Spirits of America




Spirits of America: Intoxication in Ninetenth-Century American Literature, was named as an “Outstanding Academic Book of the Year” by Choice in 1999. The first book-length study of intoxication in  American literature of the 1800s, Spirits of America focuses mainly on the period prior to the Civil War, as it analyzes the importance of drinking and temperance-related issues in the work of Emerson, Dickinson, Poe, Melville, Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Louisa May Alcott, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  The book shows how alcoholism, drunkenness, “normal” drinking, temperance,  and intoxicant choice tie in with larger questions in American culture, such as personal and political freedom, gender roles, individualism vs. conformity, and the American Dream. In demonstrating both the literal and symbolic significance of intoxication in antebellum literature, the author reveals the surprising extent to which intoxication became associated with literature itself and with supposedly literary values, in contrast to those of the emerging industrial-capitalist nation.

Spirits of America sets a new standard for sophistication, depth, and complexity in the young and still developing field of literature and intoxication studies.  It will be indispensable for many years to come and should be of interest not only to students of literature but to anyone who seeks to understand the bewildering and sometimes contradictory array of attitudes toward drinking in American history and culture.”
   --Thomas B. Gilmore,
    author of Equivocal Spirits: Alcoholism and Drinking in Twentieth-Century Literature

Spirits of America” is an important book not only in its treatment of its subject matter but also in showing a way forward to others.  Focusing on American literature written during the early, optimistic decades of the temperance movement, it sheds new light on major canonical works and blazes a new path for literary studies of alcohol and drugs.”
   --Robin Room,
   Vice-President for Research, Addiction Research   Foundation, Toronto, Canada

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