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  • Whitman and Dickinson
  • Stephanie M. Blalock and Stephanie Farrar

Whitman and Dickinson scholarship this year is highlighted by significant editorial achievements and by new approaches in linguistics. The divergence between historically oriented work that draws on cultural studies and print culture and scholarship focused on formal aesthetics, poetics, and philosophical investigation continues. Stephanie M. Blalock contributes the Whitman section of this chapter and Stephanie Farrar the Dickinson section.

i Walt Whitman

a. "Manly Health and Training"

The event of the year in Whitman studies is the recovery of Whitman's previously unknown journalistic series "Manly Health and Training, with Off-Hand Hints Toward Their Conditions" (WWQR 33: 184–310). Discovered by Zachary Turpin, the 13-part series offering diet and health advice, published under the pseudonym Mose Velsor, ran in the weekly New York Atlas between 12 September and 26 December 1858. Turpin located "Manly Health and Training" by following a trail of evidence from Whitman's notebooks and brief notices published in New York newspapers—accessed via a database of digitized newspapers—to a microfilmed reel of the Atlas held by the American Antiquarian Society. The significance of the series lies not only in the revelation of a new Whitman book-length text but also in Turpin's methodology, which underscores the value of digitized 19th-century newspapers to research. In his introduction to the reprinting of [End Page 49] the series (WWQR 33: 147–83) Turpin positions the articles within the context of Whitman's professional and social activities in the late 1850s and of significant political, cultural, and scientific developments of the time. He argues that they fill in gaps in the poet's biography, and he reads them as a response to debates about race, eugenics, and Darwinism that "complicates the democratic and egalitarian ethics of Leaves of Grass." For Turpin the series raises new questions about Whitman's approaches to health and longevity, masculinity and homoeroticism, and gender and womanhood in the years between the second and third editions of Leaves of Grass.

b. Primary Sources

Ed Folsom and Christopher Merrill have prepared Song of Myself: With a Complete Commentary (Iowa), reprinting the 1881 text of the work. Following each section of the poem Folsom provides an extended critical apparatus, with close readings of Whitman's language and imagery. Merrill's afterword discusses Whitman in the contexts of poetic tradition and his international influence and reception.

Recent developments at the Walt Whitman Archive ( will interest researchers and instructors. The archive has added more than 800 letters and a new marginalia and annotations section with 800 pages of Whitman's notes and commentaries on what he read.

c. Special Journal Issues

A special issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review (34, ii) is titled "Walt Whitman and Mathematics." In "Whitman and Mathematics: An Introduction" (pp. 103–19) editor Blake Bronson-Bartlett surveys the scholarship connecting mathematics and Whitman's poetics and identifies the central concerns of the essays here as exploring "how the poet joins the mathematical and the poetical and how their encounter informs the revolutionary aesthetics and political commitments of his writings." In "Keeping Tally with Meaning: Reading Numerals in Walt Whitman's Manuscripts" (pp. 120–45) Matt Cohen and Aaron Dinin examine the numbers and calculations—ranging from historical dates to line and word counts—that can be found in Whitman's manuscripts. They read these elements as "productive disruptions or deformations that partner in the making of poetry," discuss them in light of Whitman's education in mathematics, and argue for the "interdependence of Whitman's mathematical skill and his poetic acts of imagination." Ed Folsom's "Counting from One to a Million: [End Page 50] Whitman's Engagement with Large Numbers" (pp. 146–68) considers the poet's use of mathematical terms in Leaves of Grass to characterize vast quantities. For Folsom large numbers are essential to poems such as "Song of Myself" in which Whitman envisions a universe where the atoms that make up the living at any given time are perpetually recycled into new forms of life. But this "composting faith" wavered as Whitman wrestled with "the impossible arithmetic of the Civil War's mass death...


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