- Whitman and Dickinson
There was a continued surge in Whitman-related publications in the year after the 150th anniversary of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, in the form of three scholarly monographs, a large collection of topical essays, an edited collection of writings from Horace Traubel’s Conservator, an encyclopedic companion to Whitman, a special issue of the Revue Française d’Études Americaines, and more than a dozen articles and book chapters, in addition to the many articles and notes published regularly in the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. The Walt Whitman Archive completed the digitization of five volumes of Horace Traubel’s With Walt Whitman in Camden, among many other improvements and expansions to the site. Scholarship on Whitman continues to emphasize historical and cultural approaches, including substantial publications on Whitman and the visual arts, his class position and sexuality, the publication history of his works, and his reception and influence, particularly in transnational contexts.
It was also a productive year in Dickinson scholarship, distinguished by two important new books, Páraic Finnerty’s Emily Dickinson’s Shakespeare and Thomas Gardner’s A Door Ajar: Contemporary Writers and Emily Dickinson; an issue of ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance devoted entirely to Dickinson; and a special issue of the Emily Dickinson Journal containing comments from seventeen important poets. Manuscript study continues to be of interest, and research into Dickinson’s treatment of nature and her contributions to ecocriticism is expanding. [End Page 73]
i Walt Whitman
David Haven Blake, Walt Whitman and the Culture of American Celebrity (Yale), describes how capitalism, large cities, populism, sensationalism in the press, and mass entertainment converged to produce the phenomenon of literary celebrity, something Whitman cultivated and helped to create. Blake begins with an examination of competing forms of renown in antebellum culture, specifically, the notion of posthumous fame based on inherent nobility of character and selfless service giving way to popularity in the present generated by lyceums, newspapers, and photography. He shows how Whitman, hoping for fame and developing his poetic program for that purpose, positioned himself in the context of antebellum advertising, developing a “poetics of hype” somewhere between “commercial and romantic populism”; in that way, Whitman starts the process by which consumption is the means of “casually participating in public life.” Blake then examines how Whitman’s “Calamus” poems anticipate the modern celebrity dynamics of exposure and concealment, and he presents Whitman’s disciples as an early version of fan culture. Blake’s final chapter, “Campaigns,” considers how Whitman benefited from the “the sanction of neglect,” played up his relationship with Lincoln, and became a coterie figure who targeted a cultural elite instead of a mass audience.
Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (Penn. State), examines Whitman’s interest in the visual arts and shows how other artists used his poetry and persona to shape their projects in painting and sculpture. The book includes more than 100 Whitman-related images, some of them previously unpublished. The first part of the book, “Imaging Whitman: The Nineteenth Century,” traces the many interconnections between literary and artistic culture, giving particular attention to Whitman’s relationship with Thomas Eakins. The second part, “Whitman and the Modernists: The Twentieth Century,” examines his influence on Marsden Hartley, Robert Coady, and Joseph Stella. Bohan disagrees with the view of Whitman as favoring photography over painting, and she presents considerable evidence that Whitman regarded poetry and painting as kindred arts. She also significantly reshapes our understanding of Whitman’s reception among the early modernists who were translating Leaves into new media. The strongest passages in Bohan’s work demonstrate the way Whitman’s poetry and the visual images created by other artists, such as Eakins’s [End Page 74] Concert Singer, interact and, perhaps more important, how disciplinary divisions have obscured such relationships.
Andrew Lawson’s Walt Whitman and the Class Struggle (Iowa) argues against the longstanding view of Whitman as a working-class writer. Lawson shows convincingly that Whitman’s politics and diction in the 1855 Leaves indicate he was lower middle class and that as a result of his class position...