Honorable Mention for the 2014 MLA Alan Bray Memorial Award
Finalist for the 2013 LAMBDA LGBT Studies Book Award
"Dazzling intelligence radiates here, out from sentences giving such pleasure,yielding the finest devotion I’ve seen to literature’s own theoretical force. Coviello listens, carefully, brilliantly, for the flickerings, the liquid meanderings, all too easily explained as “sexual”—or never even perceived at all. Here is a critic as joyful as Whitman, with his dark core fully afire."
—Kathryn Bond Stockton, University of Utah
"In Intimacy in America: Dreams of Affiliation in Antebellum Literature, Coviello (Bowdoin College) offered a rereading of canonical 19th-century authors, focused on the problematic role that race played in constructing a sense of Americanness. Coviello returns with an even more ambitious reexamination of 19th century literature, focused on exploring what counted as sexuality during this period. Considering works by Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Sarah Orne Jewett, Emily Dickinson, and Frederick Douglass, and writing by Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Coviello aims to disrupt views of the 19th century as primarily anticipating the development of modern taxonomies of sexuality. Instead, he examines 'errant possibilities for imagining sex that have sunk into kind of muteness with the advent of modern sexuality.' Coviello explicates texts and passages in which sexuality is represented as distinctly different from the modern regime of sexual specification, whether it is Thoreau's descriptions of 'exquisite carnal ravishment by sound' or Smith's attempt to pursue 'enlargement' via plural marriage. This book breaks new ground in theorizations of temporality for those working in queer theory, gender studies, and 19th century literature."
"Set free from the confines of the contemporary meaning of sexuality, Coviello roves among the literature of the 1840s through the dawn of the twentieth century to unearth a variety of forms that sex took before, and aslant of, the debut of “modern” sexual discourse in the United States during the Oscar Wilde trials of 1895...Coviello analyzes private letters, journal entries, and published works of fiction, poetry, and prose from Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Henry James and others to demonstrate how modes of nineteenth-century affiliation were both gradually accumulating in ways that would soon materialize as sexuality and dispersing from the realm of the sexual altogether...Coviello makes a significant contribution to the study of gender and sexuality more broadly, which has struggled with questions of periodization and naming for decades."
—Kyla Schuller, GLQ
"Succeeds at expanding the analytic vocabulary for describing intimate experience in the nineteenth century. Coviello’s efforts to track the shifting meanings of time and sex will undoubtedly appeal to those with an interest in temporality, and anyone with an interest in Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson and the other subjects will appreciate Coviello’s careful yet imaginative readings."
“Coviello combines historical analysis and contemporary interpretation of former famous works—queer reading as we call it today. Coviello always mentions his main problem: it would be impolite and incorrect to apply modern sexualities to the Victorian era. In the gay movement, Walt Whitman had been renamed as a gay writer—Coviello emphasizes, ‘gay’ hadn’t existed in Whitman’s days. So Coviello is far from easy deconstructivism. He takes readers on a 200-page journey into nineteenth-century livelihood. Modern theorists may assist in social analysis, but Coviello never misuses them for explanations of the past. […] Coviello’s book is worth reading. He offers great description and interpretation of literary sexual discourse in 19th century America.”
—Sexuality and Culture
"Coviello models a profoundly sensitive approach to nineteenth-century American literature’s ‘‘broken-off futures’’—one that is willing and ableto get caught up in these authors’ ardent optimism and depressive realism and to ask, along with Thoreau, ‘‘What is that other kind of lifeto which I am thus continually allured?’’
"In luminous readings of Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Joseph Smith, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Henry James, among others, Tomorrow’s Parties provides a glimpse of some of the unrealized possibilities of “sex in the long, last moments before it might have known itself as ‘sexuality’ in its modern senses”
—American Literary History
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