Parched: The Queer Alcoholic on the Modern American Stage, 1940-1970
McQuinn, Thomas William Bryce
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_Parched_ mines the rich correlation between queerness and alcoholism on the modern American stage. It explores the peculiar seductions of the queer alcoholic via readings of six plays from American dramatic literature: Eugene O’Neill’s _The Iceman Cometh_ (1946) and _Long Day’s Journey Into Night_ (composed 1941-42; premiered 1956); Tennessee Williams’s _A Streetcar Named Desire_ (1947) and _Cat on a Hot Tin Roof_ (1955); Edward Albee’s _Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?_ (1962); and Mart Crowley’s _The Boys in the Band_ (1968). I argue that the construction and medicalization of alcoholism in early twentieth-century American ran parallel to that of “sex perversions” (e.g. male homosexuality, lesbianism, transvestitism, transgender sexuality, voyeurism, and sadomasochism). Unsurprisingly, both excessive drinking and queer sexual conduct came to be similarly pathologized as compulsive behaviours that caused both bodily and psychic disintegration. _Parched_ analyzes how American playwrights have linked the inherent performativity of queerness and alcoholism, while representing the contagious dissipation that such performances have been feared to cause. My readings of specific celebrated productions of my primary texts—alongside reviewer responses to them—demonstrate that historically spectators have been enticed into a fascination with the figure via a process I deem "dis/identification." Audience members must simultaneously identify with, and dis-identify against, the queer alcoholic. The dissertation therefore builds upon and enriches the complex histories and theories of addiction and deviance—indispensable work in an era marked by what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has deemed the binary of compulsion/voluntarity. Over a period of thirty years audiences came to ceaselessly thirst for these queer depictions, and mainstream theatre provided a suitable cover. This obsessive “drinking in” of the figure resulted in these texts becoming canonized in American theatre. Cyclical intoxication and queer sexual practices have been a constant throughout the history of dramatic literature (see, for example, the analysis of Euripides’s _The Bacchae_ [405 BCE] in the dissertation’s epilogue), and shifting models of behaviours deemed “excessive” continue to affect their theatrical representations in a reciprocal relation.