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Inventing the Addict

Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in NineteenthCentury British and American Literature

Susan Zieger
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Inventing the Addict
    Book Description:

    The notion of addiction has always conjured firstperson stories, often beginning with an insidious seduction, followed by compulsion and despair, culminating in recovery and tentative hope for the future. We are all familiar with this form of individual life arrative, Susan Zieger observes, but we know far less about its history. “Addict” was not an available identity until the end of the nineteenth century, when a modernizing medical establishment and burgeoning culture of consumption updated the figure of the sinful drunkard popularized by the temperance movement. In Inventing the Addict, Zieger tells the story of how the addict, a person uniquely torn between disease and desire, emerged from a variety of earlier figures such as drunkards, opiumeating scholars, vicious slave masters, dissipated New Women, and queer doctors. Drawing on a broad range of literary and cultural material, including canonical novels such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, she traces the evolution of the concept of addiction through a series of recurrent metaphors: exile, selfenslavement, disease, and vampirism. She shows how addiction took on multiple meanings beyond its common association with intoxication or specific habitforming substances—it was an abiding desire akin to both sexual attraction and commodity fetishism, a disease that strangely failed to meet the requirements of pathology, and the citizen’s ironic refusal to fulfill the promise of freedom. Nor was addiction an ideologically neutral idea. As Zieger demonstrates, it took form over time through specific, shifting intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality, reflecting the role of social power in the construction of meaning.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-180-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Addiction and History
    (pp. 1-30)

    Two curiously related stories tell of the power and the weakness of the will in modern Anglo-American culture. The first comes from the biography of George Harley (1829–1896), a Scottish researcher in physiology who orbited such luminaries in the development of modern medical science as François Magendie, Claude Bernard, Rudolf Virchow, and Justus von Liebig. During his illustrious career, Harley discovers several functions and diseases of the liver, finds an antidote for strychnine, and builds a better microscope. One day, overworked, sleepless, and suffering from agonizing eyestrain induced by his relentless research, Harley begins taking morphia. Two months pass,...


    • 1 PIONEERS OF INNER SPACE: Drug Autobiography and Manifest Destiny
      (pp. 33-60)

      For the intellectual teenager, Poughkeepsie in the 1840s held few diversions. How else to explain an adolescent Fitz Hugh Ludlow haunting his friend Anderson the apothecary’s shop, where rows of bottles offered “an aromatic invitation to scientific musing”—and also to personal experimentation?¹ Yet having sampled chloroform, ether, opium, and the handful of other largely unregulated exhilarants then available to medical professionals by the tender age of 17, Ludlow comically describes his plunder of the supplies with a telling imperial allusion: “I ceased experimenting, and sat down like a pharmaceutical Alexander, with no more drugworlds to conquer” (HE17). Just...

    • 2 ʺMANKIND HAS BEEN DRUNKʺ: Race and Addiction in Uncle Tom’s Cabin
      (pp. 61-97)

      Within the context of the cultural history of addiction, “slavery” furnished a powerful metaphor expressing the body’s compulsive, habitual consumption of illicit substances. Nineteenth-century writers routinely invoked the “slavery of drink” and “slaves to the bottle,” casting drunkards as the abject devotees of alcohol, here represented as master. The metaphor expressed the irony whereby the article that had once served the intentions and desires of its user became allpowerful, compelling that user, now its servant.¹ In so doing, the metaphor also distinguished a nascent form of addiction—known variously as intemperance, vice, and habit—from unrelated instances of intoxication. The...

    • 3 IMPOSTORS OF FREEDOM: Hypodermic Morphine and the Labors of Passing in E. P. Roe’s Without a Home
      (pp. 98-124)

      The “slavery of drink” metaphor long outlived its vehicle, chattel slavery. Once slavery had been outlawed in the U.S., its metaphorical uses became less urgently politicized and found a wider usage than abolitionist-temperance activism. Henry G. Cole, author ofConfessions of an American Opium Eater: From Bondage to Freedom(1895), compared his liberation from hypodermic morphine to “the first few months of liberation from a life of slavery’s curse after the Emancipation Proclamation.”¹ Cole’s subtitle, like that of Leslie E. Keeley’sThe Morphine Eater; or, From Bondage to Freedom(1881), mimicked the title of Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography,My Bondage...


    • 4 NEEDLING DESIRES: Women, Morphinomania, and Self-Representation in Fin-de-Siècle Britain
      (pp. 127-154)

      When the governess Isabel Gordon recounts her introduction to the hypodermic injection of morphine in Richard Pryce’s novelAn Evil Spirit, she poses a challenge to the readers of her fictional diary. By requesting them to assign her responsibility for her morphine habituation to a precise moment in her narrative, the text defies them to assign responsibility to her at all. Whereas temperance fiction had conjured the drunkard’s responsibility for his own degradation, Pryce’s novel signaled a turn away from such moralistic conceptualizations of intemperance. As we have seen in chapter 3, inWithout a Home(1881) the U.S. novelist...

    • 5 ʺAFFLICTIONS À LA OSCAR WILDEʺ: The Strange Case of Addiction and Sexuality in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
      (pp. 155-195)

      John Hughes’s complaint that addiction is not sufficiently distinguished from foreign customs or homosexual practices implicitly attempts to construe it as a preserve of whiteness and heteronormativity—in other words,notthe grounds of deviance, but also, interestingly, not the scene of pleasure, either. In the last chapter, I showed how medicalizing discourses implicated women’s capacity for self- and mutual pleasure via the hypodermic needle as part of the disease of addiction. In this chapter, I analyze the curious conflation of, and often stranger attempts to differentiate, addiction and homosexuality. Hughes’s reference to Wilde as well as his trailing, vague...

    • 6 UN-DEATH AND BARE LIFE: Addiction and Eugenics in Dracula and The Blood of the Vampire
      (pp. 196-232)

      Dracula does not smoke. He doesn’t eat. Nor is he seen drinking—alcohol, at least. These minor observations of Jonathan Harker indicate the intuitive resemblance of vampirism to a singular addiction that obliterates all other desires, needs, compulsions, habits, and affections. Bloodsucking has had long associations with the metaphor of intemperance as a supernatural parasitism.¹ Christopher Craft, whose influential reading inaugurated almost a quarter century of critical enthusiasm for Stoker’s novel, elaborated this insight: “Dracula has a spirit’s freedom and mobility, but that mobility is chained to the most mechanical of appetites: he and his children rise and fall for...

  7. AFTERWORD: The Biopolitics of Drug Control
    (pp. 233-242)

    Beginning around the time ofDraculaand continuing into the twentieth century, addicts increasingly inhabit urban underworld zones of “bare life,” into which their seemingly predatory motives suck unsuspecting citizens. This anxiety structures the most common narrative context of addiction in the years 1900–1920, the seduction or rape of vulnerable white women by men of color and their consequent contamination by foreign deathliness.¹ For example, in London in 1918 and 1922, the fatal overdoses of actress Billie Carleton and dancer Freda Kempton spawned media sensations and made death seem to lurk in every prick of the syringe or sniff...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 243-294)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 295-304)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-306)