Introduction

Republican Machines
  • David Greven

Abstract

Men Beyond Desire: Manhood, Sex, and Violation in American Literature examines the emergence of an idiosyncratic figure in nineteenth-century American writing: the sexually and emotionally unavailable male, resolutely ungraspable, elusive, a hermetically sealed vessel of chastity and purity.

Keywords

American Identity Selene Lime Volatility Stake 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    As Dana Nelson puts it, the discord and disruption inherent in any democratic model are “soothingly covered over by national self-sameness and unity, and embodied by the national executive. This a virtual (abstracted, imagined) fraternity, where the discomfiting actuality of fraternal disagreement disappears in the singular body of the President” (34). In the early republic, “European immigrants … were increasingly regarded with suspicion, as sources of contamination of the ‘democratic’ spirit” (37). See Nelson’s National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1998). This anti-European and newly nativist sensibility seeped into manhood as a social category, increasingly reimagined as a decisive break with European decadence. In this regard, I use Jackson as “the symbol of an age”—Jackson both embodied and emboldened this increasingly rapid antebellum reimagining of American manhood, even as he became the conduit through which competing ideologies coursed. Inviolate manhood, I argue, is a category of gendered identity that allows men in the fiction of antebellum, among other periods, authors to negotiate the competing, rising ideologies of Jacksonian self-made manhood, on the one hand, and reproductive capitalist citizenship, on the other.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    The finest study of sexual reform in the antebellum United States remains Stephen Nissenbaum’s Sex, Diet, and Debility in Jacksonian America: Sylvester Graham and Health Reform (1980; reprint, Chicago, IL: The Dorsey Press, 1988). His primary focus is Sylvester Graham, and there is also a notable chapter on Thomas and Mary Gove Nichols.Google Scholar
  3. Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz’s Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Knopf, 2002) is a dazzling new interpretation of sexual morality and its mavens in nineteenth-century America.Google Scholar
  4. Editors Mary Chapman and Glenn Hendler’s collection Sentimental Men: Masculinity and the Politics of Affect in American Culture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999), provides a salient overview of the myriad social and cultural dynamics of antebellum masculinity and affect.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Margaret Marsh and Wanda Ronner, The Empty Cradle: Infertility in America from Colonial Times to the Present (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996), 31.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    See Lionel Tiger’s widely known Men in Groups (London: Thomas Nelson, 1969).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    See Richard Godbeer’s superb Sexual Revolution in Early America (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002), 338.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Bruce Dorsey, Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2002), 106.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Irvin G. Wyllie, The Self-Made Man in America: The Myth of Rags to Riches (New York: Free Press, 1966), 14, 9–10.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformations in American Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 20.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    David G. Pugh, Sons of Liberty: The Masculine Mind in Nineteenth Century America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983), 31. This unjustly overlooked study succinctly paved the way for future cultural studies of American manhood as it synthesized previous work.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York: Free Press, 1996), 34–36.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    Marquis James, The Life of Andrew Jackson, Volumes I and II (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1938), 107.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    Andrew Burstein, The Passions of Andrew Jackson (New York: Knopf, 2003), 56.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    Kenneth S. Greenberg, Honor and Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton, 1996), 58.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    Harry L. Watson, Andrew Jackson vs. Henry Clay: Democracy and Development in Antebellum America (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998), 25.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    Mark E. Kann, The Gendering of American Politics: Founding Mothers, Founding Fathers, and Political Patriarchy (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999), 78–79.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    Alan Sinfield, The Wilde Century: Effeminacy, Oscar Wilde, and the Queer Moment (New York: Columbia UP, 1994), 26.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    As Judith Butler writes in her classic essay “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” rag is not the putting on of a gender that belongs properly to some other group, i.e. an act of expropriation or appropriation that assumes that gender is the rightful property of sex, that “masculine” belongs to “male” and “feminine” belongs to “female.” There is no “proper” gender, a gender proper to one sex rather than another, which is in some sense that sex’s cultural property. Where that notion of the “proper” operates, it is always and only improperly installed as the effect of a compulsory system. Drag … implies that all gendering is a kind of impersonation and approximation. If this is true, it seems, there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original. (Her emphases) See Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed. Diana Fuss (New York: Routledge, 1991), 20#x2013;21.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Mieke Bal discusses Jael’s murder of Sisera as an inverted birth, with Jael as an anti-mother. She also interprets the murder as a rape. Sisera’s “destruction is unmanning.” He is “turned into a non-man by means of the penetration of a hard object into his soft flesh.” See Bal, Death and Dissymmetry: The Politics of Coherence in the Book of Judges (Chicago, IL: Chicago UP, 1988), 214–15.Google Scholar
