The Afterlives of Specimens explores the space between science and sentiment, the historical moment when the human cadaver became both lost love object and subject of anatomical violence. Walt Whitman witnessed rapid changes in relations between the living and the dead. In the space of a few decades, dissection evolved from a posthumous punishment inflicted on criminals to an element of preservationist technology worthy of the presidential corpse of Abraham Lincoln. Whitman transitioned from a fervent opponent of medical bodysnatching to a literary celebrity who left behind instructions for his own autopsy, including the removal of his brain for scientific study.
Grounded in archival discoveries, Afterlives traces the origins of nineteenth-century America’s preservation compulsion, illuminating the influences of botanical, medical, spiritualist, and sentimental discourses on Whitman’s work. Tuggle unveils previously unrecognized connections between Whitman and the leading “medical men” of his era, such as the surgeon John H. Brinton, founding curator of the Army Medical Museum, and Silas Weir Mitchell, the neurologist who discovered phantom limb syndrome. Remains from several amputee soldiers whom Whitman nursed in the Washington hospitals became specimens in the Army Medical Museum.
Tuggle is the first scholar to analyze Whitman’s role in medically memorializing the human cadaver and its abandoned parts.
To 21st century readers, 19th century depictions of death look macabre if not maudlin—the mourning portraits and quilts, the postmortem daguerreotypes, and the memorial jewelry now hopelessly, if not morbidly, distressing. Yet this sentimental culture of mourning and memorializing provided opportunities to the bereaved to assert deeply held beliefs, forge social connections, and advocate for social and political change. This culture also permeated the literature of the day, especially the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman. In Communities of Death, Adam C. Bradford explores the ways in which the ideas, rituals, and practices of mourning were central to the work of both authors.
While both Poe and Whitman were heavily influenced by the mourning culture of their time, their use of it differed. Poe focused on the tendency of mourners to cling to anything that could remind them of their lost loved ones; Whitman focused not on the mourner but on the soul’s immortality, positing an inevitable reunion. Yet Whitman repeatedly testified that Poe’s Gothic and macabre literature played a central role in spurring him to produce the transcendent Leaves of Grass.
By unveiling a heretofore marginalized literary relationship between Poe and Whitman, Bradford rewrites our understanding of these authors and suggests a more intimate relationship among sentimentalism, romanticism, and transcendentalism than has previously been recognized. Bradford’s insights into the culture and lives of Poe and Whitman will change readers’ understanding of both literary icons.
It is now difficult to imagine that, in the years before Whitman's death in 1892, there was real doubt in the minds of Whitman and his literary circle whether Leaves of Grass would achieve lasting fame. Much of the critical commentary in the first decade after his burial in Camden was as negative as that in Boston's Christian Register, which spoke of Whitman as someone who “succeeded in writing a mass of trash without form, rhythm, or vitality.”That the balance finally tipped toward admiration, culminating in Whitman's acceptance into the literary canon, was due substantially to the unflagging labor of Horace Traubel, famous for his nine volumes of Whitman conversations but less well known for his provocative monthly journal of socialist politics and avant-garde culture, the Conservator.Conserving Walt Whitman's Fame offers a generous selection from the enormous trove of Whitman-related materials that Traubel included in the 352 issues of the Conservator. Among the revelatory, perceptive, and often entertaining items presented here are the most illuminating of the Conservator's more than 150 topical essays on Whitman and memoirs by many of his friends and literary cohorts that shed new light on the poet, his work, and his critical reception. Also important is the richer understanding these pages afford of Horace Traubel's own sophisticated, deeply humane, and feisty views of America.
Of all American poets, Whitman remains the single most challenging figure. Protean and elusive, Whitman is everywhere and nowhere at once. An unavoidable presence, he still arouses anger, envy, love, and debate one hundred years after his death. To honor his anniversary, Robert Martin has invited the most invigorating and innovative of Whitman’s new readers and critics to respond not to Whitman’s death but to his continuing life as it has marked their own lives and writings. The eighteen essays gathered in this volume testify to the powerful multiple responses that Whitman continues to evoke. They recreate another Whitman perhaps more real than the one we thought we knew.
The “continuing presence” that Whitman’s readers have created is as diverse as those readers themselves. But he is, as he promised, everywhere: “Missing me one place search another / I stop somewhere waiting for you.” The central figure of American poetic history, he has been a formative presence in the work of black writers in America and Europe, in the development of women’s poetry that has learned from him to celebrate the body, and of course in the emergence of the gay literary tradition, all of which can be linked to movements of political change. Whitman helped make it possible to be a black poet, a female poet, or a gay poet, partly because he saw himself not as a model but as an enabler. He still continues to challenge our assessment of our sexuality and the ways we organize it. Martin’s collection is particularly strong on the investigation of Whitman’s homosexuality, his homotexuality, and his influence on gay writers and will clearly become the most aggregative gathering of essays ever published on this increasingly prominent aspect of Whitman and his work.
The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman seeks to be an intervention and not merely a reflection; it is intended to illuminate a response that continues to take place, a constant invention and reinvention, a writing and rewriting that echo Whitman’s own text of Leaves of Grass. Whitman remains an originating force. Once read, he will not go away.
In A Democratic Enlightenment Morton Schoolman proposes aesthetic education through film as a way to redress the political violence inflicted on difference that society constructs as its racialized, gendered, Semitic, and sexualized other. Drawing on Voltaire, Diderot, and Schiller, Schoolman reconstructs the genealogical history of what he calls the reconciliation image—a visual model of a democratic ideal of reconciliation he then theorizes through Whitman's prose and poetry and Adorno's aesthetic theory. Analyzing The Help (2011) and Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Schoolman shows how film produces a more advanced image of reconciliation than those originally created by modernist artworks. Each film depicts violence toward racial and ethnic difference while also displaying a reconciliation image that aesthetically educates the public about how the violence of constructing difference as otherness can be overcome. Mounting a democratic enlightenment, the reconciliation image in film illuminates a possible politics for challenging the rise of nationalism's violence toward differences in all their diversity.
Written in the aftermath of the American Civil War during the ferment of national Reconstruction, Walt Whitman’s Democratic Vistas remains one of the most penetrating analyses of democracy ever written. Diagnosing democracy’s failures as well as laying out its vast possibilities, Whitman offers an unflinching assessment of the ongoing social experiment known as the United States. Now available for the first time in a facsimile of the original 1870–1871 edition, with an introduction and annotations by noted Whitman scholar Ed Folsom that illuminate the essay’s historical and cultural contexts, this searing analysis of American culture offers readers today the opportunity to argue with Whitman over the nature of democracy and the future of the nation.
Living in Washington, D.C., where Congress granted male African Americans the right to vote nearly five years before the fifteenth amendment extended that right across the nation, and working for the office charged with enforcing the new civil rights amendments to the Constitution, Whitman was at the volatile center of his nation’s massive attempt to reconstruct and redefine itself after the tumultuous years of civil war. In the enduring cultural document that Democratic Vistas has become, the great poet of democracy analyzes the role that literature plays in the development of a culture, the inevitable tensions between the “democratic individual” and the “democratic nationality,” and the corrosive effects of materialism on the democratic spirit.
