The serpent in the cup: temperance in American literature by Debra J. Rosenthal

By Debra J. Rosenthal

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By Debra J. Rosenthal

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Concerned more with the energetic, brazen spirit of reform than with its moral underpinnings, Whitman valued temperance themes for their creative potential. Poe, too, was influenced by the dark-temperance conventions of the Washingtonians, but he reworked their popular formulas into penetrating psychological studies of the horrors of alcohol. " Reading the scenes of pedophilia and child abuse in temperance fiction as simultaneously culturally subversive and culturally conservative, Sánchez-Eppler explores the erotics of disciplinary intimacy and suggests that youthful love that redeems an intoxicated father nonetheless exploits the child's defenselessness.

Even though alcoholism did not discriminate against African Americans, the temperance movement did. The temperance and abolition movements shared much the same energies, strategies, gatherings, and rhetoric, but antiliquor activists did not permit blacks to join their ranks. Blacks were forced to form their own temperance societies; black women formed an auxiliary to the WCTU. Such writers and orators as Frederick Douglass and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper espoused the importance of temperance to African Americans.

Symbolically it extended to the tipples that identified the institutions themselves. Ned Ward contributed A dialogue between claret & darby Ale (1692), Richard Ames combined commercial satire with cultural satire in his The last search after claret in Southwark, or, A visitation of the vintners in the mind: with the debates of a committee of that profession thither fled to avoid the cruel persecution of their unmerciful creditors (1691). He later capped Ward's dialogue with his own Page 12 disingenuous The bacchanalian sessions, or, The contention of liquors: with a farewell to wine (1693).

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