1st Edition

Addiction and British Visual Culture, 1751-1919
Wasted Looks

ISBN 9781138271562
Published November 29, 2016 by Routledge
200 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

Highly innovative and long overdue, this study analyzes the visual culture of addiction produced in Britain during the long nineteenth century. The book examines well-known images such as William Hogarth's Gin Lane (1751), as well as lesser-known artworks including Alfred Priest's painting Cocaine (1919), in order to demonstrate how visual culture was both informed by, and contributed to, discourses of addiction in the period between 1751 and 1919. Through her analysis of more than 30 images, Julia Skelly deconstructs beliefs and stereotypes related to addicted individuals that remain entrenched in the popular imagination today. Drawing upon both feminist and queer methodologies, as well as upon extensive archival research, Addiction and British Visual Culture, 1751-1919 investigates and problematizes the long-held belief that addiction is legible from the body, thus positioning visual images as unreliable sources in attempts to identify alcoholics and drug addicts. Examining paintings, graphic satire, photographs, advertisements and architectural sites, Skelly explores such issues as ongoing anxieties about maternal drinking; the punishment and confinement of addicted individuals; the mobility of female alcoholics through the streets and spaces of nineteenth-century London; and soldiers' use of addictive substances such as cocaine and tobacco to cope with traumatic memories following the First World War.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: the visual politics of addiction; Wasted mothers: reading William Hogarth’s Gin Lane; From graphic satire to temperance art: George Cruikshank’s Addiction to Sobriety; Addictive architecture: the Crystal palace, gin palaces and women’s consumption; Closeting addiction: confinement, punishment, concealment; Advertising masculine vulnerability: Cocaine and cigarettes after the First World War; Conclusion. Bibliography; Index.

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Julia Skelly is an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. She is the editor of The Uses of Excess in Visual and Material Culture, 1600-2010.


'Not only must Julia Skelly be congratulated on this welcome study, but some praise is also due to the publisher. It is now comparatively rare to find an academic study with 33 illustrations ... the production is handsome.' Journal of British Studies