His own conflicting racial biases notwithstanding, Whitman in Democratic Vistas offers his most eloquent and extended articulation of the beckoning American democratic future. At a time when the nation has elected a president whom Whitman could never have imagined, his controversial and provocativebook is a timely reminder of those occasions when we experience the expansion of America’s democratic dream.
Walt Whitman wrote three distinct editions of Leaves of Grass before the Civil War. During those years he was passionately committed to party anti-slavery, and his unpublished tract The Eighteenth Presidency shows that he was fully attuned to the kind of rhetoric coming out of the new Republican party. This study explores how the prophecies of the pre–war Leaves of Grass relate to the prophecy of this new party. It seeks not only to ground Whitman’s work in this context but also to bring out features of party discourse that make it relevant to literary and cultural studies.
Anti-slavery party discourse set itself the task of curing an ailing people who had grown compliant, inert, and numb; it fashioned a complete fictional world where the people could be reactivated into assuming their true role in the republic. Both as a cause and a result of this rejuvenation, they would come into their own and spread their energies over the land and over the body politic, thereby rescuing their country at the last minute from what would otherwise be the permanent dominion of slavery. Party discourse had long hinged its success on such magical transformations of the people individually and collectively, and Whitman’s celebrations of his nation’s potential need to be seen in this context: like his party, Whitman calls on the people to reject their own subordination and take command of the future, and redeem themselves as they also redeem the nation.
We live in an era defined by a sense of separation, even in the midst of networked connectivity. As cultural climates sour and divisive political structures spread, we are left wondering about our ties to each other. Consequently, there is no better time than now to reconsider ideas of unity.
In The Ethics of Oneness, Jeremy David Engels reads the Bhagavad Gita alongside the works of American thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. Drawing on this rich combination of traditions, Engels presents the notion that individuals are fundamentally interconnected in their shared divinity. In other words, everything is one. If the lessons of oneness are taken to heart, particularly as they were expressed and celebrated by Whitman, and the ethical challenges of oneness considered seriously, Engels thinks it is possible to counter the pervasive and problematic American ideals of hierarchy, exclusion, violence, and domination.
Some of the dimmest years in Walt Whitman’s life precede the advent of Leaves of Grass in 1855, when he was working as a journalist and fiction writer. Starting around 1850, what he’d begun writing in his personal notebooks was far more enigmatic than anything he’d done before.
One of Whitman’s most secretive projects during this timeframe was a novel, Life and Adventures of Jack Engle; serialized anonymously in the spring of 1852, and rediscovered and properly published in 2017. The key to the novel’s later discovery were plot notes Whitman had made in one of his private notebooks.
Whitman’s invaluable notebooks have been virtually inaccessible to the public, until now. Maintaining the early notebooks’ wild, syncretic feel and sample illustrations of Whitman’s beautiful and unkempt pages, scholars Zachary Turpin and Matt Miller’s thorough transcriptions have made these notebooks available to all; sharing Whitman’s secret space for developing his poetry, his writing, his philosophy, and himself.
Now, nearly forty years after its original translation into English, Roger Asselineau's complete and magisterial biography of Walt Whitman will remind readers of the complex weave of traditions in Whitman scholarship. It is startling to recognize how much of our current understanding of Whitman was already articulated by Asselineau nearly half a century ago. Throughout its eight hundred pages, The Evolution of Walt Whitman speaks with authority on a vast range of topics that define both Whitman the man and Whitman the mythical personage. Remarkably, most of these discussions remain fresh and relevant, and that is in part because they have been so influential.
In particular, The Evolution of Walt Whitman inaugurated the study of Leaves of Grass as a lifelong work in progress, and it marked the end of the habit of talking about Leaves as if it were a single unified book. Asselineau saw Whitman's poetry “not as a body of static data but as a constantly changing continuum whose evolution must be carefully observed.” Throughout Evolution, Asselineau placed himself in the role of the observer, analyzing Whitman's development with a kind of scientific detachment. But behind this objective persona burned the soul of a risk taker who was willing to rewrite Whitman studies by bravely proposing what was then a controversial biographical source for Whitman's art—his homosexual desires.
The Evolution of Walt Whitman is a reminder that extraordinary works of criticism never exist in and of themselves. In this expanded edition, Roger Asselineau has provided a new essay summarizing his own continuing journey with Whitman. A foreword by Ed Folsom, editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly, regards Evolution as the genesis of contemporary Whitman studies.
In influx & efflux Jane Bennett pursues a question that was bracketed in her book Vibrant Matter: how to think about human agency in a world teeming with powerful nonhuman influences? “Influx & efflux”—a phrase borrowed from Whitman's "Song of Myself"—refers to everyday movements whereby outside influences enter bodies, infuse and confuse their organization, and then exit, themselves having been transformed into something new. How to describe the human efforts involved in that process? What kinds of “I” and “we” can live well and act effectively in a world of so many other lively materialities? Drawing upon Whitman, Thoreau, Caillois, Whitehead, and other poetic writers, Bennett links a nonanthropocentric model of self to a radically egalitarian pluralism and also to a syntax and style of writing appropriate to the entangled world in which we live. The book tries to enact the uncanny process by which we “write up” influences that pervade, enable, and disrupt us.
In March 1888 Horace Traubel, Whitman's loyal and hardworking assistant, began to record his almost daily conversations with the most famous resident of Camden. The result: more than 1,900,000 words that were eventually published between 1906 and 1996 in nine volumes. Titled With Walt Whitman in Camden, these volumes contain much that is mundane and repetitive, but they also include many passages crucial for a full and humane understanding of America's first great national poet.
In Intimate with Walt Gary Schmidgall has condensed Traubel's nearly 5,000 pages into one manageable volume featuring the many self-revealing, humorous, nostalgic, and often curmudgeonly words of the Good Gray Poet. The book is divided into five sections, each consisting of several chapters: the first, presenting Walt on himself, his family, and his daily life and visitors at the only home he ever owned; the second, on his artistic credos, the literary life, and a large array of comments on the writing, publication of, and critical reaction to Leaves of Grass; the third, focusing on his friends, admirers, idols, and lovers; the fourth and longest, presenting his no-holds-barred views on a variety of topics, including the American scene, race, religion, music, and even alcohol; and finally, a gathering of passages revealing Whitman's struggles with his infirmities, his poignant final days, and Traubel's observations on Whitman's deathbed scene and burial rites.
Whitman was the great poet of autobiography, and with this volume we gain entry into a most remarkable life in his own words. Whimsical and highly entertaining, poignant and moving, illuminating and candid, Intimate with Walt makes accessible the most amazing oral history project in all of American letters.
This book is the first to offer a comprehensive selection of Walt Whitman’s Civil War poetry and prose with a full commentary on each work. Ed Folsom and Christopher Merrill carry on a dialogue with Whitman (and with each other) as they invite readers to trace how Whitman’s writing about the Civil War develops, shifts, and manifests itself in different genres throughout the years of the war. The book offers forty selections of Whitman’s war writings, including not only the well-known war poems but also his prose and personal letters. Each are followed by Folsom’s critical examination and then by Merrill’s afterword, suggesting broader contexts for thinking about the selection.
