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Walt Whitman and the World

Gay Wilson Allen, Ed Folsom

Publication Year: 1995

Celebrating the various ethnic traditions that melded to create what we now call American literature, Whitman did his best to encourage an international reaction to his work. But even he would have been startled by the multitude of ways in which his call has been answered. By tracking this wholehearted international response and reconceptualizing American literature, Walt Whitman and the World demonstrates how various cultures have appropriated an American writer who ceases to sound quite so narrowly American when he is read into other cultures' traditions.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi

This project was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and by the generosity of C. Esco Obermann. The NEH grant and Mr. Obermann's support allowed the editors to bring together most of the contributors to this volume in 1992 at the University of Iowa Center for Advanced Studies, where a two-day seminar on Whitman in translation was...

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INTRODUCTION: "Salut au Monde!"

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pp. 1-10

If it hadn't been for Emerson's electrifying letter greeting Whitman at "the beginning of a great career," the first edition of Leaves of Grass, published in 1855, would have been a total failure; few copies were sold, and Emerson and Whitman seemed about the only people who recognized much promise in it. Undaunted, Whitman published an expanded second edition in...

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pp. 11-70

"Those blessed gales from the British Isles probably (certainly) saved me.... That emotional, audacious, open-handed, friendly-mouthed, just-opportune English action, I say, plucked me like a brand from the burning, and gave me life again.... I do not forget it, and I shall never forget it." 1 Whitman's effusively favorable view of his standing in Britain has not been fully endorsed by...

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pp. 71-127

Jorge Luis Borges, an admirer but not a worshipper of Whitman, has said with typical irony: Almost everything written about Whitman is ruined by two persistent errors. One is the summary identifying of Whitman, the conscientious man of letters, with Whitman the semi-divine hero of Leaves of Grass.... The other, the senseless adoption of the style and vocabulary of his poems, that is to say, the adoption...

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pp. 128-146

In 1889, on the occasion of a republican government replacing a monarchy in Brazil, Walt Whitman sent "a Christmas Greeting" to the South American country, welcoming his "Brazilian brother" into democracy (LG, 548). But not until the twentieth century did the new and rebellious perfume of Leaves of Grass reach Brazil, carried by symbolism and the avant-garde movements,...

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pp. 147-159

With a population of merely 9 million inhabitants, some of them completely illiterate, Portugal has only a very small reading public. Portuguese publishers therefore cannot afford to publish many translations of foreign authors, especially poets. It is for this economic reason, no doubt, that there exists no complete translation of Leaves of Grass in Portuguese. The only translation available...

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pp. 160-230

Whitman's German reception can neither be separated from its broader European context nor from the center of Whitmanite activities in the United States. From the very beginning, German reception tied in closely with an international literary, artistic, and political avant-garde from which it received important ideas and to which it also contributed a good deal. The Whitman...

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pp. 231-232

Since Walt Whitman often emphasized his Dutch heritage (the Van Velsor family on his mother's side, what he called his "far back Netherlands stock on the maternal side"),1 it seems worth a brief note to suggest the poet's reputation in his ancestral land. One man, Maurits Wagenvoort, was responsible for a flurry of interest in Whitman in Holland in the 1890S and early twentieth century. He visited the

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pp. 233-267

As early as 1860 the Saturday Press reprinted (or so it is claimed) an article published in Paris in the Bibliographie Impériale (which never existed) announcing the imminent publication of a French translation of Leaves of Grass by one V.H. (Victor Hugo? Who knows?). After praising the eccentric aesthetics of the American poet, the article quoted samples of the forthcoming translation,...

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pp. 268-281

Italian critics and scholars became aware of the existence of Leaves of Grass later than their French counterparts, since the first article about Whitman appeared in Italy only on December 7, 1879. Published in Fanfulla della Domenica, the article was written by Enrico Nencioni, a lover of English poetry. But, like Louis Etienne, Nencioni disapproved of Whitman's rejection of...

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pp. 282-294

Though no translation ofthe entire Leaves of Grass has yet appeared in the former Yugoslavia, Whitman has nevertheless been well represented since 1900 in translations of individual poems, in journals, in editions of selected works, and in various influence studies. Stephen Stepanchev has noted that the earliest Yugoslavian translation of Whitman was the 1912 appearance of a poem...

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pp. 295-299

Whitman's presence in Polish literary culture has developed erratically: from reluctant recognition in the 1870S and 1880s through a long period of salient and eager acceptance; then an interval of near oblivion in the late 1930S until the early 1950S; an eruption of celebratory attention in 1955 that solidified his fame but did not immediately produce any important critical or scholarly studies...

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pp. 300-338

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Walt Whitman in the history of twentieth-century Russian letters.' His audience, reputation, and influence have been enormous. Kornei Chukovsky's translations from Leaves of Grass were published in editions of ten, twenty, and fifty thousand copies; Soviet critics have for decades honored the poet as a high priest of...

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pp. 339-356

Whitman's poetry received little more than sporadic attention in Sweden and Swedish communities in Finland in the early years of this century, but it developed into a principal source of inspiration and example to poets coming into print there after the First World War. They were of the "new generation," as they were soon named, and had no patience with the genteel complacencies...

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pp. 357-380

Walt Whitman was discovered almost simultaneously by Rudolf Schmidt in Denmark and by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in Norway. Both were associate editors of the Scandinavian magazine For Idé og Virkelighed (For Idea and Reality) and shared the same ideas of social and political reform in a modern, Darwinian world. Schmidt was the last of the German intellectual school, despised...

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pp. 381-385

The process that makes a poet well known in a foreign country usually comprises three stages: translation, criticism, and influence on the country's native poetry. Generally speaking, this is also true of the reception of Walt Whitman in Finland. The main process, however, was preceded by preliminary flashes on the Finnish literary scene. The first was a short item on Whitman in the...

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pp. 386-395

The most remarkable aspect of the phenomenon of Whitman's reception in Israel has been, and still remains, the very fact of the phenomenon itself: the absorption of the greatest poet of the New World into the life and language of the "new world" of Israel. For all the cultural differences between Whit- man-whether it be his individuality, eroticism, or Christianity-and traditional...

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pp. 396-405

Although Whitman left no visible mark on the literatures of modern India, and interest in him has been confined to the English-educated writers and scholars, he has always had a special appeal to the Indian people, together with Emerson and Thoreau. Indian readers have been quick to perceive affinities between Whitman's "Songs" of the self and the mystic utterances of...

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pp. 406-428

Leaves of Grass first influenced China in the early decades of the twentieth century when Whitman's work was welcomed by a limited number of writers and critics. Since then his reception has reached three peaks: the first was during the 1920s and 1930s when China was undergoing a literary revolution characterized by vernacular literature; the second was during the 1940S and mid-1950s,...

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pp. 429-435

Whitman welcomed Japan more than thirty years before Japan welcomed him. On June 16, 1860, the poet watched a parade on Broadway that included the members of the first mission from Japan to the United States, sent to Washington to deliver ratified copies of the Treaty of Commerce of 1858. Whitman believed their appearance to be a transcendental omen and expressed that...

Selected Bibliographies

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pp. 437-466

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 467-468

E-ISBN-13: 9781587290046
E-ISBN-10: 1587290049
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877454984
Print-ISBN-10: 0877454981

Page Count: 480
Publication Year: 1995

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Whitman, Walt, -- 1819-1892 -- Criticism and interpretation -- History
  • Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 -- Appreciation -- Foreign countries.
  • American literature -- Appreciation -- Foreign countries.
  • Children's literature ǂx History and criticism.
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