  21. See also AA Bal’s Murder and Difference: Gender, Genre, and Scholarship on Sisera’s Death (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1992).Google Scholar
  22. 26.
    “Self-making doctors registered with peculiar sensitivity the linkage of gender and sexuality with race in middle class anxiety.” As “Alabama country doctor” Sims’s monstrous experiments on black slave women make clear, African Americans were bodies to be marked by the seals of enslavement: exploitation and annihilation. For an appropriately withering account of Sims, see Charles Sellers’s expansive study The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 (New York: Oxford UP, 1991), 256–57.Google Scholar
  23. 27.
    See Robert Fitzgerald Reid-Pharr, Conjugal Union: The Body, the House, and the Black American (New York: Oxford UP, 1999), 38–39.Google Scholar
  24. 28.
    Rush’s ideas about slavery and properly functioning republic are fascinating. “All blacks who had already acquired vices would stay in bondage, while all young blacks would be educated in the principles of virtue and religion,” thereby facilitating their transformation into republican machines. See Ronald T. Takaki’s Iron Cages: Race and Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Knopf, 1979), 29.Google Scholar
  25. 29.
    See Irvin Nell Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol (New York: Norton, 1996), 138–40.Google Scholar
  26. 32.
    Jim Perkinson, “The Body of White Space: Beyond Stiff Voices, Flaccid Feelings, and Stiff Cells,” Revealing Male Bodies, ed. Nancy Tuana, William Cowling et al. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 2002), 173–97.Google Scholar
  27. 33.
    William Ellery Channing, Self-Culture: An Address Introductory to the Franklin Lectures, Delivered at Boston, 1838 (1838; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1969), 12.Google Scholar
  28. 34.
    Klaus Benesch, Romantic Cyborgs: Authorship and Technology in the American Renaissance (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), 24–25. Rush is also intelligently discussed in several sections of Takaki’s Iron Cages.Google Scholar
  29. 35.
    Lizbeth Haakonssen, Medicine and Morals in The Enlightenment: John Gregory, Thomas Percival, and Benjamin Rush (Atlanta, GA: Editions Rodopi, 1997), 198.Google Scholar
  30. 36.
    Jacquelyn C. Miller, “Passions and Politics: The Multiple Meanings of Benjamin Rush’s Treatment for Yellow Fever,” A Melancholy Scene of Devastation: The Public Response to the 1793 Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic, ed. J. Worth Estes and Billy G. Smith (Canton, MA: Science History Publications, 1997), 80.Google Scholar
  31. 39.
    Benjamin Rush, Essays: Literary, Moral, and Philosophical (1806; reprint, Schenectady, NJ: Union College Press, 1988). The Union College Press edition reprints the 2nd edition of Rush’s Essays, which added one more article, “An Inquiry into the causes of Premature Deaths.” All references from this work are from this edition and are noted parenthetically within the text.Google Scholar
  32. 40.
    Sylvester Graham, A Lecture to Young Men on Chastity (1834; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1974), 24.Google Scholar
  33. 42.
    See Masturbation: the History of a Great Terror, ed. Jean Stengers and Anne Van Neck, trans. Kathryn A. Hoffman (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 53.Google Scholar
  34. 43.
    G. J. Barker-Benfeld, The Horrors of the Half-Known Life: Male Attitudes towards Women and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Routledge, 2000), 76.Google Scholar
  35. 45.
    See Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl,” collected in her Tendencies (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1993), 113.Google Scholar
  36. 47.
    Scott S. Derrick, Monumental Anxieties (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997), 48.Google Scholar
  37. 48.
    Jonathan Ned Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality (New York: Dutton, 1995), 45.Google Scholar
  38. 50.
    As Benjamin Reiss describes, “Displays of human curiosities, or lusus naturae—freaks of nature—were among the most popular travelling entertainments of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, although the ‘golden age of the freak’ did not begin until the 1840s, when the opening of Barnum’s America Museum ushered the freak show into the era of mass culture. In 1813, the Boston Museum exhibited as a ‘wonderful production of nature’ [a freakish couple] … a moving theater of the extraordinary human body.” Such exhibits typically highlighted the physical anomaly, grotesque features, extreme disability, or exotic racial and cultural differences of the displayed human object, and often more than one such human quality at a time: racial and/or sexual exoticism (in the case of hermaphrodites and bearded ladies, for instance) was exaggerated, intermingled, and made to seem coextensive with bodily abnormality. See AA Reiss, The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum’s America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2001), 41.Google Scholar