The real democratic reader, Whitman said, “must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay—the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work,” because what is needed for democracy to flourish is “a nation of supple and athletic minds.” Folsom and Merrill model this kind of active reading and encourage both seasoned and new readers of Whitman’s war writings to enter into the challenging and exhilarating mode of talking back to Whitman, arguing with him, and learning from him.
"Amid gloomy forecasts of the decline of the humanities and the death of poetry, Angus Fletcher, a wise and dedicated literary voice, sounds a note of powerful, tempered optimism. He lays out a fresh approach to American poetry at large, the first in several decades, expounding a defense of the art that will resonate well into the new century.
Breaking with the tired habit of treating American poets as the happy or rebellious children of European romanticism, Fletcher uncovers a distinct lineage for American poetry. His point of departure is the fascinating English writer, John Clare; he then centers on the radically American vision expressed by Emerson and Walt Whitman. With Whitman this book insists that ""the whole theory and nature of poetry"" needs inspiration from science if it is to achieve a truly democratic vista. Drawing variously on Complexity Theory and on fundamentals of art and grammar, Fletcher argues that our finest poetry is nature-based, environmentally shaped, and descriptive in aim, enabling poets like John Ashbery and other contemporaries to discover a mysterious pragmatism.
Intense, resonant, and deeply literary, this account of an American poetics shows how today's consumerist and conformist culture subverts the imagination of a free people. While centering on American vision, the argument extends our horizon, striking a blow against all economically sanctioned attacks upon the finer, stronger human capacities. Poetry, the author maintains, is central to any coherent vision of life. "
As New York and Paris began to modernize, new modes of entertainment, such as panoramas, dioramas, and photography, seemed poised to take the place of the more complex forms of literary expression. Dioramas and photography were invented in Paris but soon spread to America, forming part of an increasingly universal idiom of the spectacle. This brave new world of technologically advanced but crudely mimetic spectacles haunts both Whitman's vision of New York and Baudelaire's view of Paris. In New York-Paris, Katsaros explores the images of the mid-nineteenth-century city in the poetry of both Whitman and Baudelaire and seeks to demonstrate that, by projecting an image of the other's city onto his own, each poet tried to resist the apparently irresistible forward momentum of modernity rather than create a paradigmatically happy mixture of "high" and "low" culture.
Walt Whitman, a world-renowned poet and the father of American free verse, is read by diverse audiences around the world. Literary and cultural scholars have studied Whitman’s interaction with and influence in social, political, and literary movements of different countries. Despite his work’s continuing presence in Iran, Whitman’s reception in this country has remained unexplored, and, particularly due to contemporary political circumstances, Iranian reception of Western literature is a field still under-researched. The Persian Whitman examines Whitman’s reception in Iran and explores a new phenomenon born in dialogue between the Persian culture and the American poet.
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are widely acknowledged as two of America’s foremost nature poets, primarily due to their explorations of natural phenomena as evocative symbols for cultural developments, individual experiences, and poetry itself. Yet for all their metaphorical suggestiveness, Dickinson’s and Whitman’s poems about the natural world neither preclude nor erase nature’s relevance as an actual living environment. In their respective poetic projects, the earth matters both figuratively, as a realm of the imagination, and also as the physical ground that is profoundly affected by human action. This double perspective, and the ways in which it intersects with their formal innovations, points beyond their traditional status as curiously disparate icons of American nature poetry. That both of them not only approach nature as an important subject in its own right, but also address human-nature relationships in ethical terms, invests their work with important environmental overtones.
Dickinson and Whitman developed their environmentally suggestive poetics at roughly the same historical moment, at a time when a major shift was occurring in American culture’s view and understanding of the natural world. Just as they were achieving poetic maturity, the dominant view of wilderness was beginning to shift from obstacle or exploitable resource to an endangered treasure in need of conservation and preservation.
A Place for Humility examines Dickinson’s and Whitman’s poetry in conjunction with this important change in American environmental perception, exploring the links between their poetic projects within the context of developing nineteenth-century environmental thought. Christine Gerhardt argues that each author's poetry participates in this shift in different but related ways, and that their involvement with their culture’s growing environmental sensibilities constitutes an important connection between their disparate poetic projects. There may be few direct links between Dickinson’s “letter to the World” and Whitman’s “language experiment,” but via a web of environmentally-oriented discourses, their poetry engages in a cultural conversation about the natural world and the possibilities and limitations of writing about it—a conversation in which their thematic and formal choices meet on a surprising number of levels.
Poetry has often been considered an irrational genre, more expressive than logical, more meditative than given to coherent argument. And yet, in each of the four very different poets she considers here, Helen Vendler reveals a style of thinking in operation; although they may prefer different means, she argues, all poets of any value are thinkers.
The four poets taken up in this volume--Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Butler Yeats--come from three centuries and three nations, and their styles of thinking are characteristically idiosyncratic. Vendler shows us Pope performing as a satiric miniaturizer, remaking in verse the form of the essay, Whitman writing as a poet of repetitive insistence for whom thinking must be followed by rethinking, Dickinson experimenting with plot to characterize life's unfolding, and Yeats thinking in images, using montage in lieu of argument.
With customary lucidity and spirit, Vendler traces through these poets' lines to find evidence of thought in lyric, the silent stylistic measures representing changes of mind, the condensed power of poetic thinking. Her work argues against the reduction of poetry to its (frequently well-worn) themes and demonstrates, instead, that there is always in admirable poetry a strenuous process of thinking, evident in an evolving style--however ancient the theme--that is powerful and original.
In this surprisingly timely book, Stephen Mack examines Whitman’s particular and fascinating brand of patriotism: his far-reaching vision of democracy. For Whitman, loyalty to America was loyalty to democracy. Since the idea that democracy is not just a political process but a social and cultural process as well is associated with American pragmatism, Mack relies on the pragmatic tradition of Emerson, James, Dewey, Mead, and Rorty to demonstrate the ways in which Whitman resides in this tradition.
Mack analyzes Whitman's democratic vision both in its parts and as a whole; he also describes the ways in which Whitman's vision evolved throughout his career. He argues that Whitman initially viewed democratic values such as individual liberty and democratic processes such as collective decision-making as fundamental, organic principles, free and unregulated. But throughout the 1860s and 1870s Whitman came to realize that democracy entailed processes of human agency that are more deliberate and less natural—that human destiny is largely the product of human effort, and a truly humane society can be shaped only by intelligent human efforts to govern the forces that would otherwise govern us.
Mack describes the foundation of Whitman’s democracy as found in the 1855 and 1856 editions of Leaves of Grass, examines the ways in which Whitman’s 1859 sexual crisis and the Civil War transformed his democratic poetics in “Sea-Drift,” “Calamus,” Drum-Taps,and Sequel to Drum-Taps, and explores Whitman’s mature vision in Democratic Vistas, concluding with observations on its moral and political implications today. Throughout, he illuminates Whitman's great achievement—learning that a full appreciation for the complexities of human life meant understanding that liberty can take many different and conflicting forms—and allows us to contemplate the relevance of that achievement at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Proofs of Genius: Collected Editions from the American Revolution to the Digital Age is the first extensive study of the collected edition as an editorial genre within American literary history. Unlike editions of an author’s “selected works” or thematic anthologies, which clearly indicate the presence of non-authorial editorial intervention, collected editions have typically been arranged to imply an unmediated documentary completeness. By design, the collected edition obscures its own role in shaping the cultural reception of the author.
