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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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Connecticut Yankings

Connecticut Yankings

Mark Twain and the Masturbating Dude

(p.275) 10 Connecticut Yankings
Unsettled States

Elizabeth Freeman

NYU Press

This chapter illustrates Mark Twain's take on the anxieties surrounding masturbation, explicitly in his 1879 speech to a men's club concerning the “science of onanism,” and implicitly in his 1889 time-travel novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The chapter reads the novel through the lens of a long-standing alignment of “bad” historiography with effeminacy and sexual deviance. If part of the work of being a good American is “getting at history in the right manner,” then the bad historical practices that surface in Twain's novel not only critique the contemporary American vogue for things past. They also work to make a future for sexual deviance in the inaccessible materials of that distant and discarded history.

Keywords:   Mark Twain, science of onanism, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, effeminacy, sexual deviance, contemporary American vogue, masturbation

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