This book aims to offer a better understanding of representations of love between men in the nineteenth-century United States. To do so, it places the text in a wider cultural and historical context that not only includes the various forms and understandings of male same-sex love and desire, but also considers cross-sex romantic relations inside and outside marriage. In its attempt to treat literature as history and history as literature, the book joins an increasing number of new historicist studies that take literary texts as a starting point for explorations of broader cultural themes. These studies differ on the whole from an older historicism in their increased awareness of history as a narrative constructed along some of the same lines as purportedly more imaginative literature. To the extent that Manly Love is interested in human beings rather than in their ideas, the book focuses primarily on the native-born, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, northeastern, middle- and upper-class segment of the American population.
Keywords: same-sex love, cross-sex relations, American population, nineteenth century, literary texts, cultural theme