Walt Whitman and the Class Struggle
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Iowa Press
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In its early stages the research for this book was supported by sabbatical leave and a travel grant given by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Staffordshire University. My colleagues in English gave generous practical support by taking up additional teaching and administration during my absence....
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Introduction: The Whitman Myth
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On July 4, 1855, a curious new volume could be found on Nassau Street, New York, on sale at two dollars. The book was of an unusual, quarto size and bound in dark green pebbled cloth. The title, Leaves of Grass, was stamped on the cover in gold letters that, somewhat incongruously, sprouted a pro-fusion of leaves and sent down a dense tangle of roots. Anyone browsing at...
1 Sex, Class, and Commerce
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Whitman hoped to orchestrate the entry of Leaves of Grass into literary history through a series of self-publicizing acts. For the first edition of 1855, he placed the portrait of himself by Samuel Hollyer opposite the title page. The portrait shows Whitman...
2 The American 1848
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So begins “Song of Myself,” Whitman’s extraordinary, and extraordinarily presumptuous, poem. Leaving aside the many layers of presumption for a moment, I want to draw attention to a muted but nevertheless insistent conflict between competing...
3 The Class Struggle in Language
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He leaves houses and their shuttered rooms, for the open air. He drops disguise and ceremony, and walks forth with the confidence and gayety of a child. For the old decorums of writing he substitutes his own decorums. . . . [T]he rules of polite circles are dismissed with scorn....
Postscript: Material Resistance
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Language, in Whitman’s poetry, is treated in a new way. A long time ago now, Constance Rourke noted how Whitman “used language as a new and plastic and even comical medium,” one in which effects of disjunction and incongruity between linguistic registers are exploited for the purposes of humor.1 The fundamentally...
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Page Count: 186
Publication Year: 2006