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Democratic Vistas

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Democratic Vistas Walt Whitman Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass (1855) Walt Whitman (1819-1892) Democratic Vistas Walt Whitman Song of Myself from ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Democratic Vistas


1
  • Democratic Vistas
  • Walt Whitman
  • Song of Myself
  • from
  • Leaves of Grass (1855)

2
  • Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
  • born on Long Island, New York, was raised in a
    milieu of carpenters (he enjoyed no academic
    education)

- the most influential poet the United States
has ever produced
  • published his first twelve poems anonymously in
    1855 in his own small publishing company

- Free Verse
  • Out of these, the volume Leaves of Grass was
    developed, on which Whitman worked for over 36
    years

- Open Road
  • strong influence on 20th century writers Hart
    Crane, William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg,
    and Jack Kerouac

3
I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I
assume you shall assume, For every atom
belonging to me as good belongs to you I loafe
and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease
observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formd from
this soil, this air. Born here of parents born
here from parents the same, and their parents the
same, I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect
health begin, Hoping to cease not till death.
Song of Myself (title first used in 1871)
4
I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I
assume you shall assume, For every atom
belonging to me as good belongs to you I loafe
and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease
observing a spear of summer grass.
Themes
- The self (the Dionysian self)
- The body
- The soul
- Nature (summer grass, soil, air)
- Cycle of nature (birth death)
- Democracy (from parents the same)
Style
- Free verse
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formd from
this soil, this air. Born here of parents born
here from parents the same, and their parents the
same, I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect
health begin, Hoping to cease not till death.
  • rejection of metric and poetological patterns

- Democratic poetry
  • text becomes a field of poetic subjectivity

5
(No Transcript)
6
Transcendentalism
Key message The ideal spiritual state
transcends the physical and empirical. This
ideal state is realized through self-reliance
and intuition rather than through traditions and
established values.
-gt distrust of logical arguments
gt validation of the senses
gt pantheistic world-view
I become a transparent eyeball I am nothing I
see all the currents of the Universal Being
circulate through me I am part or particle of
God. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836),
p. 269.
7
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and
knowledge that pass all the argument of the
earth, And I know that the hand of God is the
promise of my own, And I know that the spirit of
God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my
brothers, and the women my sisters and
lovers, and that a kelson of the creation is
love, And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping
in the fields, And brown ants in the little wells
beneath them
Song of Myself, p. 722-723.
8
Bodily pleasures
I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of
the Soul, The Pleasures of heaven are with me and
the pains of hell are with me, The first I graft
and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
into a new tongue.
Democracy
I am the poet of the woman the same as the
man, And I say it is as great to be a woman as to
be a man
Song of Myself, p. 734
9
New York City
Panoramic view of Broadway, 1851-55
10
Mannahatta
Origins of the City Manhattes (Indian tribe
that lived on the island
I was asking for something specific and perfect
for my city, Whereupon lo! upsprang the
aboriginal name. Now I see what there is in a
name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical,
self-sufficient, I see that the word of my city
is that word from of old, Because I see that word
nested in nests of water-bays, superb
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty
thousand in a week, The carts hauling goods, the
manly race of drivers of horses, the brown-faced
sailors, The summer air, the bright sun shining,
and the sailing clouds aloft, The winter snows,
the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the
river, passing along up or down with the
flood-tide or ebb-tide, The mechanics of the
city, the masters, well-form'd, beautiful-faced,
looking you straight in the eyes, Trottoirs
throng'd, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the
shops and shows, A million people--manners free
and superb--open voices--hospitality-- the most
courageous and friendly young men, City of
hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and
masts! City nested in bays! my city!
Immigration immigrants arriving (democracy,
cosmopolitanism)
Mechanics of the city the masters (progress)
City as a giant organism (summer/winter)
11
Song of Myself
The author himself becomes the focus of the poem
(I, Walt Whitman)
Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the
son, Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking
and breeding, No sentimentalist, so stander above
men and women or apart from them, No more modest
than immodest. Unscrew the locks from the
doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their
jambs! p. 737
He epitomizes the world (Walt Whitman, a kosmos)
The author is visible as a body (fleshy,
sensual, eating, drinking and breeding)
The poem is a vehicle not only of
self-expression, but also of poetic liberation
(Unscrew the locks from the doors)
12
For the next session Deconstructing the
American Dream Read and prepare William Dean
Howells From The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885)
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