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Opioids: The Literary, Experiential Point of View

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Registration is NOT required
Free and open to the public

Opioids: The Literary, Experiential Point of View

Susan L. Mizruchi

Addiction is perhaps the most significant, prevalent, and intractable social problem of the decade, and it has hit especially hard in Massachusetts. While experts from many fields have approached the issue, we see a unique role for the humanities to play in addressing addictive behaviors. Historians have chronicled the wide-reaching histories of the U.S. opioid crisis. Philosophers have explored the ethical status of addictive states and the moral obligations of societies to addicts. Nevertheless, no field has been more directly engaged with the subject of addiction than literary studies—though this may be less than obvious to policy makers and medical practitioners. Some of the greatest Anglo-American literature, with authors ranging from Ernest Hemingway to David Foster Wallace, is fundamentally concerned with addiction and alcoholism. Humanities fields have great potential to provide major insights, both into the social stigma associated with addictive behaviors, and the subjective experience of addiction.

Susan L. Mizruchi is a professor of English literature at Boston University and Director of the Boston University Center for Humanities. She holds a B.A. in history and English from Washington University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Princeton University. Dr. Mizruchi is the recipient of many academic honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Huntington Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Fulbright Commission. She often writes at the intersection of social, religious, and literary studies, specializing in American literature and film, literary and social theory, and history of the social sciences. Her books include: Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work (Norton, 2014, 2015); Becoming Multicultural: Culture, Economy, and the Novel, 1860–1920 (Cambridge UP 2005); and The Power of Historical Knowledge: Narrating the Past in Hawthorne, James, & Dreiser (Princeton, 1988). She has directed thirty dissertations at BU and is the 2015 recipient of the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Education.

Check out Confessions of an English Opium Eater or Infinte Jest the next time you are at the Athenæum. Or explore the works of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, O’Neill, or Wordsworth.

This event is the final program in a three-part series investigating the culture of health and health care. Our programs will dive into contemporary and historic attitudes toward and responses to human health, illness, and health care in popular culture and in the medical community. Join us for the other events in the series:

ADHD’s Challenges and Controversies
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
6-7:30 pm
Panel discussion with specialists John Gabrieli, PhD; Leonard Rappaport, MD, MS; Kathleen Ries, PhD; and journalist Alan Schwarz

He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
12-1 pm
Book talk with author Mimi Baird, daughter of Dr. Perry Baird

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Most programs held in the Henry Bayard Long Room on the Athenaeum's first floor are amplified and assistive listening devices are available for patron use.

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To request ASL interpretation services for any of the Athenaeum's programs, please contact Hannah Weisman at 617-720-7617 or