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Man Enough: Fraternal Intimacy, White Homoeroticism, and Imagined Homogeneity in Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Literature
Schramm, Geoffrey Saunders
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"Man Enough" construes mid-nineteenth-century literary representations of sameness as corollaries of the struggle during this volatile era to realize unity among white men. I argue that three canonical authors envision homoerotic or same-sex erotic desire as a mechanism through which men can honor and defend sameness. These authors advert the connotative power of sameness by envisioning or assaying erotic desire between men as democratic. This fraternally conjugal (or conjugally fraternal) union serves as a consequence of the cultural directive to preserve the nation's homogeneity. In chapter one I reflect upon the circulation of sameness in mid-nineteenth-century America. I provide an overview of the logic of sameness in conceptions of race and then discuss how it textured sexual difference. As historians have recorded, new homosocial spheres led to fraternal intimacy at a time when white men competed in the free market economy. These new forms of friendship were erotically--though not necessarily sexually--charged. In the second chapter I argue that in <u>The Blithedale Romance</u> Hawthorne represents homoeroticism as effecting strong, yet tender erotic bonds between men that circumvent women and feminizing domesticity. He ultimately registers that same-sex erotic desire imperils male individualism and autonomy since it demands submission. Chapter three begins with an observation that critics fail to consider how dominant attitudes about race and gender shaped Whitman's representations. Another aspect of his <u>Leaves of Grass</u> that has eluded attention is the prevalence of California in his work. As I argue, Whitman's references to California in his own "Blue Book" copy of the 1860 edition suggest his desire for a racially and sexually homogeneous gay nation. Herman Melville's <u>Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War</u> is the focus of my final chapter. In this poetry he underscores that the homosocial martial life of war provided American men with an opportunity to forge fraternal intimacy with one another. Seeking to memorialize the sacrifices of Union soldiers, Melville sentimentalizes their losses so much that his poetry comes across as a homoerotic epic. Melville in <u>Battle-Pieces</u> offers a model of fraternity in which men eroticize racial and gender sameness.