Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Preface: Reading and the Search for Oneness

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pp. ix-xiii

In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman articulated a theory of reading that would be satirically celebrated in an advertisement for the gay-positive magazine, The Advocate, a little over a hundred years later. . . .

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Introduction: The Fantasy of Communion

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pp. 1-21

Sometime in the 1840s, Massachusetts resident Sarah E. Edgarton paid a visit to her intimate childhood friend Luella J. B. Case and left behind a book of poetry by William Wordsworth. This Wordsworth volume took on . . .

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Chapter 1 Railroad Reading, Wayward Reading

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pp. 22-50

On 15 September 1841, Julia A. Parker, twenty-three years old and a prolific reader and diarist, inscribed her journal with the . . .

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Chapter 2 Books and the Dead

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pp. 51-82

The concept of a book as alive most likely originated with the Bible— “a living and breathing human expression of the thoughts of Jesus Christ”1—although as this chapter will explore, the idea soon came to . . .

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Chapter 3 Textual Sentimentalism: Incest and the Author-Reader Bond in Melville’s Pierre

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pp. 83-103

In November 1851, Herman Melville received a letter from Nathaniel Hawthorne praising his most recent literary endeavor, Moby-Dick. Shortly thereafter, Melville composed his famous response to his friend. “A sense of . . .

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Chapter 4 Outside the Circle: Embodied Communion in Frederick Douglass’s 1845 Narrative

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pp. 104-123

In an oft-quoted passage from his 1845 Narrative, Frederick Douglass describes his reaction to the slave songs he heard in the “dense old woods” of his master’s plantation: “I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of . . .

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Chapter 5 “The Polishing Attrition”: Reading, Writing, and Renunciation in the Work of Susan Warner

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pp. 124-147

In the preface to her biography of her sister Susan, Anna Warner describes her initial discomfort with writing and its attendant self-exposure, but then justifies these through an appeal to religious duty: “New England blood is never . . .

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Epilogue: No End in Sight

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pp. 148-156

When, over the last few years, I have told people that I have been working on a manuscript about the experience of reading in the nineteenth century, inevitably they have asked, Will you be addressing the contemporary . . .

Notes

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pp. 157-195

Bibliography

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pp. 197-218

Index

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pp. 219-224

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 225-226

This book—a very long time in the making—has been aided by the support of numerous institutions and individuals. For their help in the very early stages of this project, I thank Cathy Davidson, Michael Moon, Toril Moi, . . .