Rediscovering addicts [Elektronische Ressource] : constructions of the drug addict in English and American narrative literature (1822 - 1999)  / von Christian Volker Kurt Weigelt
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Rediscovering addicts [Elektronische Ressource] : constructions of the drug addict in English and American narrative literature (1822 - 1999) / von Christian Volker Kurt Weigelt

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263 Pages


Rediscovering Addicts—Constructions of the Drug Addict in English and AmericanNarrative Literature(1822–1999)Vom Fachbereich für Geistes- und Erziehungswissenschaften derTechnischen Universität Carolo-Wilhelmina zu Braunschweigzur Erlangung des GradesDoktor der Philosophie(Dr. phil.)genehmigteDissertationvon Christian Volker Kurt W e i g e l taus Frankfurt am MainEingereicht am: 17. Dezember 2004Mündliche Prüfung am: 2. März 2005Referent: Prof. em. Dr. Hans-Joachim PossinKorreferent: Prof. Dr. Viktor LinkDruckjahr 2005Contents1 Introduction 32 Dissident Realities 162.1 Narcotics, Stimulants, Psychedelics -An Introduction to the Different Types of Drugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252.2 A short History of Opiate Use and Drug Laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 302.3 Outsiders – Drugs and Addicts as the Other . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 412.4 The Addict: Patient or Criminal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 512.5 Parallels between the Discourses on Addicts and Homosexuals . . . . . . 563 The Junky – Opiate Addicts from Confessions of an English Opium-Eater tohow to stop time - heroin from A to Z 613.1 “How unmeaning a sound was opium at that time!” — Thomas De Quincey:Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822/1856) . . . . . . . . . . . 613.2 Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (1868) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 883.3 Charles Dickens: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) . . . . . . . . . . 953.4 The early twentieth century .



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Rediscovering Addicts Constructions of the Drug Addict in English and American Narrative Literature (1822–1999)
Vom Fachbereich für Geistes- und Erziehungswissenschaften der Technischen Universität Carolo-Wilhelmina zu Braunschweig zur Erlangung des Grades Doktor der Philosophie (Dr. phil.) genehmigte
von Christian Volker Kurt W e i g e l t aus Frankfurt am Main
Eingereicht am: Mündliche Prüfung am: Referent: Korreferent:
Druckjahr 2005
17. Dezember 2004 2. März 2005 Prof. em. Dr. Hans-Joachim Possin Prof. Dr. Viktor Link
Dissident Realities 2.1 Narcotics, Stimulants, Psychedelics -An Introduction to the Different Types of Drugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2 A short History of Opiate Use and Drug Laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3 Outsiders – Drugs and Addicts as the Other . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4 The Addict: Patient or Criminal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.5 Parallels between the Discourses on Addicts and Homosexuals . . . . . .
25 30 41 51 56
The Junky – Opiate Addicts fromConfessions of an English Opium-Eaterto how to stop time - heroin from A to Z61 3.1 “How unmeaning a sound was opium at that time!” — Thomas De Quincey: Confessions of an English Opium-Eater(1822/1856) . . . . . . . . . . . 61 3.2 Wilkie Collins:The Moonstone(1868) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 3.3 Charles Dickens:The Mystery of Edwin Drood95. . . . . . . . . (1870) . 3.4 The early twentieth century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 3.4.1 Aleister Crowley:Diary of a Drug Fiend(1922) . . . . . . . . . 100 3.4.2 James S. Lee:Underworld of the East(1935) . . . . . . . . . . . 109 3.5 Junkies in America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 3.5.1 Nelson Algren:The Man with the Golden Arm. . . . . 119(1949) . 3.5.2 William S. Burroughs:Junky(1953) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124 3.5.3 Alexander Trocchi:Cain's Book(1963) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 3.6 Changing Paradigms? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 3.6.1 Irvine Welsh:Trainspotting(1993) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 3.6.2 Ann Marlowe:How to stop time – heroin from A to Z(1999) . . . 153 3.7 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168
Counterculture: Beats and Drugs 175 4.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 4.2 “. . . some of the feel of what he was on most as he wrote it.” - Jack Kerouac's Writing on Drugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181 4.3 The Junky Beat - William S. Burroughs and Drugs . . . . . . . . . . . . 211 4.4 John Clellon Holmes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225 4.5 A Marginal Character . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232 4.6 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 240
Bibliography 252 A.1 Primary sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252 A.2 Secondary sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254
Zusammenfassung in deutscher Sprache
Chapter 1
`But how do they do it?' Chamcha wanted to know. `They describe us,' the other whispered solemnly. `That's all. They have the power of description, and we succumb to the pictures they construct.'
