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Whitman East and West

New Contexts for Reading Walt Whitman

Ed Folsom

Publication Year: 2002

In Whitman East and West, fifteen prominent scholars track the surprising ways in which Whitman's poetry and prose continue to be meaningful at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Covering a broad range of issues—from ecology to children's literature, gay identity to China's May 4th Movement, nineteenth-century New York politics to the emerging field of normality studies, Mao Zedong to American film—each original essay opens a previously unexplored field of study, and each yields new insights by demonstrating how emerging methodologies and approaches intersect with and illuminate Whitman's ideas about democracy, sexuality, America, and the importance of literature.

Confirming the growing international spirit of American studies, the essays in Whitman East and West developed out of a landmark conference in Beijing, the first major conference in China to focus on an American poet. Scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America set out to track the ways in which Whitman's poetry has become part of China's cultural landscape as well as the literary landscapes of other countries. By describing his assimilation into other cultures and his resulting transformation into a hybrid poet, these essayists celebrate Whitman's multiple manifestations in other languages and contexts.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xi

Whitman East and West is the result of a remarkable collaboration between Peking University and the University of Iowa and among scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America—an international collaboration that led first to a major conference on Walt Whitman held in Beijing in October of 2000 and then to the publication...

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Introduction: Whitman East and West

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pp. xiii-xxiv

When I was in Beijing for the first time, in October 1997, my taxi went by a kind of graveyard for Mao statues. There, in a vast field, were stacks of dismembered statues of the former chairman, decapitated heads lying in a long row and concrete torsos piled up like logs. I had heard of monument cemeteries all through Eastern Europe...


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pp. xxv

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“Poets to Come . . . Leaving It to You to Prove and Define It”: Lucy Chen, Whitman, T. S. Eliot, and Poets Unknown

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pp. 1-13

I am aware, of course, that Robert K. Martin used this poem as an epigraph to his “Introduction” to the 1992 volume he edited, entitled The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman: The Life after the Life, a pioneer volume in treating Whitman’s sexual themes in the most open possible way, in both their frankness and complexity, opening new paths...

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The Voluptuous Earth and the Fall of the Redwood Tree: Whitman’s Personifications of Nature

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pp. 14-25

The emergence of studies in “environmental rhetoric” and “ecocriticism” in the wake of environmentalist politics creates new possibilities for reading Whitman’s poems. In the light of international ecopolitics, ecofeminism, the environmental justice movement, and the recent protests in the United States against “globalization,” many nature...

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“O Divine Average!”: Whitman’s Poetry and the Production of Normality in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

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pp. 26-35

Normality is a concept that evades analysis, reflection, and especially scientific inquiry. It is a self-justifying category. In popular usage, when something is referred to as “normal,” there is no need to question what it means. The normal state is that to which we “naturally” aspire. “We just want a return to a normal life,” said many...

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Walt Whitman at the Movies: Cultural Memory and the Politics of Desire

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pp. 36-70

In 1855 Walt Whitman claimed—bravely if not wisely—that “the proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it” (LG 729). We’ve yet to experience what Whitman foresaw, a time when farmers, mechanics, and bus drivers routinely go to work with copies of Leaves of Grass in their back...

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“Where’s Walt?”: Illustrated Editions of Whitman for Younger Readers

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pp. 71-96

Anyone writing on representations of Whitman seems to be going over old ground, in terms of both the poet himself and the scholarship on him. After all, the special double issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review edited by Ed Folsom (fall/winter 1986 –1987) devoted to Whitman photographs is striking not just because of the...

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A Dream Still Invincible?: The Matthiessen Tradition

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pp. 97-104

An aging gay man, Reeve, lies in a hospital bed, the victim of gay-bashing by a young hustler he had picked up in a bar. In the adjoining bed, a working- class boy spends his time watching television waiting for his thumb to heal. Reeve’s friend, Howard, openly gay and effeminate, brings some reading matter, copies of George Eliot’s...

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Whitman’s En Masse Aesthetics

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pp. 105-114

It all started this past summer when I read, once again, Leaves of Grass. Shortly afterward, I read Jay Grossman’s essay “Epilogue” in Breaking Bounds: Whitman and American Cultural Studies. Grossman’s angry tone is understandable, when toward the end of his essay he recounts gays’ “being asked to submit to the fundamentally...

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Public Love: Whitman and Political Theory

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pp. 115-144

In 1783, at the close of the American Revolutionary War, George Washington broke into tears as he silently embraced, kissed, and said good-bye to each of his officers at the Fraunces Tavern in New York. As it was remembered and circulated in the American cultural imaginary, this revolutionary scene of public emotion and...

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Representatives and Revolutionists: The New Urban Politics Revisited

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pp. 145-158

In their introduction to Walt Whitman and the World, Gay Wilson Allen and Ed Folsom have noted that “various national cultures have reconstructed Whitman in order to make him fit their native patterns” and how this has resulted in “some radically realigned versions of Whitman, as his writing . . . undertakes a different kind of cultural...

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Whitman on Asian Immigration and Nation-Formation

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pp. 159-171

In these lines, Whitman envisions a new race rising on the horizon of the Western Hemisphere. In the next section of “Starting from Paumanok,” he further enlightens his reader: “See, steamers steaming through my poems, / See, in my poems immigrants continually coming and landing” (LG 27). Whitman writes of a nation...

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Whitman’s Soul in China: Guo Moruo’s Poetry in the New Culture Movement

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pp. 172-186

Guo Moruo (1892–1978) was a celebrated and well-established Chinese poet, playwright, literary critic, historian, and paleographer. In literature, he was particularly well known for his first poetry collection, The Goddesses, published in 1921 and a landmark in the history of modern Chinese poetry. The collection contains a prologue and...

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Pantheistic Ideas in Guo Moruo’s The Goddesses and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

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pp. 187-196

The dictionary definition of pantheism is “a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe.” The twentieth-century Chinese poet Guo Moruo (1892–1978) derived his pantheistic ideas from such a doctrine and wove them into his 1920s collection of poems, The Goddesses. Let me begin by examining the pantheistic...

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Modernity and Whitman’s Reception in Chinese Literature

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pp. 197-207

The present era is usually defined as the era of globalization, but while economic globalization, cultural globalization, and mass media globalization are booming, cultural and literary markets are depressed, and the global influence of literature and other forms of elite culture is shrinking. So why are we still discussing...

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Gu Cheng and Walt Whitman: In Search of New Poetics

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pp. 208-220

None of the foreign poets introduced into China in the twentieth century is comparable to Walt Whitman with regard to his enthusiastic reception and far-reaching influence on the reading public, literary scholars, and writers, poets in particular. On the eve of the May 4th Movement in 1919, a nationwide campaign against Western political...

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Grass and Liquid Trees: The Cosmic Vision of Walt Whitman

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pp. 221-227

Walt Whitman thought of other titles (or subtitles) for Leaves of Grass: “What name? Religious Canticles. These perhaps ought to be the brain, the living spirit (elusive, indescribable, indefinite) of all the ‘Leaves of Grass’” (NUPM 4:1357). Had he chosen Religious Canticles as his title, it would certainly have underscored the religious...


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pp. 229-231


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pp. 233-243

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294211

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2002