This chapter introduces the idea of ‘the Existential drinker’, placing it in historical, literary and philosophical contexts. It gives a clear account of Existential philosophy and issues in relation to drinking, such as questions of authenticity, freedom, self, and finitude, while also addressing wider concerns around questions of will and consciousness. A section on ‘happiness, hedonism, and illness’ analyses other possible understandings, including contemporary concerns to do with alcoholism and ethics. A canon of Existential-drinker texts is established, and the characteristic features of these are noted, paying attention to the uses of narrative and lyric selves in the novels. The Introduction also places The Existential Drinker in the context of other books on drinking and literature, noting how this is the first study to treat the material extensively in this way, often contrary to prevailing attitudes around such literature.
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