Mark Twain and the Masturbating Dude
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.
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