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Walt Whitman 1819-1892 *presentation adapted from Prentice Hall Literature: The American Experience.

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Presentation on theme: "Walt Whitman 1819-1892 *presentation adapted from Prentice Hall Literature: The American Experience."— Presentation transcript:

1 Walt Whitman *presentation adapted from Prentice Hall Literature: The American Experience

2 “America’s Poet”  “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he absorbed it.” –Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass  Although his poetry was not as popular as he would have liked it to be during his lifetime, Whitman is currently recognized as one of America’s most gifted poets.  “Uncle Walt”

3 Whitman’s Career  Born on Long Island in 1819  Raised in Brooklyn  Became editor of the Brooklyn Eagle when he was 27 years old  Fired in 1848 because of his outspoken disdain and opposition to slavery  Worked for a newspaper in New Orleans and travelled the country, noting the diversity of America’s geography and people.  1850—gives up journalism to exclusively write poetry

4 Leaves of Grass  Poetry anthology first published in 1855  Ralph Waldo Emerson called it “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed”  However, poet John Greenleaf Whittier hated it so much that he he threw his copy of the book into the fireplace

5 Whitman’s Poetry  Whitman continually revised and expanded Leaves of Grass for the rest of his life  An “evolving vision of the world”  Poetry focuses on:  Democracy  Equality  The “spiritual unity of all forms of life”  The “potential of the human spirit”  He had a “unique ability to absorb and comprehend everything he observed”

6 Styles and Techniques  style- the manner in which a writer puts his or her thoughts into words  catalogs- the piling up of images or concrete details Ex: “My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air / Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same” (“Song of Myself”)  parallelism- use of similar grammatical structures to create rhythm, provide structure, and emphasize ideas  free verse- verse that has irregular meter and line length (Whitman is the first American poet to use free verse)

7 Famous Poems  A fan of Abraham Lincoln:  “O Captain! My Captain!”  “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”  Not a fan of the Civil War:  “Beat! Beat! Drums!”  Other poems:  “Song of Myself”  “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

8 “O Captain! My Captain!”  April 9, 1865: Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Civil War  April 14, 1865: Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth during a performance at Ford’s Theater  1865: Walt Whitman writes “O Captain! My Captain!” after Lincoln’s death  extended metaphor- a sustained comparison in which part or all of a poem consists of a series of related metaphors


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