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Philosophies of Sex

Critical Essays on The Hermaphrodite

Edited by Renée Bergland and Gary Williams

Publication Year: 2012

Philosophies of Sex: Critical Essays on The Hermaphrodite is the first collection of critical studies of Julia Ward Howe’s long-secret novel that, since its initial publication in 2004, has caused a seismic shift in how we understand gender awareness and sexuality in antebellum America. Howe figures in the history of the nineteenth-century American literature primarily as a poet, most famous for having written the lyrics to “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Renée Bergland and Gary Williams have assembled a luminous array of essays by eminent scholars of the nineteenth-century American literature, providing fascinating—and widely differing—contexts in which to understand Howe’s venture into territory altogether foreign to American writers in her day. An introduction by Bergland and Williams traces the (re)discovery of Howe’s manuscript and the beginnings of commentary as word spread about this remarkable text. Mary Grant, an early reader, invokes the excitement and frontier spirit of women’s history in the 1970s. Marianne Noble and Laura Saltz place the narrative within the frames of European and American Romanticism and of Howe’s other writings. Betsy Klimasmith, Williams, Bethany Schneider, and Joyce Warren explore connections between Howe’s novel and other ground-breaking nineteenth-century works on gender, sexuality, and relationship. Bergland and Suzanne Ashworth explore The Hermaphrodite’s suggestive invocations of two other kinds of “texts”: sculpture and theology.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Though writing can be a solitary activity, publishing is always collaborative. The editors of this collection are particularly appreciative of the intelligence and professionalism of all of the contributors, whose work delights and challenges us. We are grateful for the conversations that these essays grew out of and continue to encourage. ...

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pp. 1-14

On the last page, with his anomalous body arrayed in grave-clothes and laid in a coffin, Laurence, the hermaphrodite, speaks to us. He may or may not be dead, but he is certainly conscious. As he puts it, “[m]y brain was now excited to a vivid consciousness of the horror of my fate” (Howe, H 198). ...

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Foreword: Meeting the Hermaphrodite

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pp. 15-22

What a mess!” I thought as I stared at the box of papers. It was my spring vacation, 1977, and I had five precious days before I would have to return to my part-time jobs teaching history at The George Washington University and at the National Cathedral School in Washington D.C. ...

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1. Indeterminate Sex and Text: The Manuscript Status of The Hermaphrodite

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pp. 23-46

Written around 1847 and published for the first time in 2004, Julia Ward Howe’s novel The Hermaphrodite only existed, until Gary Williams’s careful work of resurrection, as three stacks of loose manuscript sheets, fragmented and untitled. Donated to the Houghton Library in 1951 amidst a mass of Howe family papers, ...

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2. From Self-Erasure to Self-Possession: The Development of Julia Ward Howe's Feminist Consciousness

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pp. 47-71

In Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Margaret Fuller argues that thought governed by gender binarism should be replaced by a kind of gender hermaphrodism. Fuller writes, “There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.” Male and female “are perpetually passing into one another. ...

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3. "Rather Both Than Neither": The Polarity of Gender in Howe's Hermaphrodite

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pp. 72-92

When asked to judge Laurence’s sex, the physician who attends him/ her in the final pages of The Hermaphrodite declares, “‘I cannot pronounce Lauren[ce] either man or woman . . . but I shall speak most justly if I say that he is rather both than neither’” (Howe, H 195). ...

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4. "Never the Half of Another": Figuring and Foreclosing Marriage in The Hermaphrodite

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pp. 93-107

When Julia Ward Howe began to write the text we now call The Hermaphrodite, did she consult Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary for a definition? If she had, she would have found an unsurprising entry with an intriguing conclusion: “Hermaphrodite: An animal uniting two sexes. ...

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5. Howe's Hermaphrodite and Alcott's "Mephistopheles": Unpublished Cross-Gender Thinking

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pp. 108-119

That two of the foremost icons of nineteenth-century womanhood wrote novels dealing with such gender-bending themes as a female Faust, a hermaphrodite, female power, cross-dressing, and gender questioning is not something that their contemporaries—or readers for decades afterward—would have suspected. ...

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6. "The Cruelest Enemy of Beauty": Sand's Gabriel, Howe's Laurence

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pp. 120-137

Writers for most U.S. periodicals in the 1830s and ’40s—the years in which the novels of Balzac, Eugène Sue, Paul de Kock, and preeminently George Sand began to be noticed—regarded French writing as Satanic. Representative is a reviewer for Horace Greeley’s New-Yorker in 1836, provoked by Victor Hugo’s Lucretia Borgia: ...

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7. The Consummate Hermaphrodite

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pp. 138-156

In chapter 16 of The Hermaphrodite, Julia Ward Howe describes what looks like an attempted rape. Laurence is the eponymous “hermaphrodite” in this unfinished and, until 2004, unpublished novel, which Howe wrote in the 1840s. Laurence has been allowing himself to be understood as male in his capacity as tutor to Ronald, a young nobleman. ...

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8. Cold Stone: Sex and Sculpture in The Hermaphrodite

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pp. 157-185

In a very strange letter, Charles Sumner announced that his bosom friend Samuel Howe wanted to marry Julia Ward. As Sumner put it, Howe, “as Presid’t of the Phrenological Soc., . . . would like to have her head in their collection—perhaps I might . . . [add] that he would like it for his private cabinet” (quoted in Williams, HH 47). ...

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9. Spiritualized Bodies and Posthuman Possibilities: Technologies of Intimacy in The Hermaphrodite

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pp. 186-214

In his 1768 exposition, Conjugial Love, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688– 1772) sketches the prospect of heavenly marriage, detailing an extended quest for monogamous union in the afterlife.1 Swedenborg theorizes that husbands and wives meet again after death to test the staying power of their earthly bonds. ...

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10. Unrealized: The Queer Time of The Hermaphrodite

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pp. 215-241

A few pages into Julia Ward Howe’s The Hermaphrodite, the novel’s ambiguously sexed narrator, Laurence, reflects on what he terms the “negative happiness of early youth.” In retrospect, he observes, childhood appears to us “happy and golden,” but we experience it otherwise as we live it: ...

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Afterword: Howe Now?

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pp. 242-252

Now that Julia Ward Howe’s Hermaphrodite has been recovered, how should we reread the words for which she became famous, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”? What, in turn, is the legacy of Howe’s writing, across genres, for contemporary America? ...

Works Cited

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pp. 253-263


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pp. 264-265


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pp. 266-274

Back Cover

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p. 286-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270240
E-ISBN-10: 0814270247
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211892
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211895

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2012