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Heroin(e) Habits: Potential and Possibility in Female Drug Literature

Nycole Prowse



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15 Oct 2018

ISBN 9781780240732 (Paperback)
208 pp., Free UK Shipping


This book traces addiction as a persistent and governing socio-literary trope, with the troping of narcotics in particular representing a problematic relation to Law. The book’s central tenet is that a gen¬dered reading of the individual’s relation to Law can be acutely ob¬served in women’s drug writing. Far from writing into, or even against, a narco-literary tradition, women drug writers as examined here are like guerrilla-raid¬ers on its vulnerable fringes – where questions of ‘Being-on-drugs’ are always in doubt. It argues for the trope of addiction as an apparently extreme but ordinary expression of selfhood, which women drug writers consistently raid and challenge.

The book analyses a selection of female drug writing over the past two centuries including that of English authors Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Anna Kavan, American authors Emily Hahn and JT Leroy, and Australian author Helen Garner. To elucidate its argument on gender and addiction, the book includes a chapter on the female drug writers’ male contemporaries, Thomas de Quincey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William S. Burroughs and Luke Davis. It draws on theorists as diverse as Grosz, Shildrick, Price, Butler, Derrida, Foucault, Bakhtin, Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva, Deleuze, Guattari, Cavarero, Haraway and Ahmed. The book contributes to the fields of Literature, Sociology, Human Geography and History.


This is a welcome, long over-due addition to the critical study of drug literature, and feminism, arguing for a distinctive female writing of the narcotic experience. The book is theoretically astute in its anatomy of the existential crises articulated in the dominant masculine ‘canon’ of drug literature, but refuses the idea that women drug writers are governed by the same preoccupations. Prowse’s particular prowess is to map the ways in which female drug texts are not so much in dialogue with ‘the canon’ as they are intellectually aware of it but independent from it. Carefully selecting women drug writers, from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, through Emily Hahn, Anna Kavan and Helen Garner to Laura Albert, Prowse demonstrates how their individual works are underscored by shared thematics. The cultural imaginary of drugged women as ‘abject’ is re-written and re-read as a discourse of self-affirmation and agency. --Brian Musgrove



Drugs – Writing – Gender

1. Theorizing the ‘Drugged’ Feminine

2. Extremes and Crisis: Specifying Difference

3. Rewriting Drug Lives: Emily Hahn

4. Poppies and Possibilities, Visions and Dreams: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

5. Junky Apocalypse and Utopian Impulses: Anna Kavan

6. Into the Urban Labyrinth: Helen Garner

7. Monstrously Mother-Loaded: The Strange Case of JT LeRoy and Laura Albert

Conclusion: When Madame Joy Calls

Works Cited


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