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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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What Does the Polygamist Want?

What Does the Polygamist Want?

Frederick Douglass, Joseph Smith, and Marriage at the Edges of the Human

(p.104) 4 What Does the Polygamist Want?
Tomorrow's Parties

Richard Chamberlain

NYU Press

This chapter focuses on the consequences of insisting on the necessity, divinity, and world-renovating force of plural marriage by looking at the career of Joseph Smith. He was the founder of the Mormon faith, homegrown prophet, polygamist, heretical theologian, and, martyr. The chapter unfolds the implications of Smith's vision for the history of sexuality in nineteenth-century America. He points to how the histories of secularism underwrite histories of sexuality and function to elucidate some forms of sexual subjectivity while occluding others. The chapter argues that polygamy, the defining fabulation of Smith's, seems the proper way to, as he states, “learn how to make yourself Gods” because it expresses how one might live out the unfallenness of his body. In comparison, the chapter examines Frederick Douglass' different imagining of marriage in relation to slavery.

Keywords:   plural marriage, polygamy, Joseph Smith, history of sexuality, secularism, fabulation, Frederick Douglass

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