In Proofs of Genius, Amanda Gailey argues that decisions to re-edit major authorial corpora are acts of canon-formation in miniature that indicate more foundational shifts in the way a culture views its literature and itself. By combining a theoretically-informed approach with a broad historical view of collected editions from the late eighteenth century to the present (including the rise of digital editions), Gailey fills a gap in the textual scholarship of the editing history of major figures like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and of the American literary canon itself.
Challenging the standard periodization of American literary history, Reconstituting the American Renaissance reinterprets the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman and the relationship of these two authors to each other. Jay Grossman argues that issues of political representation—involving vexed questions of who shall speak and for whom—lie at the heart of American political and literary discourse from the revolutionary era through the Civil War. By taking the mid-nineteenth-century period, traditionally understood as marking the advent of literary writing in the United States, and restoring to it the ways in which Emerson and Whitman engaged with eighteenth-century controversies, rhetorics, and languages about political representation, Grossman departs significantly from arguments that have traditionally separated American writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Reconstituting the American Renaissance describes how Emerson and Whitman came into the period of their greatest productivity with different conceptions of the functions and political efficacy of the word in the world. It challenges Emerson’s position as Whitman’s necessary precursor and offers a cultural history that emphasizes the two writers’ differences in social class, cultural experience, and political perspective. In their writings between 1830 and 1855, the book finds contrasting conceptions of the relations between the “representative man” and the constituencies to whom, and for whom, he speaks. Reconstituting the American Renaissance opens up the canonical relationship between Emerson and Whitman and multiplies the historical and discursive contexts for understanding their published and unpublished works.
There has never been an edition of the selected letters of Walt Whitman, a remarkable fact considering how accustomed we are to becoming acquainted with major writers through their letters. Now Edwin Haviland Miller, editor of the six-volume collected writings of Whitman, has used his intimate knowledge of the "good gray poet's" correspondence to produce this revealing selection of 250 letters, introduced and annotated concisely and evocatively. Whitman in these letters is simple, direct, colloquial, adding a counterpoint to his artistic voice and persona as a poet.
Explores Whitman’s intimate and lifelong concern with mortality and his troubled speculations about the afterlife.
Walt Whitman is unquestionably a great poet of the joys of living. But, as Harold Aspiz demonstrates in this study, concerns with death and dying define Whitman’s career as thinker, poet, and person. Through a close reading of Leaves of Grass, its constituent poems, particularly “Song of Myself,” and Whitman’s prose and letters, Aspiz charts how the poet’s exuberant celebration of life--the cascade of sounds, sights, and smells that erupt in his verse--is a consequence of his central concern: the ever-presence of death and the prospect of an afterlife.
So Long! devotes particular attention to Whitman’s language and rich artistry in the context of the poet’s social and intellectual milieus. We see Whitman (and his many personae) as a folk prophet announcing a gospel of democracy and immortality; pondering death in alternating moods of acceptance and terror; fantasizing his own dying and his postmortem selfhood; yearning for mates and lovers while conscious of mordant flesh; agonizing over the omnipresence of death in wartime; patiently awaiting death; and launching imaginary journeys toward immortality and godhood.
By exploring Whitman’s faith in death as a meaningful experience, we may understand better how the poet--whether personified as representative man, victim, hero, lover, or visionary--lived so completely on the edge of life.
Harold Aspiz is Professor of English Emeritus at California State University, Long Beach, and author of Walt Whitman and the Body Beautiful.
This book offers the most comprehensive and detailed reading to date of Song of Myself. One of the most distinguished critics in Whitman Studies, Ed Folsom, and one of the nation’s most prominent writers and literary figures, Christopher Merrill, carry on a dialog with Whitman, and with each other, section by section, as they invite readers to enter into the conversation about how the poem develops, moves, improvises, and surprises. Instead of picking and choosing particular passages to support a reading of the poem, Folsom and Merrill take Whitman at his word and interact with “every atom” of his work. The book presents Whitman’s final version of the poem, arranged in fifty-two sections; each section is followed by Folsom’s detailed critical examination of the passage, and then Merrill offers a poet’s perspective, suggesting broader contexts for thinking about both the passage in question and the entire poem.
In the midst of a crisis of democracy, we have much to learn from Walt Whitman’s journey toward egalitarian selfhood.
Walt Whitman knew a great deal about democracy that we don’t. Most of that knowledge is concentrated in one stunning poem, Song of Myself.
Esteemed cultural and literary thinker Mark Edmundson offers a bold reading of the 1855 poem, included here in its entirety. He finds in the poem the genesis and development of a democratic spirit, for the individual and the nation. Whitman broke from past literature that he saw as “feudal”: obsessed with the noble and great. He wanted instead to celebrate the common and everyday. Song of Myself does this, setting the terms for democratic identity and culture in America. The work captures the drama of becoming an egalitarian individual, as the poet ascends to knowledge and happiness by confronting and overcoming the major obstacles to democratic selfhood. In the course of his journey, the poet addresses God and Jesus, body and soul, the love of kings, the fear of the poor, and the fear of death. The poet’s consciousness enlarges; he can see more, comprehend more, and he has more to teach.
In Edmundson’s account, Whitman’s great poem does not end with its last line. Seven years after the poem was published, Whitman went to work in hospitals, where he attended to the Civil War’s wounded, sick, and dying. He thus became in life the democratic individual he had prophesied in art. Even now, that prophecy gives us words, thoughts, and feelings to feed the democratic spirit of self and nation.
"The Stamp of Class addresses an important area that has not received sufficient attention. Lenhart directly confronts and deeply analyzes these questions while offering readers his clear, informative discussion."
The Stamp of Class explores the nature of reading poetry in the context of class and its themes and sheds new light on how this important yet little-heralded subject affects the poet's life and work.
While numerous works have taken up the question of race and gender as they relate to literary creation, this is the first book of its kind to probe the interplay between class and American poetry. Author Gary Lenhart considers poetry and class across a wide variety of time periods and poetic trends and reflects on a range of influential poets from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries.
The essays in The Stamp of Class deal with the question of class as reflected in the works of Tracie Morris, Tillie Olsen, Melvin Tolson, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, and others. The work is rooted in the author's own experiences as a working-class poet and teacher and is the result of more than a decade of exploration.
Poet and scholar Gary Lenhart is Lecturer in English at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. His most recent books of poetry are Father and Son Night, Light Heart, and One at a Time. His essays and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including the American Poetry Review, American Book Review, and Exquisite Corpse.
Focusing on actual publications by Whitman rather than those about him, Joel Myerson’s painstakingly compiled supplement to his 1993 Walt Whitman: A Descriptive Bibliography (Oak Knoll, ISBN 0-82293-739-5) includes almost twenty years of newly discovered and updated materials that will be invaluable to Whitman scholars. The entries describe in detail the various forms of Whitman’s books, newspaper articles, broadsheets, reprints, translations, and so on. Myerson includes facsimiles of title pages as well as information on pagination, illustrations, dimensions, contents, publication history, typography, paper, binding, and dust jackets.
