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PhD dissertation by Allan G. Borst, Department of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009.  The author's abstract follows.
"This project examines literary and cultural narratives of addiction in order to show how addict-subjects have been defined according to American beliefs about willpower, productivity, morality, racial and economic disparity, and social health.  In the contemporary world of American consumerism and late capitalist expenditure, addiction signifies everyday life and normative American identity as much as it names the criminality, self-destruction, or disease associated with drug addicts and alcoholics.  Historically speaking, literary and cultural representations of alcoholics and drug users from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries produce distinct photonegatives of normative American values.  The addict-subject thereby demonstrates the limits of permissible behavior to the rest of society.  This study covers a broad range of literature, including Temperance-era speeches and sermons, Harlem Renaissance novels depicting underground jazz and nightclub culture, memoirs and autobiographical fiction that promise an insider’s view of addiction and its impact on everyday life, and novels of the 1980s that illumine potent connections between contemporary drug use and capitalist consumerism.  The American addict-subject has been a romanticist, a naturalist, a modernist, and a postmodernist, and thus offers invaluable ways of approaching the problems of representation and traditional narrative forms like the bildungsroman, the fallen woman narrative, and the first-person confessional.  Ultimately, addiction has left as many indelible marks on American literary history as it has on American culture and American identity."

Borst is holding release of this dissertation while in the process of turning it into a book manuscript. However, he has two articles derived from the project that are or will soon be in print. "Signifyin(g) Afro-Orientalism: The Jazz-Addict Subculture in Home to Harlem and Nigger Heaven" is in the November 2009 16.4 issue of Modernism / Modernity (Johns Hopkins U Press). Also, "Managing the Crisis: James Frey's A Million Little Pieces  and the Addict-Subject Confession" will appear in issue 75 of Cultural Critique (Spring 2010).

Posted by Dave Trippel on March 4, 2010 at 07:18 AM in Addiction, Literature, United States | Permalink