February 29, 2024 · University of Virginia

Intimate publics: Sexual vice, mass culture, and the transformation of the antebellum United States public sphere.

From abstract: "In the thirty years before the Civil War, the rapidly transforming cities of the northeastern U.S.—New York, Philadelphia, Boston—became sexual sensoriums. Representations of the eroticized body and, particularly, sexual vice emerged as common mass-cultural tropes. The 1830s, '40s, and '50s marked the birth of the sensationally sexualized pulp novel, the penny press, and its even more scandalous cousin the sporting press. In addition, the pre-war years saw the popularization of sybaritic and sensual South-Seas and Middle-Eastern travelogues as well as the prominence of a male sentimental friendship discourse that was often haunted by the sodomite. These texts were produced in large quantities by journalists and hack writers, by mostly forgotten pulp authors like George Thompson and the more famous George Lippard, and by popular writers like Theodore Winthrop and Bayard Taylor. Yet canonical novelists and poets such as Melville, Poe, and Whitman also breathed mass culture's highly eroticized air."
Wallace Michael Millner
University of Virginia
Eric Lott
Department of English
Date Added November 5, 2016
Date Modifed October 17, 2017
Collection UVA scholarship on sexual violence, 1974-

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