The Sacred Disease: Narratives of Addiction and
the Making of the Post-Secular Self
The Sacred Disease: Narratives of Addiction and the Making of the Post-Secular Self examines questions of secularism, agency, and religious phenomenology through the study of literary and popular representations of addiction. Where medical discourse marks addiction as a psychological and/or physiological aberration of the normatively moderate self, stories of addiction told from the perspective of addicts often employ religious and spiritual ontologies alongside and against this model to express addiction as a normative, spiritual condition. Working across disciplines, my attention to religious discourse not only recenters addicts as the experts of their own experience, but it also historicizes and challenges normative assumptions about choice, disease, and dependence, as well as suspicious readings of these texts. In each chapter, I focus on a different text and religious framework, including the Pueblo cosmovision of Leslie Marmon Silko’s 1978 novel Ceremony, Mary Karr’s conversion to Catholicism in her 2009 memoir Lit, the rite of confession in Lars von Trier’s 2014 film Nymph()maniac, and the employment of diasporic religions such as Santeria and Voodoo in the television show True Blood (2008-2014). My work’s interdisciplinarity has been recognized through funding in multiple departments, including a dissertation fellowship from the Department of English and a Harlan Hahn Disability Studies grant. I successfully defended my dissertation in December 2018 and received the 2019 Heilman Dissertation prize for best dissertation in the UW English Department. My manuscript is currently under review at academic presses.