“Addiction: Agency and Attachment”

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
English Language Notes
contact email: 


Call for Papers for Special Issue of English Language Notes

“Addiction: Agency and Attachment”

 Rebecca Lemon, editor 

University of Southern California


This proposed special issue investigates the topic and phenomenon of addiction. Addiction is at the forefront of global conversations on biopolitics, with pundits debating the role of big pharmaceuticals in the rise of the opiate crisis, or the prejudicial criminalization of certain illicit drugs in contrast to the legalization of others. Even as addiction is a modern geopolitical phenomenon, it also has a long history, one that is only beginning to be mined. Accounts of addiction have productively concentrated on the modern period, linking the explosion of drugs to empire, global trade, and the formation of an addict identity, while scholars have also, recently, begun to push the study of addiction back in time, to explore the period before the 1800 watershed “discovery” of addiction. This special issue will continue this expansive study of addiction across geographical, disciplinary and historical boundaries, to consider the variety of accounts of addiction in literary and historical texts. In particular, this issue will emphasize the literary text offers a unique site for the expression of addictive desires and practices: given the challenge of tracking the phenomenon of addiction in medical or legal archives, literature offers a site for phenomenological accounts of what addiction feels like, and how it affects a community.

This special issue will investigate addiction’s range on three levels.

  • First, at the level of methodology, scholars from a wide range of disciplines pose, and answer differently, questions about addiction: literary critics, historians, theologians, sociologists, psychologists, medical scientists, legal scholars, fiction writers, and poets all grapple with the conundrum of addiction. This issue seeks to bring together such a diverse group of scholars and methods.
  • Second, addiction’s range is epistemological, evident in the variety of understandings of what constitutes addiction itself: the addict might experience a compulsive relationship to a substance or activity; or the addict might be a devotee, flourishing through attachment to God or a vocation. The addict might be a beloved, relinquishing agency in surrendering to another; or the addict might be an individual making a rational choice, only to be overcome by his or her choice of addictive object. Essays in this issue will take up these paradoxes and differences in defining addiction.
  • Third, reassessing addiction offers an opportunity to rethink agency and attachment. Addiction hinges on a model of attachment that challenges current valorizations of self-sovereignty. Considering addiction’s poles of attachment and isolation, connection and self-sovereignty, this issue will offer a reconsideration of modes of agency in modern and early modern life, inviting essays that meditate on agency more generally.

Essays of roughly 7,000-8,000 words are invited from scholars in all fields. Interested authors should feel free to contact the editor: Rebecca Lemon, Department of English, University of Southern California (rlemon@usc.edu).  

Potential contributors should submit an article abstract/proposal by September 1, 2020, though it would be a good idea to contact one or both editors in advance. The completed article is expected by January 1, 2021. Time permitting, editors may share accepted contributions with co-contributors, encouraging authors to hold critical conversations. While the editor invites standard-length, single-author academic articles, she is open to other methods of critical inquiry related to the issue’s theme: position papers, clusters, roundtable discussions, book reviews, interviews, dialogues, and so on.

Essays will undergo peer review. All submissions should adhere to the Chicago-style endnote citation format. Submissions should be uploaded to ELN’s peer-review website: https://www.editorialmanager.com/eln/default.aspx.