A familiar refrain in U.S. history, “leave me alone” has long been the preferred locution with which one affirms one's right to privacy. Insko's essay investigates a conceptual incoherence at the heart of the various, incompatible definitions and applications of the right to privacy in U.S. history by describing a persistent and paradoxical U.S. cultural logic: the logic of left alone. The essay argues that James Fenimore Cooper's 1823 novel The Pioneers contributes to an inchoate discourse of privacy rights, the contours of which continue to define present-day understandings of the relations between privacy and personhood, as inscribed by the recent Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas and the military's “don't ask, don't tell” policy. Rather than tracking the curve along which U.S. notions of privacy transformed during the antebellum period and after, Insko's essay explores the extent to which the often-contradictory coordinates that delineate this curve animate modern philosophical and legal conceptions of privacy in the same ways they animate The Pioneers—a novel that presciently narrates the fraught conditions of the right to privacy in U.S. history.
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Jeffrey Insko; The Logic of Left Alone: The Pioneers and the Conditions of U.S. Privacy. American Literature 1 December 2009; 81 (4): 659–685. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2009-042
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