The Whitman Revolution

Programs for Teachers
Newberry Teachers' Consortium
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

“The attitude of great poets is to cheer up slaves and horrify despots,” Walt Whitman wrote in the Preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, a revolutionary volume of poems that radically transformed the form and content of poetry in the United States and elsewhere.  This seminar will focus on the intersections between democratic revolution and revolutionary poetics in Whitman’s writings.  Taking a selection of poems from the different editions of  Leaves of Grass that Whitman published between 1855 and 1867, participants will examine the intersections between Whitman’s poems and the political and cultural struggles of his time. Participants also will focus on Whitman’s revolutionary experiments with the language, style, content, and forms of poetry and his engagement with such subjects as the dignity of the people, the body, sexuality, homoerotic love, race, technology, the city, nature, war, the soul, America, the world and what Whitman called the “kosmos.”

Seminar led by Betsy Erkkila, Northwestern University

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