1 Salman Rushdie,The Satanic Verses
The transformation that is explained in the above quotation is one that has taken place in the realm of magic realism in Salman Rushdie's best known no vel. After falling from an exploding plane and miraculously surviving, Saladin Chamcha, an Indian who had formerly lived a well adapted life in England, has been transformed into a demon-like creature resembling the Greek god Pan. In the novel, this metamorphosis symbolises the Otherness projected onto foreigners, and the form Rushdie has given his character is one that represents the capacity of the Other to inspire fear. This thesis examines a different kind of Otherness. It is the Otherness attributed to some users of certain substances and the substances themselves. The substances are those that are subsumed under the name `drugs', and certain indivi duals who take them are labelled `addicts'. The `addict' is a frequently despised a nd sometimes feared identity, one that is shaped to a large extent by stereotypes that are a historical product of the discourses on drugs. A common perception of the situation of the addict is succinctly described by John Booth Davies, who questions the validity of this perception inThe Myth of Addiction:
At the present moment, the standard line taken by a majority of people in the media, in treatment agencies, in government and elsewhere, hinges around notions of the helpless addict who has no power over his/her behaviour; and
1 Salman Rushdie,The Satanic Verses, (Harmondsworth: Viking Penguin, 1988), p. 168.
the evil pusher lurking on street corners, trying to ensnare the nation's youth. They are joined together in a deadly game by a variety of pharmacologically active substances whose addictive powers are so great that to try them is to become addicted almost at once. Thereafter, life becomes a nightmare of withdrawal symptoms, involuntary theft, and a compulsive need for drugs which cannot be controlled. In fact, not one of these things is, or rather needs 2 to be, true.
The transformation that produces the addict from an individual who frequently was `nor-mal' and well adapted, is sometimes likened to a `fall', one th at is believed to be produced by a substance. This view invests drugs with an immense power over the person who takes them. As I will show, this view is untenable. This thesis maps the constructions of the addict and other drug-using identities in narrative literature and examines both the representations in literature of the discourses 3 on drugs that shape the `social world' , and the possible effects that literature has on these discourses. In particular, I am interested in rediscovering the addict as an individual whose behaviour, contrary to the common stereotypes, is volitional and influenced by a self-identification, i.e. addicts are individuals who “succumb to the pictures” constructed by the discourses on drugs.
The use of drugs is frequently considered to be a deviant behaviour and, since the early 4 twentieth century, is also a punishable action in many countries . Yet the use of illegal drugs is a part of our culture. Despite all attempts to eradicate it, the use of illegal drugs is prevalent among all age groups, social strata, and ethnicities. Data from the 2002/2003 British Crime Survey has led researchers to estimate that 12% of the 16- to 59-year-old population in Britain had used one or more illegal drugs in the previous year, and 36% in 5 the same age group have used at least one illegal drug in their lifetime . It is obvious from these numbers that it is not the use of an illegal drug alone that currently is a sufficient criterion to justify the labelling of a person as an addict. Many of the psychoactive substances that are labelled `drugs' have been with us for millenia, used for numerous purposes: as medicine, healing and relieving pain; in re-ligious and divinatory ceremonies, strengthening communal ties and contributing to the formation of cultural identities; as instruments of control, both over dominated peoples 6 and ethnic groups , and over individuals; as weapons, like the amphetamines given to
2 John Booth Davies,The Myth of AddictionHarwood Academic Publishers,, 2nd ed., (Amsterdam: 1997), p. x. 3 I.e. the possible ways in which we can `make sense' of drugs and a ddiction and their effects. 4 If the use itself is not criminalised, then steps that are a prerequisite for use, e.g. possession of a drug or obtaining it, are. 5 Condon, J., and Smith, N.,Prevalence of drug use: key findings from the 2002/2003 British Crime Survey. Home Office Research Findings No. 229, (London: Home Office, 2003). 6 E. g. alcohol and the American Indian peoples, or crack and the African Americans
7 fighter pilots in the Second World War , or the LSD investigated by some armies as a 8 potential component of psychological warfare ; as a substitute currency in inofficial (il-legal) trade; as a means of recreation and a supposed source of pleasure. It is mainly as the latter that psychoactive substances have come to be regarded as dangerous and scourge'ofhumanity,leadingtothedemanàdforstrictcontroloversubstancesandtheir users. It is, however, by no means all drugs that are the target of restrictive legislation: medicinal drugs are exempt from persecution (at least until their `abuse' for pleasure leads to calls for certain techniques of prohibition: the reclassification from `over-the-counter drug' to `prescription drug' to `illegal drug'), as are the ` traditional' and widely accepted psychoactive substances of the Western societies, namely caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. All