Presentation on theme: "III.6. Walt Whitman The Focus of Study : Life Experience Literary Career Point of View Writing Style Major works Significance."— Presentation transcript:
III.6. Walt Whitman The Focus of Study : Life Experience Literary Career Point of View Writing Style Major works Significance
Walt Whitman Epitome of Emerson’s “American Scholar”. The boldest and most unrestrained bard of the American people. Pioneer of modern American poetry. A philosopher, mystic, and critic.
Life Experience 1819, born in Long island, NY, a farmer’s family. 1830, received little schooling, worked temporarily as an office boy, apprentice, printer and country school teacher. 1840-41, published essays and short stories in Democratic papers. 1841-45, reporter, editor and writer. 1855, Leaves of Grass First edition. 1861-65, clerk and male-nurse in Washington. 1873-92, suffered paralytic stroke and died.
Literary Career Three distinctive periods: 1. 1855-59, an individualistic, sensual, material and rejoicing author of Leaves of Grass. 2. 1859-65, modification in style and subject matter from joyous chant of life to the musing of death and the limitation of life. 3. 1866-92, conversion from individualism to nationalism or internationalism, from love of freedom to love of law and materialism to spiritual idealism.
Representative poems for different period 1. “Song of Myself”, most celebrated poem introduces 1 st edition of Leaves of Grass. a. reveals his belief of universality by identifying himself imaginatively with all the things of world. b. glorifies the deity of nature, the “miracles” of the soul. c. celebrates the individualism as the cosmic “I” who sings the poem. d. hails brotherhood in taking all things and people as equal in value.
“Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” Obsessed with the loss of a beloved friend, a melancholy speculation on the theme of death. The lament for the loss of the physical love is motivated to a spiritualized realization of death.
Shine! shine! shine! Pour down your warmth, great sun! While we bask, we two together. Singing all time, minding no time, While we two keep together. 0 past! 0 happy life! 0 songs of joy! In the air, in the woods, over fields, Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved! But my mate no more, no more with me! We two together no more. Whereto answering, the sea, Delaying not, hurrying not, Whisper'd me through the night, and very plainly before daybreak, Lisp'd to me the low and delicious word death, And again death, death, death, death,
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd Whitman’s most famous elegy on the death of Lincoln, the most distinct expression of his democratic belief in the image of Lincoln.
1 WHEN lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd, And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night, I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring. Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring, Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west, And thought of him I love. 2 O powerful western fallen star! O shades of night—O moody, tearful night! O great star disappear'd—O the black murk that hides the star! O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul of me! O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.
Point of View Whitman is a “caresser” of life. He absorbs and embraces the whole of American life. The praise of individual freedom connected with a love of nature; the celebration of the holiness of body as a part of the soul; sex as healthy, a part of generation against conventional code of good and evil; the birth and death being an eternal cycle as well as an evolution. Celebrates the Western movement and economic boom as miracles created by Americans; celebrates democracy as he advocated brotherhood among all the people of different races.
Writing Style Wrote free verse in harmony with his keen love for nature. Features: 1) long, loose and cumulative rhythms rolling forward like the movement of the sea. 2) A loose poetic structure. 3) Extensive use of repetition and parallelism. 4) Cataloguing or listing of a series of images in a long line.
5). A poetic diction noted for the use of odd jargon mixing up vernacular with learned words, foreign words, scientific terms and fabricated words. 6). Effective use of symbolic words to bring forward suggestive meanings.
Significance Whitman’s influence over modern poetry is great in the world as well as in America. His best work has become common property of Western culture. Whitman’s vision of the poet- prophet and poet-teacher exerts great influence on modern poets, like Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Carl Sandburg.
Contemporary American poetry, whatever school or form, bears witness to his great influence. For his innovations in diction and versification, his frankness about sex, his inclusion of the commonplace and the ugly and his censure of the weakness of the American democratic practice– all these have paved his way to a share of immorality in American literature.
Study Questions Describe Whitman's conceptions of the soul and the body, and the relationship between the two. Which is more important, in his view? How do you account for the eroticism in Whitman's poetry? Does he use homosexual eroticism differently from heterosexual eroticism? What kinds of structures does Whitman use in his poetry? Why might he be using these rather than traditional structures like rhyme?
References Beach, Christopher. The Politics of Distinction: Whitman and the Discourses of Nineteenth-Century America. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996. Bloom, Harold, ed. Walt Whitman. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999. Erkkila, Betsy and Jay Grossman. Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Greenspan, Ezra, ed. Cambridge Companion to Walt Whitman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Mancuso, Luke. The Strange Sad War Revolving: Walt Whitman, Reconstruction, and the Emergence of Black Citizenship, 1865-1876. Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1997.
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