The Saloon and the Mission
Addiction, Conversion, and the Politics of Redemption in American Culture
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes
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Table of Contents
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Preface and Acknowledgments
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This project had two origins, one professional and one personal. In the first, I was on the lookout for popular or vernacular counterparts to what Michael Szalay has termed New Deal Modernism in literature. I was interested in narrative, imagery, and social practices in the 1930s and 1940s that expressed neither radicalism nor reaction but that spoke, in one way ...
Introduction: Addiction Recovery and the World as it should be
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Neither George Bush nor Barack Obama claims to be an alcoholic or a drug addict. Nevertheless, in these turning points in their autobiographies, the forty-third and forty-fourth presidents invoke conventions of addiction recovery narrative to convey their passages from early-life drift to sober purpose. Bush’s late turnaround fits the template of the classic...
Part I: Redemption and Ideology
1. The Drunkard’s Conversion and the Salvation of the Social Order
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Jeremiah McAuley, by every nineteenth-century indicator, was doomed to a wicked life and an early death. Heredity, upbringing, environment, religion, habits—each was as bad as could be, and the sum predicted irreversible degeneracy. His father was a counterfeiter in Ireland who abandoned his family. He was raised by a foul-mouthed Papist grandmother,...
2. “What a Radical Found in Water Street”
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The conversion narratives told by drunkards in the rescue missions of Lower Manhattan were popular stories in the Protestant America of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to appealing to religious sentiments, they showed middle-class society how it could affirm its own righteousness by redeeming the outcast and even the...
3. The Varieties of Conversion Polemic
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The drunkards reformed at evangelical rescue missions in the late nineteenth century anchored their conversion stories to pragmatic needs and oriented them toward egalitarian ends, and in doing so created a flexible form for applying addiction-redemption language to all manner of social purposes. But this reformist structure notwithstanding, in both...
4. New Deal Individualism and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
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The birth of Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1930s was a turning point in the cultural history of alcoholism and addiction. A.A. grew rapidly, and by midcentury it had taken hold not only as a means of recovery, but also as a source of conventional wisdom about alcoholism, informing its depiction in film, fiction, and memoir. While the efficacy of A.A....
Part II: Literature and Recovery
5. Literary Realism and the Secularization of the Drunkard’s Conversion
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By the second half of the nineteenth century, the sensational conversion of very bad men was a well-established phenomenon in American religious revival, so much so that it was a subject of satirical humor. Despite also being the target of such mockery, though, the drunkard’s conversion remained popular in the literature of religious and moral uplift, accepted as ...
6. The Drinker’s Epiphany in Modernist Literature
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T. S. Eliot, in his 1937 introduction to Djuna Barnes’s novel Nightwood, urged its readers not to repeat the mistake of an unnamed reviewer, who recoiled from Barnes’s “horrid sideshow of freaks.” Instead, Eliot insisted, one must understand her queer, dissolute expatriates as exemplars of the human condition. To read them as mere deviants, the poet wrote, ...
7. The Iceman Cometh and the Drama of Disillusion
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Eugene O’Neill’s life and work seem to fit the pattern of the alcoholic modern writers. Born in 1888, he was a ferocious binge drinker in his early adulthood, accruing the kinds of legends that make a hard-drinking writer’s reputation. From 1907 to 1915, between trips at sea, he spent lengthy periods in some of Manhattan’s rougher saloons and boardinghouses.1 Biographers ...
8. Recovery Memoir and the Crack-Up of Liberalism
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In his 1956 memoir The Cup of Fury, Upton Sinclair traces the theme of alcoholism through his life and times, focusing on the dozens of writers, artists, politicians, and workers he knew who were its victims. Beginning with the dizzying instability of his childhood due to his own father’s periodical binges, he documents his booze-saturated early environs in both ...
Conclusion: Addiction in a New Era of Recovery
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New kinds of sobriety stories have always emerged during times of socioeconomic crisis. Because these crises have been those of urban industrial capitalism, poor city neighborhoods have been the settings for these stories since the temperance era. The slums and addiction are concrete manifestations of modern society’s sociopolitical failures: the first in ...
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About the Author, Back Cover
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Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 8 illus.
Publication Year: 2013