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Democratic Vistas

The Original Edition in Facsimile

Walt Whitman, Ed Folsom

Publication Year: 2010

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 provocative book is a timely reminder of those occasions when we experience the expansion of America’s democratic dream.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

I have learned a great deal over the years about Whitman from my friends and colleagues in the Whitman scholarly community, and I thank them all. Ken Price, Ted Genoways, Jerry Loving, Betsy Erkkila, and Alan Trachtenberg have been particularly influential in my reading of Democratic Vistas, as has my former student...


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p. ix

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Textual Note

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pp. xi-xiii

Whitman had originally imagined Democratic Vistas would be a text that, like Leaves of Grass, would expand and evolve over many years. In a manuscript sketch of himself that he wrote in the third person, Whitman said: “Besides LEAVES OF GRASS this author has also published a prose work, DEMOCRATIC VISTAS, treating of religious, social, political...

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The Vistas of Democratic Vistas: An Introduction

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pp. xv-lxvii

Whitman’s powerful and evocative title, Democratic Vistas, is much better known than the essay it names. Widely used in American culture over the past century, “democratic vistas” has served as the title for numerous books and countless essays and has become a kind of shorthand phrase for that distinctly American sense that the nation’s egalitarian fulfillment...

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Democratic Vistas [Includes General Notes}

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pp. 3-84

AMERICA, filling the present with greatest deeds and problems, cheerfully accepting the past, including Feudalism, (as, indeed, the present is but the legitimate birth of the past, including feudalism,) counts, as I reckon, for her justification and success, (for who, as yet, dare claim success?) almost entirely on the future. Nor is that hope unwarranted. To-day,...

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Annotations for Democratic Vistas

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pp. 85-134

Full publication information is given for criticism cited in the notes, except for criticism that is included in the “Selected Bibliography of Works about Democratic Vistas,” where full publication information is provided. Abbreviations of cited works by Whitman can be found on page ix at the front of this book. Whitman originally intended to include...

Selected Bibliography of Works about Democratic Vistas [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 135-144

E-ISBN-13: 9781587299230
E-ISBN-10: 1587299232
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587298707
Print-ISBN-10: 1587298708

Page Count: 214
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: paper

OCLC Number: 641944416
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Democratic Vistas

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Subject Headings

  • Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892. Democratic vistas.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1869-1877.
  • Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 -- Political and social views.
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