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Unsettled StatesNineteenth-Century American Literary Studies$
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Dana Luciano and Ivy Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781479857722

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479857722.001.0001

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Eat, Sex, Race

Eat, Sex, Race

(p.245) 9 Eat, Sex, Race
Unsettled States

Kyla Wazana Tompkins

NYU Press

This chapter discusses the role played by antebellum reformist campaigns in a bodily centered history of sexuality. It considers the emergence of dietary correctives to the practice of masturbation in the work of Sylvester Graham, whose endorsement of whole-grained breads as a corrective to sexual excitement remaps both nation and globe. This remapping is prompted by the so-called “political life of the mouth,” an orifice that was as much concerned in the sustenance and reproduction of a purified whiteness as were the genitals that could be overexcited by improper eating. The chapter also elaborates on the idea of “dietetic biopower,” which is haunted by the specter of improper consumption, a possibility that connects the mouth not only to the genitals but also to the anus.

Keywords:   history of sexuality, reformist campaigns, Sylvester Graham, masturbation, sexual excitement, dietetic biopower, improper consumption

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