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Walt Whitman 18191892


Introduction: Whitman and Leaves of Grass. Whitman's Song of Myself ... In addition, the term of grass is one of the focus within the poem as he spends ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Walt Whitman 18191892

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
  • American Literature I
  • 11/22/2004
  • Cecilia H. C. Liu

  • Introduction Whitman and Leaves of Grass
  • Whitmans Song of Myself
  • Whitmans Portrays of Slavery in Song of Myself
    (Critics comments)
  • Whitmans There Was a Child Went Forth
  • Suggestive Readings
  • Works Cited

Whitman and Leaves of Grass
  • Walt Whitman is one of the 1st generation of
    Americans who were born in the newly formed US
    and grew up in the stable existence of the new
  • One of the haziest periods of Whitmans life is
    the occurrence of the Civil War, when Whitman
    encountered casualties of the war. During this
    time, he visited wounded soldiers who moved to
    New York hospitals, and wrote about them in "City
    Photographs" published in 1862.
  • During the time of his hospital service, Whitman
    wrote about the war experience, but not the
    aftereffects, such as the moonlight illuminating
    the dead on the battlefields, the churches turned
    into hospitals, wound dressing, encountering with
    a dead enemy in a coffin, the trauma of battle
    nightmares for soldiers who returned home.

Whitman and Leaves of Grass (2)
  • Whitman paid for the production of the 1st
    edition of his book and had only 795 copies
    printed. The book appeared on the 4th of July,
    as a representation of literary Independence
  • Whitman's book was an extraordinary
    accomplishment after trying for over a decade to
    address in journalism and fiction the social
    issues (such as education, temperance, slavery,
    prostitution, immigration, democratic
    representation) that challenged the new nation).
  • Whitman expresses with the identification of a
    new American democratic attitude, that would make
    up the diversity of the country in a vast,
    single, unified identity.
  • "Do I contradict myself?" was a question Whitman
    asked confidently toward the end of the long poem
    "Song of Myself" "Very well then . . . . I
    contradict myself / I am large . . . . I contain
    multitudes Other Passages

Whitman Leaves of Grass (3)
  • His work echoed with the language of the American
    urban working class and many corners of the 19th
    century culture, giving presentations in the
    nation's politics, its music, its new
    technologies, its fascination with science, and
    its evolving pride in an American language that
    formed as a tongue distinct from British English.
  • It is clear now the author of Leaves of Grass is
    Whitman, but Whitman did not put his name on the
    title page until the 1876 "Author's Edition" of
    the book.

Whitman His Influences
  • Beyond poetry, Whitman has had an extensive and
    unpredictable impact on fiction, film,
    architecture, music, painting, dance, and other
  • Whitman has enjoyed great international renown.
    Whitmans importance not only presents from his
    literary qualities but also his standing as a
    prophet of liberty and revolution, since he
    served as a major icon for socialists and
    communists, who fulfilled promise of democracy.  

Whitmans Song of Myself
  • He shows suspicions of classrooms, with "Song of
    Myself" generated by a question a child would
    always ask, "What is the grass?" was defined in
    the 1st section.
  • In addition, the term of grass is one of the
    focus within the poem as he spends the rest of
    the poem with his discoveries of those seemingly
    simple, the cosmos in himself.
  • By the mid-1840s, Whitman began to show awareness
    of the cultural resources of New York City, and
    began dedicating himself to journalism. For
    Whitman, serving the public was to frame issues
    in accordance with working class interests, which
    is usually the whites interests.

Whitmans Song of Myself (2)
  • Whitman dreaded slave labor as a "black tide"
    that could overwhelm white workingmen. He
    believes that slavery should not be allowed into
    the new western territories.
  • Periodically, Whitman expressed outrage at
    practices that furthered slavery itself for
    example, he was incensed at laws that made
    possible the importation of slaves by way of
    Brazil. Like Lincoln, he consistently opposed
    slavery and its further extension, even while he
    knew (again like Lincoln) that the more extreme
    abolitionists threatened the Union itself.

