‘They all know what I am. I’m a woman come in here to get drunk’: shame, femininity and the literature of intoxication

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This article addresses the intersection of femininity, shame, and alcoholism, considering the particular shame of the woman who drinks via a reading of Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight (1939) and Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering (2018). Suggesting that any study of women writers and their relationship to, and representation of, alcoholism raises questions about female embodiment, morality, visibility, sexuality, and the gendering of shame, the article identifies the stigmatisation of female alcoholism found in both popular and scientific discourse. It then offers an extended reading of Good Morning, Midnight, attending to the novel’s treatment of drunkenness as both pleasure and pain, both submission to and critique of a hostile world; as expression of, temporary antidote to, and ultimate compounding of a deep-seated female shame. The text’s formal disruptions and fragmentariness are also read, in relation to the disorientation of intoxication and the inexpressibility of shame. The closing analysis of The Recovering analyses Jamison’s more recent, more self-reflexive take on the myth of the heroic drunk male author, which considers the narrativisation of intoxication and recovery and the persistent shame of the woman who is ‘nothing but need’.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-262
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of English Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2019

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