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.
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.
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.
Walt Whitman stands freshly illuminated in this powerful portrait of the poet responding to his times.Whitman’s idealistic expectations of democracy were painfully eroded by the rapidly expanding urban capitalism that, before the Civil War, increasingly threatened the economic and political power of the ordinary American. His poetry during this, his most fruitful period, became the indispensable medium allowing him to adjust to these developments. He succeeded in portraying this modern society as an invigorating natural extension of the artisanal order. After the war, however, American capitalism advanced at a pace that made it impossible for Whitman to redeem it through his poetry. His imagination defeated by realities, he invested more and more in dreams of the future, while his poetry turned to the past, Memory emerging as a central figure.In this many-sided analysis M. Wynn Thomas relates Whitman’s work to American painting of the period; examines the poet’s evocation of nature, which he sometimes saw as a challenge to man’s confidence in himself; documents the revisions and additions Whitman made to Leaves of Grass in order to demonstrate that “my Book and the War are One”; and pays sympathetic attention to the postwar poetry, usually slighted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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