Bridging the Divide: How Science, Literature, and Film May Synergistically Enhance the Understanding of Cocaine Addiction Open Access

Mezher, Andrew Walid (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/7w62f8676?locale=en
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Abstract

This thesis illuminates the intersection between literature, film, and science in regards to cocaine addiction; specifically, having a scientific understanding of the neurobiology of cocaine and addiction enhances the themes and character development in both text and film. Conversely, literature and film have the power to communicate the complexities of scientific issues to audiences that are unable to access such material or have not had experience with it.

A brief overview of the nervous system with emphasis on the reward systems, cocaine's main target, will be covered. The neurobiological mechanisms of cocaine and the physical transformation of these reward systems will shed light on the process of addiction in hopes of demonstrating that addiction is not a disease or a choice, but rather a process of learning in the brain. Cocaine has been selected as the drug of abuse to consider because it is both understood well scientifically and a prominent drug worldwide with high abuse potential.

Cocaine use within two modern American texts, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney and Less than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis, and their film counterparts will be discussed with the purpose of demonstrating the power that literature and film have on the public's view of addiction. Likewise, the scientific background will introduce novel aspects of characters and themes. Science and literature have dual roles in shaping the way the public views individual concepts or works. Because addiction is a controversial matter, having this duality bridges together multiple mediums to illuminate its reality and silence its falsehood.

Textual and visual evidence illuminate the thoughts and feelings of addicts, restoring a quintessential humanness that will promote their integration into society. By being able to empathize with addicted characters, readers of literature and viewers of film may come to terms with the burden of addiction that requires communal support for effective recovery. Revealing the destruction that craving a drug has on an addict's life allows literature and film to communicate that addiction is not a moral choice. Similarly, the physiological functionality of characters lends itself to eliminating the view of addiction as a disease.

Table of Contents

Introduction ...................................................................................................................... 1

Part I: The Neurobiology of Cocaine and the Biological Mechanisms of Addiction ...... 10

Part II: Bright Lights, Big City Text and Film Analysis ................................................... 39

Part III: Less than Zero Text and Film Analysis .............................................................. 86

Concluding Remarks ....................................................................................................... 132

Works Cited ..................................................................................................................... 134

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