Drunkard's Progress: Narratives of Addiction, Despair, and Recovery

Drunkard's Progress: Narratives of Addiction, Despair, and Recovery

Johns Hopkins Univ Pr

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"Twelve-step" recovery programs for a wide variety of addictive behaviors have become tremendously popular in the 1990s. According to John W. Crowley, the origin of these movements―including Alcoholics Anonymous―lies in the Washingtonian Temperance Society, founded in Baltimore in the 1840s. In lectures, pamphlets, and books (most notably John B. Gough's Autobiography, published in 1845), recovering "drunkards" described their enslavement to and liberation from alcohol. Though widely circulated in their time, these influential temperance narratives have been largely forgotten.

In Drunkard's Progress, Crowley presents a collection of revealing excerpts from these texts along with his own introductions. The tales, including "The Experience Meeting," from T. S. Arthur's Six Nights with the Washingtonians (1842), and the autobiographical Narrative of Charles T. Woodman, A Reformed Inebriate (1843), still speak with surprising force to the miseries of drunkenness and the joys of deliverance. Contemporary readers familiar with twelve-step programs, Crowley notes, will feel a shock of recognition as they relate to the experience, strength, and hope of these old-time―but nonetheless timely―narratives of addiction, despair, and recovery.


John W. Crowley is a professor of English and director of the Humanities Doctoral Program at Syracuse University, where he has taught since 1970. Best known as a scholar of William Dean Howells, he has written other works on alcohol-related topics, including the widely praised The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction.

Pub Date: 1999
Format: Paperback
Pages: 202 
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 inches

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