Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Intimacy in America

Dreams of Affiliation in Antebellum Literature

2005
Author:

Peter Coviello

Intimacy in America

Offers a major rereading of the antebellum literary canon

Reading seminal works by Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Walt Whitman, Peter Coviello traces these writers's ambivalences about the idea of an intimate nationality, revealing how race and sexuality were used as vehicles for an assumed coherence. Intimacy in America gives us a new perspective on the dream of Americanness as a relation to anonymous others.

Intimacy in America is a major contribution to literary and cultural studies. It extends in fresh and productive new directions some of the most important and influential Americanist scholarship.

Michael Moon, author of A Small Boy and Others: Imitation and Initiation in American Culture from Henry James to Andy Warhol

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’s 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 Americanness as an impassioned relation to far-flung, anonymous others.

Intimacy in America

Peter Coviello is associate professor of English at Bowdoin College.

Intimacy in America

Intimacy in America is a major contribution to literary and cultural studies. It extends in fresh and productive new directions some of the most important and influential Americanist scholarship.

Michael Moon, author of A Small Boy and Others: Imitation and Initiation in American Culture from Henry James to Andy Warhol

Intimacy in America compellingly articulates the erotic suggestiveness discoverable at many points in America’s classic literature and politicized it by linking it to conceptions of national identity.

Studies in American Fiction

[An] intelligent, innovative book. The relevance of its subject matter to the present and its fresh take on overly familiar texts (and even on Foucault) make a good resource for an advanced audience. Recommended.

Choice

Intimacy in America is a very smart book, but it is also a beautiful and passionate one.

GLQ

Intimacy in America

C O N T E N T S

Acknowledgments

Introduction: “What Is It Then between Us?”

1. Intimate Property: Race and the Civics of Self-Relation
2. The Melancholy of Little Girls: Poe, Pedophilia, and the Logic of Slavery
3. Bowels and Fear: Nationalism, Sodomy, and Whiteness in Moby-Dick
4. Loving Strangers: Intimacy and Nationality in Whitman

Epilogue: NATION MOURNS

Notes

Index