drugs—including medicinal drugs—canhave negative effects. While the nature of the possible negative physical and psychological effects is mainly determined by the drug used, their occurrence and severity depend less on the substance itself, than on the way in which it is used (e.g. the amount taken and the frequency of use) and on factors related to the user him- or herself (e.g. physical and psychological constitution, the age and mental development of the user, reasons for the use). A teenager who regularly uses large amounts of cannabis can experience more negative consequences of his use than an adult who occasionally uses heroin does. The physical and psychological effects of drugs (which can be called the primary effects), are not the only ones that affect the user. For a large number of users, grave effects stem from the legal sanctions and social stigmatisations that the discourses on drugs have produced. These secondary effects often influence the behaviour of addicts to a greater degree than the primary effects.
The nature and consequences of drug use cannot be divorced from the con-texts within which it takes place; the experience and social consequences of drug use are not fixed entities, but vary according to the social, legal and other sanctions that surround the activity. Consequently, the reports of drug users about their experiences and behaviour are primarily revealing about the circumstances and conditions under which drug use takes place, rather than revealing immutable and certain facts about the inevitable nature of drug use itself. In circumstances where drug users regularly behave like stereotypical junkies, and report that their drug use is beyond their capacity to control, we must therefore turn our attention outwards and try to identify those aspects of the social world that make such types of behaviour necessary, and that pro-vide the functional basis for the accompanying reports of helplessness and 9 addiction. 7 Cf. Richard Davenport-Hines,The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Social History of Drugs, (London: Phoenix Press, 2002), p. 243. 8 Cf. Stuart Walton,Out of it — A cultural history of intoxication, (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2001), p. 122. 9 Davies,The Myth of Addiction, p. 160.
A failure to distinguish between the two types of effect and a propensity to simplify com-plex relationships have produced many myths and attributions that are prominent in the discourses on drugs. As a result, many of the public debates about drug use and addiction have been characterised by the participants talking at cross-purposes. The participants of such debates are often divided into an `anti-drug' faction, that wants to eradicate all non-medical use of drugs and frequently sees the `war on drugs' as the most viable means of achieving this aim, and a `pro-drug' faction, that wants drug use to be decriminalised or even legalised. It seems to be a perfect example of atertium non daturthe `anti-drugsides have many good arguments in favour of their goal: . Both warriors' often rely on what they believe to be the negative co nsequences of drug use that can be observed in nearly all larger cities—the squalor of many neighbourhoods where an above average number of `junkies' can be observed, the risin g crime rates, prostitution, the health problems that many users are subject to—as a major proof that drug use is `bad' for both society and individuals, while the `pro-drug activists' frequently see the liberal ethical goal of `freedom of choice' on their side and point ou t that many of the negative consequences arise from the illegality of drugs and not from their use alone. The figure at the centre of this controversy, however, hardly ever gets a say in these debates. It is the addict about whom both sides give the impression of being concerned. 10 He can be perceived as the sick man, whose illness must be cured, the criminal, whose misbehaviour must be punished, the deviant from society's n orms, the victim of police harassment, of adulterated substances, of social stigmatisation. In the discourses on drugs he usually is present not as a voice that speaks out, but as the object about which others pass judgement or proclaim a diagnosis. Among the very few discursive fields where he is permitted a say, literature stands out as being both a mirror of the discourses on and societal perception of the addict, and an influence that can shape the perception. Literature can reach a by far wider audience than the reports and books by `specialists' on the subject, and can influence the specialist and cultural discourses on drugs. This thesis tries to determine under which circumstances literature had this influence and the role that literature had in shaping the construct of the addict. Because of the growing importance of the media discourse (i.e. newspapers, magazines, radio and television) in the twentieth century, I expect to find that the influence of the literary discourse on drugs decreased in the second half of the twentieth century. Why do I consider the addict to be a construct? One answer lies in the images evoked by the word. If I were to say in a conversation “Mr. Smith is an addict” this would not be
10 For simplicity's sake, and because a great majority of the ad dict characters represented in the works I discuss are men, I use the male pronoun when referring to the addict. However, with the possible exception of some aspects of the feminisation of the addict (discussed in 2.3) my findings are valid for both male and female addicts.