Whitmans There Was a Child Went Forth
  • Walt Whitman wrote more frequently about
    educational issues and always retained an
    interest in how knowledge is acquired.
  • One of the poems in his first edition of Leaves
    of Grass, eventually called "There Was a Child
    Went Forth," could be read as a statement of
    Whitman's educational philosophy.
  • He celebrates unrestricted extracurricular
    learning, and shows openness to experience and
    ideas that would allow for endless absorption of
    variety and difference, which was the kind of
    education he particularly valued.

Other Topics Whitman Addresses
  • Whitman deals a lot about topics within Slavery,
    especially passages in Song of Myself, The
    Sleepers, and I Sing.
  • He also deals with Civil War, in Drum Taps, sex,
    in Calamus and Children of Adam, and the sea, in
  • Death is also mentioned quite a bit for Whitman,
    in his Drum Taps, with passages of the death of

Other Examples
  • New voice spoke confidently of union at a time of
    incredible division and tension in the culture,
    and it spoke with the assurance of one for whom
    everything could be celebrated as part of itself
    "What is commonest and cheapest and nearest and
    easiest is Me" (Section 14).
  • This represents the new American spirit that
    Whitman intends to portrays.

Walt Whitman Images
Whitmans Song of Myself (3)
  • "Song of Myself" portrays Whitman's poetic birth
    and the journey into knowing launched by that
  • However, the "I" who speaks is not alone, since
    he has included the camerado, "you," addressed in
    the poem's second line, which is the reader,
    placed on shared ground with the poet throughout
    the journey.

Whitmans Song of Myself (4)
  • The poem opens with the representation of the
    poet "observing a spear of summer grass" and
    extending an invitation to his soul, clearly
    prepares him for the soul's visit of section 5, a
    section that dramatizes the transfiguring event,
    launching the poet on his lifelong quest.  Ex
    section 1 and 2.
  • Awakening in section 5 prepared the poet for new
    knowledge, as he proceeds on the journey, and
    extends through section 32, where leads the poet
    to more subjects and themes addressed in Leaves
    of Grass.

Whitmans Song of Myself
  • Permit to speak at every hazard, / Nature
    without check with original energy" (Section 1).
  • Leaving "creeds and schools" behind, he goes
    "to the bank by the wood to become undisguised
    and naked" (Sections 1 and 2).
  • He presents himself (section 13) as the "caresser
    of life wherever moving . . . Absorbing all to
    myself and for this song."

Whitmans Song of Myself (5)
  • After the grass imagery in section 6, Whitman
    moves to "en-masse," in 7-16.
  • The speaker, Whitman reveals, in forms of Whitman
    himself, American, roaming the continent,
    celebrating the scenes of ordinary life. Example
    Section 13
  • Then, such movement rises in a crescendo to the
    extended catalogue of section 15, with exuberant
    snapshots of American types and scenes.

Whitmans Song of Myself (6)
  • In sections 18-24, the poet collapses traditional
    discriminations, and celebrates "conquer'd and
    slain persons" (section 18) along with victors,
    the "righteous" the "wicked"and extends his
    embrace to include outcasts and outlaws.
  • However, his focuses on the equality of body and
    soul and ways of rescuing the body from its
    inferior status.
  • He turns to himself and his own, and presents in
    section 24 a nude portrait of himself, with a
    metaphoric catalogue.

Whitmans Song of Myself (7)
  • In sections 18-32, the poet celebrates the erotic
    dimension of all the senses, but he turns to a
    miraculous touch in section 28.
  • In section 33, it begins with higher affirmations
    of the 2nd part of the journey. The poet feels no
    longer bound by the ties of space and time, but
    feels that he is able to soar like a meteor out
    into space.
  • Hence, this peak of exaltation in section 33
    switches to a tone to its opposite as the poet
    identifies with the rejected, suggests that he
    has moved obscurely beyond the knowledge of his
    previous phase in sections 17-20. 

Whitmans Song of Myself
  • "Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new
    identity? (Section 28).
  • "Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I
    guess'd at, / . . . when I loaf'd on the
    grass. (Section 33).
  • "I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there." He
    becomes the "old-faced infants and the lifted
    sick," the mother "condemned for a witch," "the
    hounded slave. (Section 33).
  • "I discover myself on the verge of a usual
    mistake. (Section 38).

