This essay uses selected works of Washington Irving and Ralph Waldo Emerson to delineate two different privacies. The first privacy is associated with secreted spaces, whether physical or personal, and is one that has been normalized. The other privacy is under-appreciated and far less understood: it is an unpredictable, speculative flight of what Irving calls “fancy.” The essay argues that each privacy comes with a distinct set of consequences. If we choose to associate privacy with secreted spaces, we ourselves become like texts, able to be read, and we then associate with others as if they can be read as well. If our privacy is “fanciful,” in contrast, we balance the pleasures of being alone with those of being with others. In the end, the essay hopes to dissociate privacy (or a version of it) from privation, and to offer it as a positive, cultural concept. In doing so, it aligns itself with recent explorations of privacy in the context of nineteenth-century American literature.
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