The sections incorporate the following: all books and pamphlets written wholly by Whitman through 1892, the year of his death, and all editions and reprintings in English through 2009; all collected editions of Whitman’s writings through 2009; all miscellaneous collections of his writings through 2009; all books in which material by Whitman appears for the first time; all first American and English publications in newspapers and magazines of material by Whitman through 2009; all proof copies as well as circulars and broadsides of his poetry and prose published during his lifetime; prose and poetry by Whitman reprinted in books and pamphlets through 1892; separate publications of individual poems and prose works through 2009; and references to possible publications by Whitman that are not dealt with elsewhere in the bibliography. The volume is thoroughly indexed.
Based on evidence gathered from personal inspection of multiple copies of Whitman’s works in American, Canadian, British, and New Zealand libraries, Myerson’s Supplement exemplifies the highest standards of bibliographic research.
This is the first book exclusively devoted to the Civil War writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, arguably the most important poets of the war. The essays brought together in this volume add significantly to recent critical appreciation of the skill and sophistication of these poets; growing recognition of the complexity of their views of the war; and heightened appreciation for the anxieties they harbored about its aftermath. Both in the ways they come together and seem mutually influenced, and in the ways they disagree, Whitman and Melville grapple with the casualties, complications, and anxieties of the war while highlighting its irresolution. This collection makes clear that rather than simply and straightforwardly memorializing the events of the war, the poetry of Whitman and Melville weighs carefully all sorts of vexing questions and considerations, even as it engages a cultural politics that is never pat.
Contributors: Kyle Barton, Peter Bellis, Adam Bradford, Jonathan A. Cook, Ian Faith, Ed Folsom, Timothy Marr, Cody Marrs, Christopher Ohge, Vanessa Steinroetter, Sarah L. Thwaites, Brian Yothers
In this series of textual readings and cultural comparisons, M. Wynn Thomas explores Whitman’s amazing ability to appeal across distances and centuries.
The book’s contrasting sections reflect the two locations studied: the first shows Whitman in his time and place, while the second repositions him within the cultures of England and Wales from the late 19th to the late 20th century. In the opening chapter he is placed against the vivid, outrageous background of the New York of his time; the second finds evidence in his poetry of a critique of the new urban politics of the emerging city boss; the third radically redefines Whitman's relationship to his famous contemporary Longfellow. Other chapters deal with the Civil War poet, exploring the ways in which his poetic responses were in part shaped by his relationship to his soldier brother George, and his use of the meteorological discoveries of his day to fashion metaphors for imaging the different phases of the conflict.
The second section ponders the paradox that this Whitman, who was so much the product of his specific time and limited “local” culture, should come to be accepted as an international visionary. The United Kingdom is taken as offering striking instances of this phenomenon, and his transatlantic admirers are shown to have been engaged in an unconscious process of “translating” Whitman into the terms of their own culturally specific social, political, and sexual preoccupations. Some of the connections explored are those between Whitman and Edward Carpenter, the so-called English Whitman; between Whitman and perhaps his greatest English critic, D. H. Lawrence; and between Whitman and the Welsh poets Ernest Rhys, Amanwy (David Rees Griffiths), Niclas y Glais (T. E. Nicholas), Waldo Williams, Glyn Jones, Dylan Thomas, and R. S. Thomas.
This bold and original study, offering new points of entry into understanding Whitman as the product of his time and place as well as understanding the reception of Whitman in the U.K. as a process of cultural translation, should fascinate scholars of Whitman and students of comparative literature.
Ceniza provides a dramatic rereading of Walt Whitman's poetry through the lens of 19th-century feminist culture.
Walt Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers documents Whitman's friendships with women during the 1850s, the decade of Whitman's most creative period. The book reveals startling connections between the Þrst three editions of Leaves of Grass and the texts generated by the women he knew during this period, many of whom were radical activists in the women's rights movement.
Sherry Ceniza argues that Whitman's editions of Leaves became progressively more radically 'feminist' as he followed the women's rights movement during the 1850s and that he was influenced by what he called the 'true woman of the new aggressive type . . . woman under the new dispensation.' Ceniza documents the progression of the National Woman's Rights movement through the lives and writings of three of its leaders- Abby Hills Price, Paulina Wright Davis, and Ernestine L. Rose. By juxtaposing the texts written by these women with Leaves, Ceniza shows that Whitman used many of the same arguments and rhetorical gestures as his female activist friends.
The book also discusses the influence of women engaged in women's rights outside the National Woman's Rights organization. And Ceniza's opening chapter is devoted to a fresh interpretation of the life and thought of another strong-minded woman who influenced the poet's writing-Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, Walt Whitman's mother.
By reconsidering Whitman not as the proletarian voice of American diversity but as a historically specific poet with roots in the antebellum lower middle class, Andrew Lawson in Walt Whitman and the Class Struggle defines the tensions and ambiguities about culture, class, and politics that underlie his poetry.Drawing on a wealth of primary sources from across the range of antebellum print culture, Lawson uses close readings of Leaves of Grass to reveal Whitman as an artisan and an autodidact ambivalently balanced between his sense of the injustice of class privilege and his desire for distinction. Consciously drawing upon the languages of both the elite culture above him and the vernacular culture below him, Whitman constructed a kind of middle linguistic register that attempted to filter these conflicting strata and defuse their tensions: “You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, / You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.” By exploring Whitman's internal struggle with the contradictions and tensions of his class identity, Lawson locates the source of his poetic innovation. By revealing a class-conscious and conflicted Whitman, he realigns our understanding of the poet's political identity and distinctive use of language and thus valuably alters our perspective on his poetry.
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.
—Walt Whitman, from “This Compost”
How did Whitman use language to figure out his relationship to the earth, and how can we interpret his language to reconstruct the interplay between the poet and his sociopolitical and environmental world? In this first book-length study of Whitman’s poetry from an ecocritical perspective, Jimmie Killingsworth takes ecocriticism one step further into ecopoetics to reconsider both Whitman’s language in light of an ecological understanding of the world and the world through a close study of Whitman’s language.
Killingsworth contends that Whitman’s poetry embodies the kinds of conflicted experience and language that continually crop up in the discourse of political ecology and that an ecopoetic perspective can explicate Whitman’s feelings about his aging body, his war-torn nation, and the increasing stress on the American environment both inside and outside the urban world. He begins with a close reading of “This Compost”—Whitman’s greatest contribution to the literature of ecology,” from the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass. He then explores personification and nature as object, as resource, and as spirit and examines manifest destiny and the globalizing impulse behind Leaves of Grass, then moves the other way, toward Whitman’s regional, even local appeal—demonstrating that he remained an island poet even as he became America’s first urban poet. After considering Whitman as an urbanizing poet, he shows how, in his final writings, Whitman tried to renew his earlier connection to nature.
Walt Whitman and the Earth reveals Whitman as a powerfully creative experimental poet and a representative figure in American culture whose struggles and impulses previewed our lives today.
