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Sex and the City: Cecil Dreeme and the Antebellum Sex/Gender System

Sex and the City: Cecil Dreeme and the Antebellum Sex/Gender System

Chapter:
(p.57) Three Sex and the City: Cecil Dreeme and the Antebellum Sex/Gender System
Source:
Manly Love
Author(s):
Axel Nissen
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226586687.003.0004

This chapter focuses on a long-forgotten novel by the Civil War hero and largely posthumous author, Theodore Winthrop. His urban exposé Cecil Dreeme (1861) provides a fascinating gateway into antebellum American social life and particularly the gothic “darks and shadows” of the mid-nineteenth-century sexual imagination. Winthrop's novel is the most revealing of the interaction between sexual ideology and individual consciousness. It is also a paradigmatic example of romantic friendship fiction: one can find here the cataclysmic first meeting, the testing of the bond, the element of heroism, the mutuality and complementarity of the union, the intimacy and sympathy of the relationship, and so on. All told, it is difficult to imagine a text that demonstrates the workings of fraternal feeling on more levels and in a wider variety of ways than does Cecil Dreeme. In its publishing history, and in its characters, plot, and symbolism, Cecil Dreeme is the ultimate fiction of romantic friendship.

Keywords:   romantic friendship, Theodore Winthrop, Cecil Dreeme, antebellum sex, sexual imagination, gender system

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