"Nudity and other sensitive states": Counterprivacy in Herman Melville’s Fiction

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This essay advances a theory of the "counterprivate" elucidated through Herman Melville's fiction. Echoing the term counterpublic, which has done much to critique the notion of the unified public sphere, a new theory of the "counterprivate" can open out to alternative visions of privacy, a proliferation of competing and resistant modes that cannot be reducible to the domestic or the political. I situate Melville's Typee and Pierre within an emergent nineteenthcentury discourse of privacy, still prevalent today, in which one's private life operates to develop and display one's adherence to conventional public morality. Melville's fiction shows us how privacy became a language of morality across the nineteenth century while at the same time imagining various counterprivate forms that resist entanglement with domesticity, property, and liberal individualism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-726
Number of pages30
JournalAmerican Literature
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Bodies
  • Herman Melville
  • Privacy
  • Secular studies
  • Temporalities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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