Walt Whitman and the World
Gay Wilson Allen University of Iowa Press, 1995 Library of Congress PS3238.W356 1995 | Dewey Decimal 811.3
Celebrating the various ethnic traditions that melded to create what we now call American literature, Whitman did his best to encourage an international reaction to his work. But even he would have been startled by the multitude of ways in which his call has been answered. By tracking this wholehearted international response and reconceptualizing American literature, Walt Whitman and the World demonstrates how various cultures have appropriated an American writer who ceases to sound quite so narrowly American when he is read into other cultures' traditions.
In 1992, the year of the hundredth anniversary of Walt Whitman's death, a major gathering of international scholars took place at the University of Iowa. Over 150 participants heard papers by 20 of the world's most eminent critics of Whitman. Three generations of scholars offered new essays that brilliantly tracked the course of past and present Whitman scholarship. So significant was this historic celebration of the great American poet that the opening session was covered by CBS “Sunday Morning,” National Public Radio's “Morning Edition,” the New York Times, and other newspapers across the country. Musical and theatrical performances, art exhibitions, slide shows, readings, songs, and even a recently discovered recording of Whitman's voice were presented during the three days of the conference.
But the heart of the conference was this series of original essays by some of the most innovative scholars working in the field of American literature. There has ever been a more important collection of Whitman criticism. In these essays, readers will find the most suggestive recent approaches to Whitman alongside the most reliable traditional approaches. Walt Whitman: The Centennial Essays captures Whitman's energy and vitality, which have only increased in the century after his death.
In 1961 the first volume of Edwin Haviland Miller’s The Correspondence was published in the newly established series the Collected Writings of Walt Whitman. Miller proceeded to publish five additional volumes of Whitman letters, and other leading scholars, including Roger Asselineau, compiled accompanying volumes of prose, poems, and daybooks. Yet by the late 1980s, the Whitman Collected Writings project was hopelessly scattered, fragmented, and incomplete.
Now, more than forty years after the inaugural volume’s original publication, Ted Genoways brings scholars the latest volume in Walt Whitman: The Correspondence. Incorporating all of the letters Miller had collected before his death in 2001 and combining them with more than a hundred previously unknown letters he himself gathered, Genoways’s volume is a perfect accompaniment to Miller’s original work.
Among the more than one hundred fifty letters collected in this volume are numerous correspondences concerning Whitman’s Civil War years, including a letter sending John Hay, the personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln, a manuscript copy of “O Captain, My Captain!” Additional letters address various aspects of the production of Leaves of Grass, the most notable being an extensive correspondence surrounding the Deathbed Edition, gathered by Whitman’s friend Horace Traubel, and reproduced here for the first time. Most significantly, this volume at last incorporates Whitman’s early letters to Abraham Paul Leech, first published by Arthur Golden in American Literature in 1986. The revelations contained in these letters must be considered among the most important discoveries about Whitman’s life made during the last half of the twentieth century.
Regardless of whether their significance is great or small, immediate or long-term, each new piece of Whitman’s correspondence returns us to a particular moment in his life and suggests the limitless directions that remain for Whitman scholarship.
Whitman’s poetry is full of places where he directly addresses his future readers, acknowledges the time span between them, then shrugs it off. “The greatest poet,” he writes in his preface to Leaves of Grass, “places himself where the future becomes present.” By celebrating the complex legacy of Leaves of Grass, the ten essayists in this spirited collection affirm the truth of its premise: “Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined.”
Walt Whitman, Where the Future Becomes Present invigorates Whitman studies by garnering insights from a diverse group of writers and intellectuals. Writing from the perspectives of art history, political theory, creative writing, and literary criticism, the contributors place Whitman in the center of both world literature and American public life. The volume is especially notable for being the best example yet published of what the editors call the New Textuality in Whitman studies, an emergent mode of criticism that focuses on the different editions of Whitman’s poems as independent works of art.
Written one hundred fifty years after the book’s publication, these timely, innovative responses to Leaves of Grass confirm that the future of Whitman’s poems is vital to our present.
For Walt Whitman, living and working in Washington, D.C., after the Civil War, Reconstruction meant not only navigating these tumultuous years alongside his fellow citizens but also coming to terms with his own memories of the war. Just as the work of national reconstruction would continue long past its official end in 1877, Whitman’s own reconstruction would continue throughout the remainder of his life as he worked to revise his poetic project—and his public image—to incorporate the disasters that had befallen the Union. In this innovative and insightful analysis of the considerable poetic and personal reimagining that is the hallmark of these postwar years, Martin Buinicki reveals the ways that Whitman reconstructed and read the war.
The Reconstruction years would see Whitman transformed from newspaper editor and staff journalist to celebrity contributor and nationally recognized public lecturer, a transformation driven as much by material developments in the nation as by his own professional and poetic ambitions while he expanded and cemented his place in the American literary landscape. Buinicki places Whitman’s postwar periodical publications and business interests in context, closely examining his “By the Roadside” cluster as well as MemorandaDuring the War and Specimen Days as part of his larger project of personal and artistic reintegration. He traces Whitman’s shifting views of Ulysses S. Grant as yet another way to understand the poet’s postwar life and profession and reveals the emergence of Whitman the public historian at the end of Reconstruction.
Whitman’s personal reconstruction was political, poetic, and public, and his prose writings, like his poetry, formed a major part of the postwar figure that he presented to the nation. Looking at the poet’s efforts to absorb the war into his own reconstruction narrative, Martin Buinicki provides striking new insights into the evolution of Whitman’s views and writings.
Long before he was a celebrated poet, Walt Whitman was a working journalist. By the time he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855, Whitman had edited three newspapers and published thousands of reviews, editorials, and human-interest stories in newspapers in and around New York City. Yet for decades, much of his journalism has been difficult to access or even find. For the first time, Walt Whitman’s Selected Journalism thematically and chronologically organizes a compelling selection of Whitman’s journalism from the late 1830s to the Civil War. It includes writings from the poet’s first immersion into the burgeoning democratic culture of antebellum America to the war that transformed both the poet and the nation.
Walt Whitman’s Selected Journalism covers Whitman’s early years as a part-time editorialist and ambivalent schoolteacher between 1838 and 1841. After 1841, it follows his work as a dedicated full-time newspaperman and editor, most prominently at the New York Aurora and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle between 1842 and 1848. After 1848 and up to the Civil War, Whitman’s journalism shows his slow transformation from daily newspaper editor to poet. This volume gathers journalism from throughout these early years in his career, focusing on reporting, reviews, and editorials on politics and democratic culture, the arts, and the social debates of his day. It also includes some of Whitman’s best early reportage, in the form of the short, personal pieces he wrote that aimed to give his readers a sense of immediacy of experience as he guided them through various aspects of daily life in America’s largest metropolis.
Over time, journalism’s limitations pushed Whitman to seek another medium to capture and describe the world and the experience of America with words. In this light, today’s readers of Whitman are doubly indebted to his career in journalism. In presenting Whitman-the-journalist in his own words here, and with useful context and annotations by renowned scholars, Walt Whitman’s Selected Journalism illuminates for readers the future poet’s earliest attempts to speak on behalf of and to the entire American republic.
Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" is a remarkable encyclopedia of how Whitman's greatest poem has been received by critics and poets since its appearance in 1855. From the beginning the poem has posed difficulties for readers because of the absence of rhyme, the free meter, the startling introduction of nonpoetic diction and erotic materials, and the richness and subtlety of a poet who ventured into new poetic territory in his effort to establish himself as the first bard of the democracy.
Integrating the diverse views of approximately three hundred scholars, this volume does for Whitman what has been done for Shakespeare and others in variorum editions. Future readers and interpreters will now have easy access to an elaborate commentary upon which all subsequent interpretations will of necessity draw.
Included in this edition is a complete facsimile of the 1855 edition of the poem, followed by an analysis of the work from section to section. An introduction reviews the background of the poem and its commentary, presenting detailed discussions of the many attempts to establish the structure of this seemingly formless poem. Also included are an appendix describing Whitman's catalogs and a bibliography of all the significant discussions of "Song of Myself" over the past 130 years. This highly useful book is destined to be the standard reference work for everyone concerned with Whitman's poetry.
Whitman & Dickinson is the first collection to bring together original essays by European and North American scholars directly linking the poetry and ideas of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. The essays present intersections between these great figures across several fields of study, rehearsing well-established topics from new perspectives, opening entirely new areas of investigation, and providing new information about Whitman’s and Dickinson’s lives, work, and reception.
Essays included in this book cover the topics of mentoring influence on each poet, religion, the Civil War, phenomenology, the environment, humor, poetic structures of language, and Whitman’s and Dickinson’s twentieth- and twenty-first–century reception—including prolonged engagement with Adrienne Rich’s response to this “strange uncoupled couple” of poets who stand at the beginning of an American national poetic.
Whitman among the Bohemians
Joanna Levin and Edward Whitley University of Iowa Press, 2014 Library of Congress PS3238.W44 2014 | Dewey Decimal 811.3
For several years just before and just after his 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass appeared, Walt Whitman regularly frequented Pfaff’s beer cellar in downtown Manhattan. The basement bar was the very center of mid-nineteenth-century American bohemian activity and was heavily patronized by writers, artists, musicians, actors, intellectuals, and radicals such as free-love advocate Henry Clapp, Jr., and Broadway succès de scandale Adah Isaacs Menken. Numerous creative and political ventures emerged from this environment, and at least two bohemian literary weeklies, The New-York Saturday Press and Vanity Fair, shared origins around the tables at Pfaff’s.
In this milieu, Whitman found sympathetic supporters of his poetic vision, professional connections, rivals, romantic partners, and close friends, and left a lasting impression on poet and critic Edmund Clarence Stedman, an erstwhile bohemian who later in the century emerged as a tastemaker of American poetry. Yet for many years, the bohemians associated with Pfaff’s have served merely as minor background characters in Whitman scholarship. Whitman among the Bohemians corrects that by exploring in depth the connections Whitman made at Pfaff’s and the impact they had on him, his poetry, and his career. In telling the story of these intersecting social and professional links that converged at Pfaff’s in the late 1850s and early 1860s, the essays in this volume powerfully demonstrate just how much we can learn about Whitman and his work by viewing him within the context of American bohemia.
CONTRIBUTORS: Stephanie Blalock, Ruth Bohan, Leif Eckstrom, Logan Esdale, Amanda Gailey, Karen Karbiener, Joanna Levin, Mary Loeffelholz, Eliza Richards, Ingrid Satelmajer, Robert J. Scholnick, Edward Whitley
Whitman and the Irish
Joann P. Krieg University of Iowa Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3233.K75 2000 | Dewey Decimal 811.3
Though Walt Whitman created no Irish characters in his early works of fiction, he did include the Irish as part of the democratic portrait of America that he drew in Leaves of Grass. He could hardly have done otherwise. In 1855, when the first edition of Leaves of Grass was published, the Irish made up one of the largest immigrant populations in New York City and, as such, maintained a cultural identity of their own. All of this “Irishness” swirled about Whitman as he trod the streets of his Mannahatta, ultimately becoming part of him and his poetry. As members of the working class, famous authors, or close friends, the Irish left their mark on Whitman the man and poet. In Whitman and the Irish, Joann Krieg convincingly establishes their importance within the larger framework of Whitman studies.
Focusing on geography rather than biography, Krieg traces Whitman's encounters with cities where the Irish formed a large portion of the population—New York City, Boston, Camden, and Dublin—or where, as in the case of Washington, D.C., he had exceptionally close Irish friends. She also provides a brief yet important historical summary of Ireland and its relationship with America.
Whitman and the Irish does more than examine Whitman's Irish friends and acquaintances: it adds a valuable dimension to our understanding of his personal world and explores a number of vital questions in social and cultural history. Krieg places Whitman in relation to the emerging labor culture of ante-bellum New York, reveals the relationship between Whitman's cultural nationalism and the Irish nationalism of the late nineteenth century, and reflects upon Whitman's involvement with the Union cause and that of Irish American soldiers.
A Whitman Chronology
Joann P. Krieg University of Iowa Press, 1998 Library of Congress PS3231.A2 1998 | Dewey Decimal 811.3
All Whitman scholars have encountered the frustration of trying to track down an event in Whitman's life—the last time he saw Peter Doyle, when he moved to his own home on Mickle Street in Camden, when he met Oscar Wilde. The records of these events in Whitman's long life are buried in seven volumes of his abundant correspondence, in nine volumes of his conversations with Horace Traubel, in nine volumes of his notebooks and manuscripts, and in countless writings produced by his friends and admirers. To fulfill a long-felt need for order among this embarrassment of riches, Joann Krieg has crafted this detailed chronology of Whitman's life.
A Whitman Chronology clarifies the facts of Whitman's life by offering a year-by-year and, where possible, day-by-day account of his private and public life. Where conflicting interpretations exist, Krieg recognizes them and cites the differences; she also directs readers to fuller descriptions of noteworthy events. She offers brief synopses of Whitman's fiction and of his major prose works, giving distinguishing information about each of the six editions of Leaves of Grass. By intertwining the events of his life and work—but without cumbersome layers of speculation—she reveals the close alliance between Whitman's personal involvements and his literary achievements.
In Whitman East and West, fifteen prominent scholars track the surprising ways in which Whitman's poetry and prose continue to be meaningful at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Covering a broad range of issues—from ecology to children's literature, gay identity to China's May 4th Movement, nineteenth-century New York politics to the emerging field of normality studies, Mao Zedong to American film—each original essay opens a previously unexplored field of study, and each yields new insights by demonstrating how emerging methodologies and approaches intersect with and illuminate Whitman's ideas about democracy, sexuality, America, and the importance of literature.
Confirming the growing international spirit of American studies, the essays in Whitman East and West developed out of a landmark conference in Beijing, the first major conference in China to focus on an American poet. Scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America set out to track the ways in which Whitman's poetry has become part of China's cultural landscape as well as the literary landscapes of other countries. By describing his assimilation into other cultures and his resulting transformation into a hybrid poet, these essayists celebrate Whitman's multiple manifestations in other languages and contexts.
