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Writing the SphinxLiterature, Culture and Egyptology$
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Eleanor Dobson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474476249

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474476249.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 07 July 2022

‘Drunk on the dead’: Intoxication, Perfume and Mummy Dust

‘Drunk on the dead’: Intoxication, Perfume and Mummy Dust

(p.147) Chapter 4 ‘Drunk on the dead’: Intoxication, Perfume and Mummy Dust
Writing the Sphinx

Eleanor Dobson

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter considers the ‘internal visions’ conjured up during reading in tandem with hallucinatory effects brought on by intoxication, particularly in the context of fin-de-siècle culture. Its sources range from the high art of the Aesthetes, Symbolists and the early work of the canonical modernist writers through to advertising and literary potboilers, and in the archives of the Egyptologist Amelia Edwards. These visualisations come about through the reading of stimulating passages, the smoking of opium-tainted cigarettes, and the inhalation of perfume or mummy dust; in each case such practices conjure up tantalising images of an exotic East. The longevity of these tantalising tropes – particularly of seductive dreams that verge between Orientalist fantasy and nightmare – are such that in the early twentieth century, when movie theatres were often constructed in an Egyptianized style in a bid to emphasise the dreamlike and otherworldly, the films projected between gilded lotus columns were retellings of tales penned by nineteenth-century novelists. Combining the visual with the textual through costumes, props and intertitles, Egyptian things and the texts that defined them were represented via the most modern artistic media of the age, rendered in light projected through translucent film, the technological counterpart to drug-induced hallucination.

Keywords:   Aesthetic movement, Modernism, Advertising, Amelia Edwards, Moving pictures, Cigarettes, Orientalism

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