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The Reverend George Whitefield (1714–1770) may have been the first person to write, print, and sell an autobiographical narrative naming and describing Onanistic practice and inclination. This chapter uses book history, performance studies, and literary histories of sexuality to consider Whitefield’s contributions to Onanism’s public sphere development as a prototype of sexuality or sexual personhood. It reads a series of 1739–41 editions of Whitefield’s narrative—including his original rough manuscript, the London print edition, and the best-selling colonial American print editions—alongside earlier sermons, diaries, and extracts. By incorporating Onanism and theatricality into Protestant print confessional traditions thematizing relapse and authorizing penitential publicity, Whitefield developed himself as a “sexual character” for whom individual bodily acts, including Onanism, writing, and publishing, were spiritually and socially significant performances.

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