taken to mean that he is addicted in the general sense of the word, i.e. that this Mr. Smith 11 does or usessomethingas a habit or compulsively , but that he is addicted to drugs. And neither would this be taken to mean that he regularly takes tea for his breakfast or that he is a smoker (although both tea and tobacco can be labelled as drugs), but that he is a user ofillegaldrugs. Contrary to the definition of the addict as an individual who exhibits a certain behaviour, we tend to think of the addict as an identity that is the result of a transformation produced by a drug.
Instead of a view of addiction problems deriving from the interaction of a substance, a setting, and the aims and goals of those who use the substance (i.e. a view that sees addiction as something that peopledo), the prevailing notions tend to see addiction as something thathappens to people; that is, as something imposed from outside by the inescapable pharmacological proper-ties of an alien substance, rather than as a state negotiated through the more 12 understandable channels of human desire and intention.
A result of this view, i.e. the belief that a drug produces a change in behaviour that is uncontrollable by the individual, is that the addict is perceived as the object of this trans-formation, an individual whose identity is changed by the drug. This view is, as I will show in this thesis, untenable. The addict identity has to be seen as a (self-)identification used to explain behaviours. Yet while sociology and psychology have long discarded the 13 concept of a static identity and replaced it with a concept of identity as hybrid and dy-namic, identity is still frequently seen by lay-persons as static. The discourses on drugs have, in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century, created a number of identities for users of psychoactive substances. Yet some of these identities are rarely featured in the media discourse. There we can find a propensity to reduce the identities to a stereotype that serves to make a very complex phenomenon—the effects on an individual of using a drug—appear simple. Despite the attempts in the mid-twentieth century to postulate the addict as a uniform user's identity, regardless of the (ille gal) drug used, there are in fact many different identities: casual users, users who create an identity in opposition to th addict',thosewhoembraceaddictstereotypèes,andmanyothers. The archetypal addict is the `junkie', the user of heroin who i njects himself. He symbolises the images conjured up by the word `addict'—dete riorating health, crime, a chaotic lifestyle, and the inability to resist a compulsion to use a drug day after day. This stereotype, which is frequently evoked by representations of addicts in the media, 11 Cf. Lesley Brown, ed.,The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, (Oxford: OUP, 1993), p. 24. Henceforth abbreviated asNSOED. 12 Davies,The Myth of Addiction, p. vii. Unless indicated otherwise, the italics in quotations are those of the respective authors and reproduced here as they appear in the sources. 13 Which can nonetheless be found in definitions for the word `identity': “The condition or fact of a person or thing being that specified unique person or thing, esp. as a continuous unchanging property throughout existence”.NSOED, p. 1304.
can be used in the creation and self-construction of addict identity. Yet, as my study of narrative literature featuring drug-using and addicted characters will show, there are many other identities that a user of opiates can construct for him- or herself, identities which can prevent addicts from giving up on themselves and succumbing to the stereotypical addict identities. Literature also reveals many aspects of use and addiction that are diametrically opposed to some common stereotypes: the use of opiates can have an ordering effect on the life of the user, the user can limit and sometimes even avoid many negative effects of opiate use, and the continued use of opiates is sometimes represented as a choice and not as based on a compulsion or an uncontrollable need for opiates. Some scholars have analysed the construction of the addict as a purposive process intended to create fear that can be instrumentalised for the stigmatisation of minority groups and the creation of social control.
