Habitual Drunkards and Metaphysics : Four Case Studies from the Victorian Period

EARNSHAW, Steven (2016). Habitual Drunkards and Metaphysics : Four Case Studies from the Victorian Period. The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, 28 (2), 143-160.

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Abstract

The article considers four examples from the nineteenth century when the stereotype of the habitual drunkard appears to give way to a figure that bears closer resemblance to the twentieth century’s “Existential drinker.” These case studies offer different illustrations of a newly emerging metaphysical landscape around heavy drinking. First, in the 1872 Select Committee on Habitual Drunkards, the panel cannot understand why a repeat offender would choose to drink rather than be cared for. Second, the heroine of George Eliot’s tale “Janet’s Repentance” encounters a spiritual “despair” through her drinking habit. Third, a group of pictures by the artist Honoré Daumier features two drinkers in what are here interpreted as Existential tableaux. Fourth, Émile Zola’s novel L’Assommoir is read as one of the first sustained accounts of excessive drinking that is both a visceral response to conditions under industrial capitalism, while also latching onto a type of metaphysical unsettling prompted by such drinking.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Humanities Research Centre
Depositing User: Steve Earnshaw
Date Deposited: 09 May 2016 11:26
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2017 19:35
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/12176

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