Few American writers were as concerned with their public image as was Walt Whitman. He praised his own work in unsigned reviews; he included engravings or photographs of himself in numerous editions of his work; and he assisted in the writing of two biographies of himself. Whitman was also written about extensively by others throughout his lifetime. Whitman in His Own Time is a collection of these contemporary accounts of the "good gray poet."
The interviews with and recollections of Whitman collected by Joel Myerson represent a wide spectrum of accounts—visitors from America and abroad; newspaper interviewers; Whitman's doctor and nurse during his final illness; his literary executors; a student from his early schoolteaching days; and such well-known authors as Bronson Alcott, John Burroughs, and Henry David Thoreau. The selections also paint a well-rounded picture of Whitman, from his early days as a schoolteacher to the moment of his death, and demonstrate a varying range of attitudes toward the poet. Yet throughout the entire collection, Whitman himself holds center stage, and he is seen as vividly today as he was over one hundred years ago. Myerson's introduction to this expanded edition places these accounts of Whitman within the context of the time and discusses new scholarship on Whitman's life.
Whitman in Poland examines the reception of Walt Whitman in Poland from 1872 to the present day. The many ways in which Whitman was read, translated, and constructed in Polish culture are analyzed using a unique interdisciplinary approach that melds reception, communication, translation, and comparative studies. Marta Skwara shows how Whitman’s biography was portrayed in
Poland; how and why the mid-1950s saw the greatest flourish of interest in Whitman as he was read in terms of “socialist realism” in accordance with the political indoctrination of the era; how Whitman’s image in Poland evolved from his first Polish translators and enthusiasts on through modernist poets’ responses; and how reading multiple Polish translations of the same Whitman poem by different translators allows us to see changing cultural and comparative contexts. Readers will get a full picture of how Whitman has functioned as a presence in Polish prose and poetry, and even in cinema and television.
Walt Whitman’s now-famous maxim about “containing the multitudes” has often been understood as a metaphor for the democratizing impulses of the young American nation. But did these impulses extend across the color line? Early in his career, especially in the manuscripts leading up to the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the poet espoused a rather progressive outlook on race relations within the United States. However, as time passed, he steered away from issues of race and blackness altogether. These changing depictions and representations of African Americans in the poetic space of Leaves of Grass and Whitman’s other writings complicate his attempts to fully contain all of America’s subject-citizens within the national imaginary. As alluring as “containing the multitudes” might prove to be, African American poets and writers have been equally vexed by and attracted to Whitman’s acknowledgment of the promise and contradictions of the United States and their place within it.
Whitman Noir: Black America and the Good Gray Poet explores the meaning of blacks and blackness in Whitman’s imagination and, equally significant, also illuminates the aura of Whitman in African American letters from Langston Hughes to June Jordan, Margaret Walker to Yusef Komunyakaa. The essays, which feature academic scholars and poets alike, address questions of literary history, the textual interplay between author and narrator, and race and poetic influence. The volume as a whole reveals the mutual engagement with a matrix of shared ideas, contradictions, and languages to expose how Whitman influenced African American literary production as well as how African American Studies brings to bear new questions and concerns for evaluating Whitman.
The Whitman Revolution brings together a rich collection of Betsy Erkkila’s phenomenally influential essays that have been published over the years, along with two powerful new essays. Erkkila offers a moving account of the inseparable mix of the spiritual-sexual-political in Whitman and the absolute centrality of male-male connection to his work and thinking. Her work has been at the forefront of scholarship positing that Whitman’s songs are songs not only of workers and occupations but of sex and the body, homoeroticism, and liberation. What is more, Erkkila’s writing demonstrates that this sexuality and communal impulse is central to Whitman’s revolutionary poetry and his conception of democracy itself—an insight that was all but suppressed during the mid-twentieth century emergence of American literature as a field of study.
Highlights of this collection include Erkkila’s essays on pairings such as Marx and Whitman, Dickinson and Whitman, and Melville and Whitman. Across the volume, she demonstrates an international vision that highlights the place of Leaves of Grass within a global struggle for democracy. The Whitman Revolution is evidence of Erkkila’s remarkable ability to lead critical discussions, and marks an exciting event in Whitman studies.
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were not the poetic stars of their day; only a few friends knew that Dickinson wrote, and Whitman’s following was minuscule, if influential. But the contemporaries who eclipsed these major poets now have largely disappeared from our literary landscape.
In this distinctive anthology, Robert Bain gathers together thirteen other scholars to re-present the poetry of these former luminaries, allowing readers to rediscover them, reconstruct the poetic contexts of their age, and better understand why Whitman and Dickinson now overshadow other poets of their time.
Arranged chronologically according to the birth dates of the poets, this anthology introduces each poet’s work, providing biographical information and discussing the major forms and themes of the work. Each introduction places the poet in a literary and historical context with Whitman and Dickinson and provides a bibliography of secondary sources.
This remarkable book recovers a part of our literary heritage that has been lost.
In this elegant study, Walt Whitman's democratic, consensual idealism emerges for the first time as truly central to his poetic achievement. Though Whitman's democratic idealism has often been dismissed as a blindness to the political complexities of his day, Kerry C. Larson argues that the poet was in fact vitally engaged in the problems of preserving social continuity at a time (1855-60) when the specter of disunion and fractricidal war grew increasingly ominous. Whitman conceived his poems as vehicles for social integration whose entire aim was to dramatize the joining of the many and the one, speaker and listener, universal and particular without subordinating either term. For Whitman, the poet's role was to be "the better President," the figure in whose person all contending interests and competing factions would be resolved. The importance of "drama" in Larson's title is borne out in his argument that Whitman's most memorable poems depict the goal of consent as an active process, something to be achieved rather than merely affirmed. By way of making this drama vivid, these poems project a fictive audience or interlocutor which, in being invoked by the poet, furnishes him with a partner in the ongoing dialogue of voices Leaves of Grass both embodies and records.
The American nineteenth century witnessed a media explosion unprecedented in human history. New communications technologies seemed to be everywhere, offering opportunities and threats that seem powerfully familiar to us as we experience today’s digital revolution. Walt Whitman’s poetry reveled in the potentials of his time: “See, the many-cylinder’d steam printing-press,” he wrote, “See, the electric telegraph, stretching across the Continent, from the Western Sea to Manhattan.”
Still, as the budding poet learned, books neither sell themselves nor move themselves: without an efficient set of connections to get books to readers, the democratic media-saturated future Whitman imagined would have remained warehoused. Whitman’s works sometimes ran through the “many-cylinder’d steam printing press” and were carried in bulk on “the strong and quick locomotive.” Yet during his career, his publications did not follow a progressive path toward mass production and distribution. Even at the end of his life, in the 1890s as his fame was growing, the poet was selling copies of his latest works by hand to visitors at his small house in Camden, New Jersey. Mass media and centralization were only one part of the rich media world that Whitman embraced.
Whitman’s Drift asks how the many options for distributing books and newspapers shaped the way writers wrote and readers read. Writers like Whitman spoke to the imagination inspired by media transformations by calling attention to connectedness, to how literature not only moves us emotionally, but moves around in the world among people and places. Studying that literature and how it circulated can help us understand not just how to read Whitman’s works and times, but how to understand what is happening to our imaginations now, in the midst of the twenty-first century media explosion.