184.Google Scholar
  23. Kirchhofer, Anton, and Natalie Roxburgh (2016). “The Scientist as ‘Problematic Individual’ in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction.” Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 64.2: 148–168.Google Scholar
  24. Kirn, Walter (1999). Thumbsucker. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  25. Kirsch, Irving (2009). The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. London: Bodley Head, 2009. 3. Kindle Edition.Google Scholar
  26. Levin, Ira (1970). The Perfect Day. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  27. MacLeod, Ken (2012). Intrusion. London: Little, Brown Book Group.Google Scholar
  28. Merritt, Stephanie (2005). “Pinch of Salt.” The Observer. 9 Jan 2005. Web. 19 Jan. 2018.Google Scholar
  29. Patchett, Ann (2011). State of Wonder. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  30. Pope, Alexander (1998) [1712, 1736]. The Rape of the Lock. Ed. Cynthia Wall. Boston: Bedford. 50–87.Google Scholar
  31. Powers, Richard (2009). Generosity: An Enhancement. New York: Picador.Google Scholar
  32. Prebble, Lucy (2012). The Effect. London: Bloomsbury.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stiles, Anne (2007). “Introduction.” Neurology and Literature, 1860–1920. Houndmills: Palgrave. 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tevis, Walter (1980). Mockingbird. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  35. Vice, Sue, Matthew Campbell, and Tim Armstrong (1994). Beyond the Pleasure Dome: Writing and Addiction from the Romantics. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.Google Scholar
  36. Wittenborn, Dirk (2008). Pharmakon… or the Story of a Happy Family. New York, Penguin.Google Scholar
  37. Zunshine, Lisa (2006). Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natalie Roxburgh
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SiegenSiegenGermany

Personalised recommendations