Intimacy In America: Dreams Of Affiliation In Antebellum Literature

Front Cover
U of Minnesota Press - 229 pages
Nineteenth-century America was a sprawling new nation unmoored from precedent and the mainstays of European nationalism. In their search for nationality, Americans sought coherence in a feeling of belonging shared among diverse and scattered strangers. Reading seminal works by Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman, Peter Coviello traces these writers' enthusiasms and their ambivalences about the dream of an intimate nationality, revealing how race and sexuality were used as vehicles for an assumed national coherence. As Coviello shows, race - and especially whiteness - functioned less as a form of identity than as a model of attachment and identification, a language of affiliation. Whiteness created an imaginary fraternity that symbolized citizenship, the ownership of property, and an affinity between strangers, which became entangled in the nation's evolving codes of sexuality. Bringing race theory and "white studies" into dialogue with questions of intimacy and affect, Coviello provides a practical rapprochement between historicist and psychoanalytic methodologies. Intimacy in America gives us a new perspective on the national meanings of race and sex in American literature, as well as on the still-current dream of American-ness as an impassioned relation to far-flung, anonymous others.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

What Is It Then between Us?
1
Race and the Civics of SelfRelation
25
Poe Pedophilia and the Logic of Slavery
59
Nationalism Sodomy and Whiteness in MobyDick
91
Intimacy and Nationality in Whitman
127
NATION MOURNS
157
Notes
177
Index
219
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 38 - There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it : I have killed many : I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbor a thought that mine is the joy of fear.
Page 32 - I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it.
Page 41 - Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.
Page 64 - During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
Page 75 - As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance there had been found the potency of a spell, the huge antique panels to which the speaker pointed threw slowly back, upon the instant, their ponderous and ebony jaws. It was the work of the...
Page 75 - Not hear it? yes, I hear it, and have heard it. Long — long — long — many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it — yet I dared not — oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am ! I dared not —• I dared not speak! We have put her living in the tomb ! Said I not that my senses were acute.
Page 163 - Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British Brethren We have warned them from Time to Time of attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us...
Page 32 - ... the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.
Page 73 - ... altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me.
Page 187 - Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions, which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.

About the author

Peter Coviello is associate professor of English at Bowdoin College.

Bibliographic information