Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: American Addictions: From Temperance, Prohibition, and the Mob to the 12 Step Movement

Instructor: Joseph Gouverneur

In this course, we will study the long term impact of alcohol and other addictive substances in American history and contemporary society. The course will also carefully examin and critique various attemps to arrest addictive behaviors in American life. Some of the movements we will look at incllude the Washingtonians, Temperance, Prohibition (as well as the criminal underworld that flourished from 1920-1933), the Oxford Group, the 12 Step Movement, Rational Recovery, and Moderation Management.

We will consider the political, religious, and cultural importance of both substance abuse and attempts at reform, criminalization of substances, as well as various treatment models and their success and relapse rates. The course will also consider the ideology, structure, and cohesion of such groups and movements. We will also examine contemporary debates relating to the criminalization of substances.


Texts for the course will include:

  • Sally Brown, A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann
  • Susan Cheever, Drinking in America
  • Benoit Denizet-Lewis, America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life
  • Ian Gately, Drink, A Cultural History of Alcoholism
  • Charles Jackson, The Long Weekend
  • Patrick Kennedy, A Common Struggle
  • Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
  • Trysh Travis, The Language of the Heart: A Cultural History of the Recovery Movement from Alcoholics Anonymous to Oprah Winfrey
  • William White, Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America


Films to be studied and discussed:

  • Breaking Bad (Selected Episodes - 2008-2013)
  • Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  • My Name is Bill W (1989)
  • I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
  • Flight (2012)

Last Update: November 11, 2015