I am a PhD candidate at Kent University, within the Faculty of English Literature. My research is centred around the philosophy of language vis-à-vis altered states of consciousness, focusing on how literature and non-representational language can facilitate transformative experiences. I have a B.A in Mandarin Chinese and English Literature and an M.A in Contemporary Literature, both from Newcastle University.
“Aldous Huxley: Lore, Language and Reparative Narratives”
Aldous Huxley has shaped Western narratives around psychedelic experiences. His final published novel, Island, took six years to complete, and explores a ‘utopian’ society in which psychoactive toadstools are embraced and integrated. However, beyond ‘utopian fiction’, this work ought to be read as a psychedelic integration text. Further, the novel’s content is inseparable from its narrative techniques.
Huxley incorporates mythological tropes and novel semantic techniques in order to explore the ‘affective’ qualities of language. For all their limitations, words are powerful transformative tools; means through which we can alter our consciousness. Following a brief philosophical outline of language in mythology, I will present new research from the unpublished manuscripts of Island that I have been working with at the Huxley archives in California. I will map the development of his linguistic approach to psychedelics throughout the 1950s, until his death in 1963.
Our worlds are constructed and maintained by the language that we use. Linguistic shifts can dislodge our myopic cultural paradigms. Psychedelic integration, both on a personal and a cultural level, depends on the narratives with which we frame our experiences. Unfortunately, Huxley’s subtle and sophisticated work on this has been overshadowed by The Doors of Perception and its countercultural reception. This talk aims to revisit a neglected region of his legacy.