Susan Zieger

Professional Bio 

Susan Zieger researches and teaches English and American literature at the University of California, Riverside. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a M.S. in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from Imperial College, London. Her book, Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century British and American Literature, examines the cultural transformation of drunken habits into the disease of addiction. Her essays and reviews about Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, and Victorian opium use have appeared in numerous academic journals; her work has also been published in Cabinet and The Los Angeles Review of Books. At academic conferences, she has spoken about authors such as Oscar Wilde and Anthony Trollope, and on topics in Victorian culture such as cigarette cards and the temperance movement. She has given public talks at UCLA’s Hammer Museum and the Riverside Dickens Festival, and was interviewed by Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Germany’s national public radio, about the 1920s adventurer William Seabrook. She appears on the DVD of Disney’s A Christmas Carol, discussing Robert Zemeckis’ use of motion capture to adapt Dickens’ classic novel.

Area of Expertise 

My area of expertise is literature and cultural studies, with a special emphasis on popular culture and narratives of addiction and compulsive consumption. I am interested in how people form habits, and how they break them. I study how these obsessive relationships to substances, behaviors, and commodities shape the stories people tell about their own and others’ lives – and conversely, how familiar narrative forms shape our thinking about these experiences. Researching and writing about habit and addiction in the nineteenth century has given me a unique perspective on their subsequent history and current role in U.S. culture. I acquired this expertise by studying the history of medicine with Roy Porter at Imperial College, the Wellcome Institute, and University College London, and by researching and writing my first book, Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century British and American Literature, and my second, Media Dreams: Print, Mass Culture, and Material Practice in the Nineteenth Century. I am qualified to speak and write more broadly on how aspects of Victorian culture endure into the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, for example in film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novels, steampunk and neo-Victorian novels, debates about evolution, and the continued globalization of trade.

Workshop Locations 
Institutional Affiliation 
Professional Title 
Associate Professor of English, UC Riverside