Addiction and Metaphor in Nineteenth-Century British and American Fiction


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project tells the story of how the concept of addiction emerged from literary, medical, legal, and social reform discourses of slavery, habit, alcoholism, inebriety, and morphinomania. It traces the concept’s transformations through the metaphors of self-enslavement, disease, demonic possession, hunger, and compulsory travel. These metaphors engaged an epistemic and representational paradox: addicts were thought to be liars, and yet only they could attest to the subjective horrors of their dependencies. Nineteenth-century British and American novelists interested in this paradox developed new narrative forms to address it.