Whitmans Song of Myself (8)
  • Section 38 opens with strong rejection of the
    role of beggar he has assumed resets the
    direction for the poet on his journey. This
    stage, in which the poet is confident in his
    transcendent power, extends through the closing
    sections, 38-49.
  • In section 43 the poet affirms all religious
    faiths, and in section 44 he celebrates his place
    in evolutionary theory both religion and science
    contain the seeds that provide the source for his
    supreme power. 

Whitmans Song of Myself (9)
  • In section 50 the poet seems to have emerged from
    a trance-like state, similar to what he
    experienced in section 5
  • The "it" could refer to the transcendent meaning
    of Whitmans experience on his dream-like
    journey. Example
  • Whitman addresses "brothers and sisters" first
    evoked in section 5, and includes a word that
    could convey some idea of the transcendent
    meaning on his journey. Ex

Whitmans Song of Myself
  • "Wrench'd and sweaty--calm and cool then my body
    becomes, / I sleep--I sleep long." Coming out of
    his deep sleep, the poet stammers almost
    incoherently "I do not know it . . . it is a
    word unsaid, / It is not in any dictionary,
    utterance, symbol" (Section 50).
  • Something it swings on more than the earth I
    swing on, / To it the creation is the friend
    whose embracing awakes me" (Section 50).
  • "It is not chaos or death--it is form, union,
    plan--it is eternal life--it is Happiness." 
    (Section 50).

Whitmans Song of Myself (9)
  • As the In the last two sections (51-52), Whitman
    addresses the idea of camerado from the
    beginning, "you," once more.
  • Whitman does not deny but dismisses his
    "contradictions, (see more), and describes
    himself "not a bit tamed,and "untranslatable,"
    His journey is over, he prepares for departure,as
    he return to the dirt to grow from the grass",
    and says humorously, "If you want me again look
    for me under your boot-soles."

Whitmans Song of Myself
  • I am large, I contain multitudes (Section 50).
  • On beginning his journey (section 1) he promised
    he would "permit to speak at every hazard, /
    Nature without check with original energy."
  • At the end, the poet admonishes his readers to
    "keep encouraged" and continue their search for
    him, promising "I stop somewhere waiting for
    you" (Section 52).

Portrayals of Slavery in Song of Myself
  • In section 10, Whitman addresses the runaway
    slave, and reminds us is the tremendous need for
    grammar in this world, the tremendous need for
    structural provisions unattached to particular
    persons, and responsive to all analogous persons. 

Portrayals of Slavery in Song of Myself
  • Whitman portrays the African American in a sort
    of figure that one could identify and sympathize,
    such as the hunted figure in section 33 crucified
    by his pursuers and with whose passion the
    speaker identifies and the figure of the black
    drayman in section 13, in command of his horses
    and himself.

Portrayals of Slavery in Song of Myself
  • Another implication of the slaves could be seen
    in Section 11, the 28 bather,  and in this
    passage Whitman encourages us to forget is the
    condition under which the slave is admitted, that
    they are trapped and unable to be let out, as one
    of its representative figures in his poetry.
  • Indeed, these figures--the trapper and his bride,
    and the bathing young men--must be forgotten as
    well. Thus, this reveals a sort of tender
    forgetfulnessthat the 28 young men, bathers, do
    not realize that the woman had left her house and
    began to join in the dances and activities with
    them, touching them, because it is simply not
    registered as antecedence.

Suggestive Readings
  • Calamus (Sex)
  • Children of Adam (Sex)
  • Drum Taps (Death and The Civil War)
  • Sea Drift (How Whitman Portrays the Sea)
  • Memories of President Lincoln and Drum Taps
    (Death and Memories in America)
  • Specimen Days (Memories of Whitman)

Works Cited
  • The Walt Whitman Hypertext Archive. Ed. Folson
    and Kenneth M. Price. http//jefferson.village.vir
  • Miller, James E., Jr. Song of Myself.Ed. J.R.
    LeMaster and Donald Kummings. Walt Whitman An
    Encyclopedia. New York Garland, 1998.
  • Whitman and Slavery Critical Positions.
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