Hemingway claimed that writers should “Write sober; edit drunk,” making a famous career of it. In Chekhov’s short stories, however, heavy drinkers always seem to be lazy or vicious. Alcohol and drinking have always been part of the human experience, but our outlook on it changes over time and place. How is alcohol understood through literature? How do writers relate to alcohol, and how does this influence their writing? Finally, how does literature written about and/or by “drunks” reflect the contemporary understanding of alcohol, its effects, and its uses, and how does that understanding change over time?
“Dead Drunks” will explore these questions and more, focusing on British, American, and Russian literature. We will primarily read short stories, along with one novel and one movie.