High Anxieties: Cultural Studies in Addiction

High Anxieties: Cultural Studies in Addiction

High Anxieties: Cultural Studies in Addiction

High Anxieties: Cultural Studies in Addiction

Synopsis

"High Anxieties "explores the history and ideological ramifications of the modern concept of addiction. Little more than a century old, the notions of "addict" as an identity and "addiction" as a disease of the will form part of the story of modernity. What is addiction? This collection of essays illuminates and refashions the term, delivering a complex and mature understanding of addiction.

Brodie and Redfield's introduction provides a roadmap for readers and situates the fascinating essays within a larger, interdisciplinary framework. Stacey Margolis and Timothy Melley's pieces grapple with the psychology of addiction. Cannon Schmitt and Marty Roth delve into the relationship between opium and the British Empire's campaign to control and stigmatize China. Robyn R. Warhol and Nicholas O. Warner examine accounts of alcohol abuse in texts as disparate as Victorian novels, Alcoholics Anonymous literature, and James Fenimore Cooper's fiction. Helen Keane scrutinizes smoking, and Maurizio Viano turns to the silver screen to trace how the representation of drugs in films has changed over time. Ann Weinstone and Marguerite Waller's essays on addiction and cyberspace cap this impressive anthology.

Excerpt

The goal of this chapter is to explore the intersections among narration, subjectivity, identity, and addiction to alcohol in canonical mid-Victorian fiction and in the discourse of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). I'm interested in continuities and discontinuities between nineteenth- and twentiethcentury constructions of alcoholism in and through narrative, and in the imbrication of rhetoric and recovery in British and American culture. Given the interdisciplinary nature of this volume, I want to emphasize that I will not be making a traditionally “historical” argument here, in the sense that I will not argue for a cause-and-effect relationship between the models of addiction and recovery to be found in Victorian novels and in aa literature. I am interested instead in identifying the structures of the stories of alcoholism these texts present to the twenty-first-century reader. Furthermore, as a literary critic who focuses on narrative structure, I do not approach the stories of alcoholics in novels or in AA's books as if they were the biographies of “real people”: I try to remain actively aware that the “alcoholics” I am writing about are figures created in and by texts. I focus particularly on canonical Victorian novels because the stories they tell have been so widely circulated for the past century and a half, playing a part in shaping cultural attitudes toward addiction. My argument proceeds from the belief that the narrative forms framing alcoholism and recovery in these texts influence contemporary ideas of what addiction is and how it operates. It is no coincidence that my chapter's title echoes Wayne Booth's classic analysis of narrative perspective, The Rhetoric of Fiction, because like that venerable literary formalist, I will end up arguing that just about everything—specifically beliefs and values, including and especially our understanding of identity and recovery—depends on (narrative) point of view.

As Helena Michie and I have argued in a recent essay called “Twelve-Step . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.