In the case of addiction mongering, three intertwining mechanisms for creating and discovering “addiction-prone” persons may be distinguished. The first is the classification, as “dangerous narcotics,” of certain substances which are neither dangerous nor narcotic, but which are particularly popular with groups whose members readily lend themselves to social and psychiatric stigmatization (such substances being marijuana and amphetamines, and such groups being the metropolitan blacks and Puerto Ricans, and the young). The second is the prohibition of these substances and the persecution–through corrupt and capricious law enforcement–of those associated with their use, as bad criminals (“pushers”) and as mad patients (“addicts” and “dope fiends”). The third mechanism is the persistent claim that the use of “dangerous nar-cotics” is increasing at an alarming rate, thus waging, in effect, a gigantic advertising campaign for the use of drugs that, although illegal, are readily available through illicit channels and are supposedly the source of immense “pleasures.” These processes insure a limitless source of “raw materials” out of which officially accredited and labelled addicts may be manufactured as 14 needed.
While all of these “mechanisms” can be identified in the history of the discourses on drugs, they occurred at various points of time, both individually and in combinations. They are by no means the only processes that have contributed to the constructions of addicts and addict identities. The representation of a construction of the addict as a pur-posive process completely neglects the role that the drug users themselves play in this construction. Through behaving in certain ways and choosing particular explanations for behaviours, drug users—and their literary representations—shape the perception of the addict. My aim in this thesis is not to prove that the addict is a cultural construct—that this is the case should be obvious to anyone reading the cultural histories of drugs. Nor am I pri-
14 Thomas Szasz,Ceremonial Chemistry, (Holmes Beach, FL: Learning Publications, 1985), p. xiii-xiv.
marily interested in finding causes why the addict is perceived as a deviant. Rather, I am interested in how the addict has been turned into a deviant identity. This transformation was not simply the result of prohibitions or of the creation of labels that were attached to certain drug using individuals. I will examine the discursive strategies that were employed in this process and their representations—as well as those of counter-discourses—in lit-erature. In addition, I want to uncover possible reasons for the self-identification of drug users as addicts, i.e. find out under which circumstances characters who are regular drug users are represented as assuming a stereotypical addict identity. In the course of this thesis, I want to test the following hypotheses: (1) The addict identity, as represented in the analysed works of narrative literature, can be an identity that is chosen by a drug using individual in order to have an explanation for the drug using behaviour that lessens the attribution of blame to the drug user. (2) Many of the concepts in the discourses on drugs that are frequently believed to have a paradigmatic validity (e.g. that addiction is due to a `need' for a drug) have to be cal led into question, and the study of narrative literature can serve as a starting point to reevaluate these concepts.
Since the mid-1980s there has been an increased interest in the study of drug use as a cultural phenomenon. This is the latest development in a long history of written dis-course that examines and represents drugs and their uses. InOn Drugs, David Lenson 15 distinguishes between seven genres of “drug writing” .
Taken in no special order, they are, first, the universe of clinical studies con-ducted by physicians, biologists, and psychologists who investigate the bio-chemical and behavioral effects of psychoactive substances on living organ-isms; second, pharmacology, a specialized wing of biochemistry that records the physical composition of drugs and their impact on human and animal brains; third, work by historians, social scientists, and legal scholars on the relationships of drugs to the body politic and the body of law, including histo-ries of the use and prohibition of particular substances and studies of users as deviant subgroups; fourth, literary and popular memoirs or confessional nar-ratives by users, ex-users, and narcotics agents; fifth, works of drama, fiction, and poetry that depict drug use of various kinds; sixth, the so-called litera-ture of recovery (practical and inspirational texts designed to aid the reader in giving up a drug or drugs); and seventh, writing located at the crossroads of anthropology, psychology, and mysticism, and containing metaphysical and 16 religious speculations prompted by the effects of psychedelic drugs.
While Lenson's classification of writings on psychoactive su bstances is not complete, it reveals many important components of the discourses on drugs. The first three of these genres belong to the scholarly discourses on drugs, the others to the literary discourses.
15 David Lenson,On Drugs, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), p. x. 16 Lenson,On Drugs, p. x-xi.