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Tomorrow's PartiesSex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Peter M. Coviello

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814717400

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814717400.001.0001

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Whitman at War

Whitman at War

(p.48) 2 Whitman at War
Tomorrow's Parties

Ann Kaegi

NYU Press

This chapter details how, under the pressures of the war, Walt Whitman's vision of sex both transforms and extends itself. Negating the roles of stranger, comrade, lover, and reader in the “Calamus” poetry, Whitman removes sex from its enclosure in dyadic heterosexuality and the reproductive family, seeking instead to release sex into every register of sociability. The war prompts in Whitman other sorts of surrogacy: he is self-consciously nurse to the men, but also confessor, sibling, and very often parent. The war reveals a Whitman striving to restore carnality, in its world-making force, to family, and especially to parenthood. The chapter suggests that Whitman is better understood as not a prophet of sex, but a man glimpsing the lineaments of a future that would not quite come to pass.

Keywords:   Walt Whitman, sex, Calamus, dyadic heterosexuality, sociability, surrogacy, carnality, family

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