  39. 51.
    Nancy Isenberg, Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 42.Google Scholar
  40. 53.
    Here is Michael Warner’s definition of “heteronormative”: “Het culture thinks of itself as the elemental form of human association … Western political thought has taken the heterosexual couple to represent the principle of social union itself.” See Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory, ed. Warner (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota UP, 1993), xxi. As will become evident, I maintain an ambivalent response to his larger views on culture and sexuality.Google Scholar
  41. 56.
    See Steven Mintz’s Moralists and Modernizers: America’s Pre-Civil War Reformers (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1995), 23–25.Google Scholar
  42. 59.
    Mary Gove [Nichols], Solitary Vice: An Address to Parents and Those Who Have the Care of Children (Portland, OR: Printed at the Journal Office, 1839). All references from this work are noted parenthetically in the text and will be from this edition.Google Scholar
  43. 62.
    Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper (1841; reprint, Mineola, NY: Dover, 1996).Google Scholar
  44. 63.
    See Jeffrey Weeks, Against Nature: Essays on History, Sexuality, and Identity (London, Rivers: Oram Press, 1991), passim, for an excellent overview. The embattled historical issues of the use of terms like “heterosexual,” “homosexual,” and “homophobic” certainly inform my use of “homophobic” to describe hostility to male effeminacy. The relative newness of such sexual terminology, which developed in the second half of the nineteenth century, should make one hesitant to employ them in a study of antebellum American literature; I use “homophobic” here because of its comprehensive and immediately felt punch and conventional intelligibility; but I acknowledge that my usage is historically insensitive. I have decided to risk historical insensitivity by using these modern terms in order to remind us of the ongoing relevance of antebellum texts in our own moment; I am also unconvinced by some of the arguments from Foucauldian scholars that the “birth” of sexual identities is coterminous with the creation of the new terms.Google Scholar
  45. 64.
    See Lori Merish’s study Sentimental Materialism: Gender, Commodity Culture, and Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000), 34, 45. Merish goes on to discuss the ways in which Scottish Enlightenment moral philosophers reconceptualized terms such as luxury as the “favorable culmination of ‘civilization,’ human morality, and social advance.”Google Scholar
  46. 68.
    See David Cronenberg, Cronenberg on Cronenberg, ed. Chris Rodley (1992; reprint, Boston, MA: Faber and Faber, 1997), 31.Google Scholar
  47. 70.
    Julie Matthaei, “The Sexual Division of Labor, Sexuality, and Lesbian/Gay Liberation: Towards a Marxist-Feminist Analysis of Sexuality in U.S. Capitalism,” Homo Economics: Capitalism, Community, and Lesbian and Gay Life, ed. Amy Gluckman and Betsy Reed (New York: Routledge, 1997), 134–64.Google Scholar
  48. 71.
    In Love and Death, Fiedler is primarily interested in “the pure marriage of males, sexless and holy, a kind of counter-matrimony, in which the white refugee from society and the dark-skinned primitive are joined till death do them part.” In other words, Fiedler figures male friendship as a sacred marriage between one white man and one man of color. But male friendship as Fiedler depicts it has been circulated in deracinated form in current scholarship, which emphasizes ardent male friendship between white men. See Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (1960; reprint, New York: Dell, 1966), 179–214.Google Scholar
  49. 73.
    See Jenifer S. Banks, “Washington Irving, the Nineteenth-Century American Bachelor,” Critical Essays on Washington Irving, ed. Ralph M. Aderman (Boston, MA: G. K. Hall, 1990), 253–65, 255.Google Scholar
  50. 75.
    Peter Gay, The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, vol. 2, The Tender Passion, (New York: Oxford UP, 1986), 215.Google Scholar
  51. 76.
    D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth Century Americans: A Mormon Example (Chicago, IL: Illinois UP, 1996), 69, 107, 3. I am indebted to this superb study.Google Scholar
  52. 77.
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  53. 80.
    Howard P. Chudacoff, The Age of the Bachelor: Creating an American Subculture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1999), 21, 26–29.Google Scholar
  54. 82.
    T. Walter Herbert, Sexual Violence and American Manhood (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2002), 88, 90. What I resist in Herbert’s view here is an insistence on the presence of an a priori desire on the part of men, always already ready and waiting to be tapped, like a brooding current.Google Scholar
  55. 85.
    In classically Hellenizing fashion, the walls of Hawthorne’s West Newton home, which Nathaniel rechristened “The Wayside,” “were adorned by a bust of Apollo” and “Mrs. Hawthorne’s drawing of Endymion.” No more perfect emblems of Hawthorne’s own enigmatic beauty and personality could have existed, and it is little surprise that they adorned their home, or that Sophia drew the figure so often present—in my view—in her husband’s fiction. See Randall Stewart, Nathaniel Hawthorne (New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1948), 124.Google Scholar

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© David Greven 2005

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  • David Greven

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