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In a diary kept by Michael Wigglesworth, including when he was a tutor at Harvard, between 1653 and 1657, he used a particular shorthand method to encrypt certain matters: his agonized reflections on his erotic dreams and nocturnal emissions, as well as what he believed to be his excessive fondness for his male students. Scholars have frequently assumed that these two encrypted matters must be related to one another, i.e., that Wigglesworth’s dreams must have been homoerotic in nature. This assumption is reasonable, but it is an assumption; Wigglesworth does not record the actual content of his “filthy” dreams. Employing approaches borrowed from queer studies, material textual studies, and medical/health humanities, this essay investigates the nexus of Wigglesworth’s particular orthography, his reflections on his sexual “distemper,” as he called it, and his medicalization of his dreams and seminal emissions.

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