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 nineteenth-century 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.

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