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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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What Came Before

What Came Before

(p.298) 11 What Came Before
Unsettled States

Peter Coviello

NYU Press

This chapter merges divergent considerations of the autoerotic with a developing critical decentering of binary frameworks for sexual orientation. The willingness to speculate on how autoeroticism might orient the body diverges from modern sexuality identity altogether, insofar as it necessarily conceives sex as a property of the self. What the antimasturbation movement calls “self-abuse” paradoxically unselves sex, rendering it unsuitable for modern sexual identity's understanding of sex as a property of the self. The chapter examines the resonances between the movement's accounts, in which the unselving of sex renders the body a tool for making other kinds of contact, and the elaboration—in Henry David Thoreau's journals—of an erotics of sound that offers intimations of a more expansive corporeality.

Keywords:   autoeroticism, sexual orientation, modern sexuality, sex, antimasturbation movement, Henry David Thoreau, sexual identity

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