The Language of the Heart

A Cultural History of the Recovery Movement from Alcoholics Anonymous to Oprah Winfrey

By Trysh Travis

376 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 3 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-0730-6
    Published: February 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9870-3
    Published: January 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8221-9
    Published: January 2010

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In The Language of the Heart, Trysh Travis explores the rich cultural history of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its offshoots and the larger "recovery movement" that has grown out of them. Moving from AA's beginnings in the mid-1930s as a men's fellowship that met in church basements to the thoroughly commercialized addiction treatment centers of today, Travis chronicles the development of recovery and examines its relationship to the broad American tradition of self-help, highlighting the roles that gender, mysticism, and bibliotherapy have played in that development.

About the Author

Trysh Travis is associate professor of women's studies at the University of Florida. She helped to found and now edits Points: the Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society.
For more information about Trysh Travis, visit the Author Page.


"Historicizes and explicates the paradigm and movement of recovery and examines its connections to broader historical and cultural currents in the US. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"A brief review cannot do justice to Trysh Travis's analytically muscular, well-researched history of the recovery movement. . . . This gracefully written book should be essential reading for historians seeking to understand the cultural and institutional mechanisms informing the triumph of the therapeutic in twentieth-century America."--Journal of American History

"[The Language of the Heart] is the rare book that more than lives up to its promises. . . . Travis's examination is the best introductory survey published to date."--Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

"Tracing the rise and diffusion of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program from subculture to pop culture, Travis provides an excellent history of the recovery movement. Destined to be a landmark in the field."--Joan D. Hedrick, Trinity College

"Travis's understanding of the recovery movement has profound implications for several established academic disciplines as well as for the incipient cross-disciplinary field of alcohol and addiction studies."--John W. Crowley, University of Alabama