This course investigates literary representations of addiction, from Thomas De Quincy's CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER (1821) to Ottessa Moshfegh's MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION (2018). We will study the development of familiar stages in narratives of substance abuse-i.e. experimentation, transcendence, downward spiral, "rock bottom," and recovery/sobriety-posing questions like: What symbolic and literal positions have people with addictions occupied in their societies? How has the modern pharmaceutical industry and the War on Drugs impacted perceptions of "typical" drug use? How do race, gender, age, class, and sexuality factor into the imagination and realities of chemical dependency? To what non-narcotic substances-e.g. media, gambling, sex, adrenaline-do we consider people addicted? We will read diverse selections of poetry, fiction, scholarship, and memoir from authors like Samuel Coleridge, William Burroughs, James Baldwin, Sherman Alexie, Denis Johnson, Irvine Welsh, Paul B. Preciado, Melissa Broder, Tao Lin, Michelle Alexander, Laurie Weeks, Mian Mian, Reginald Dwayne Betts, and Nico Walker. Through discussions and short writing assignments, we will explore various imaginations of people with addictions as tortured souls, creative geniuses, immature party-goers, and/or depraved monsters, seeking to better understand the way experiences of addiction shape perception, and in turn, how perceptions of addiction shape human experience.
Course Attributes: EN H; FYS; BU Hum; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM