Introduction: Writing, Politics and the Experience of Excess

  • Eugene Brennan
  • Russell Williams


Mundane sobriety is rarely enough. Throughout cultural history writers and readers have time and again found themselves in a state of willing intoxication. For Friedrich Nietzsche a feedback loop of cause and effect is endemic to the artistic process: ‘the effect of works of art is to excite the states that create the work of art — intoxication’ (Nietzsche, 1968, p. 168). Intoxication has had a particularly prominent place within modernism, bound up with artistic creation. The artist must confront the overwhelming socio-historical changes and cultural anxieties informing his or her moment in history: post-enlightenment secularisation with its effects of a de-sacralised and disenchanted world, the increasing precariousness of the figure of the artist within modernity, and the recurring feeling, paradoxically driving each modernist breakthrough, that art has in some sense reached its end and there is nothing more to say. Considering the task of the artist in such conditions, Maurice Blanchot describes modernist art as necessarily coming from a position of intoxication: ‘from now on deprived or freed of the ideal of some absolute meaning conceived on the model of God, it is man who must create the world and above all create its meaning. An immense, intoxicating task’ (Blanchot, 1993, p. 145).


Greek Tragedy Situationist International Contemporary Capitalism Extreme Valuation Subversive Potential 
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© Eugene Brennan and Russell Williams 2015

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  • Eugene Brennan
  • Russell Williams

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