Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States

by Russ Castronovo, Castronovo
     
 

ISBN-10: 0822327759

ISBN-13: 9780822327752

Pub. Date: 09/27/2001

Publisher: Duke University Press Books

In Necro Citizenship Russ Castronovo argues that the meaning of citizenship in the United States during the nineteenth century was bound to—and even dependent on—death. Deploying an impressive range of literary and cultural texts, Castronovo interrogates an American public sphere that fetishized death as a crucial point of political

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Overview

In Necro Citizenship Russ Castronovo argues that the meaning of citizenship in the United States during the nineteenth century was bound to—and even dependent on—death. Deploying an impressive range of literary and cultural texts, Castronovo interrogates an American public sphere that fetishized death as a crucial point of political identification. This morbid politics idealized disembodiment over embodiment, spiritual conditions over material ones, amnesia over history, and passivity over engagement.
Moving from medical engravings, séances, and clairvoyant communication to Supreme Court decisions, popular literature, and physiological tracts, Necro Citizenship explores how rituals of inclusion and belonging have generated alienation and dispossession. Castronovo contends that citizenship does violence to bodies, especially those of blacks, women, and workers. “Necro ideology,” he argues, supplied citizens with the means to think about slavery, economic powerlessness, or social injustice as eternal questions, beyond the scope of politics or critique. By obsessing on sleepwalkers, drowned women, and other corpses, necro ideology fostered a collective demand for an abstract even antidemocratic sense of freedom. Examining issues involving the occult, white sexuality, ghosts, and suicide in conjunction with readings of Harriet Jacobs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Frances Harper, Necro Citizenship successfully demonstrates why Patrick Henry's “give me liberty or give me death” has resonated so strongly in the American imagination.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822327752
Publisher:
Duke University Press Books
Publication date:
09/27/2001
Series:
New Americanists
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.34(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Introduction: Democracy's Graveyard1
1Political Necrophilia: Freedom and the Longing for Dead Citizenship25
2"The Slavery of Man to Himself": White Male Sexuality, Self-Reliance, and Bondage62
3"That Half-Living Corpse": Female Mediums, Seances, and the Occult Public Sphere101
4The "Black Arts" of Citizenship: Africanist Origins of White Interiority151
5De-Naturalizing Citizenship204
Afterword247
Notes251
Works Cited311
Index337

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