How might issues of desire, trauma, and memory have been understood before the cultural primacy of psychoanalytic discourse? This essay argues that Walt Whitman’s war writing in Specimen Days and Drum- Taps offers an alternative landscape for the psyche, one quite distinct from the psychoanalytic emphasis on interiority, privacy, and the priority of the past over the present. In these texts, Whitman’s solution to the devastation of the war is grounded in idiosyncratic notions of desire and forgetting, which are characterized by the immediacy of physical contact and an externalized collectivity that knits bodies together. This vision of psychic life is distinct from early twentieth-century Freudian treatments of sexuality, trauma, and repression; it also presents an alternative way to think about the work of the death drive in contemporary psychoanalytic queer theory.


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pp. 85-109
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