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					Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass.

“Song of Myself”: Whitman attempts to develop both a 1) a new, broader sense of democracy and 2) a
wilder, freer sense of American literature.

1: What core democratic American values does Whitman promote?
2: How do these values change his sense of literature?
3. How does Whitman connect his self with a broad collective of diverse people? How does this complicate
his sense of the self? How does it shape his sense of democracy?
4. Why is realism important to Whitman’s philosophy and poetics? What is democratic about it?
5. How does Whitman reconcile philosophical oppositions? How successful is this project? Doesn’t it end up
being contradictory—non synthesizable—and why does Whitman celebrate this contradictoriness?
6. How and why does Whitman complicate his sense of the self?
7. Ultimately, what are the national/postnational implications of Whitman’s poetry? How can a democratic
nation be shaped by borders, exclusions, conventions, ideologies, etc.? What comes after the nation?
8. How does Whitman use the metaphor of grass? 1, 6, 17, 31,
9. What is Whitman’s view of nature, and why is it important? 31
8. Which is your favorite section and why?
Day 1:
1: What core democratic American values does Whitman promote? He celebrates the free, common,
democratic individual self.
   **Celebrates individual self: 1.1-3: Whitman’s complex sense of the self performs many tasks: 4.9-10;
          7.8, 18
   Celebrates nature: 1.5 observing grass, 1.6 made of soil
   Celebrates freedom from creeds and schools (democracy/question authority): 1.last stanza
   Celebrates leisure over work: 1.5 loafe
   Celebrates common, ordinary material life: 1.5 observing grass (6, 17, 31); 1.6 made of soil, 3.5,19-21;
   11.7; 12 end; 14
These elements constitute some of the core values of American democracy.
   Note that nature plays a central role in the imagination of American democracy.

How do these values differ from Prospero’s, Gonzalo’s (material), and Caliban’s (not anti-colonization)?
    Democracy (circle) replaces aristocracy (pyramid)
        Equality replaces hierarchy
        Inclusion replaces inclusion
        Leisure vs. forced labor
How is Whitman’s independence different from Prospero’s? No need for slaves. Participates in, listens to, and
learns from world around him.


2: American Literature: Literature needs to be written and read in your own voice
    2, Whitman advances a new view of American literature as less civilized, more free, and more natural.
        Speak with your own loosed, belched-up words: 2.12
         Read for yourself without others’ opinions: 2. last stanza
        Rejects “civilizing” influence of perfumes
        Prefers undisguised, naked contact with nature
    How does this view of art differ from Propero’s?
        *Realism not illusion or magic
        democratic not restoring hierarchy
        breaking from not relying on tradition
        written in own voice—connections back to self
        does Whitman challenge democratic nationalism (in celebrating it) the same way Shakespeare
        undermines the aristocratkic nation (in criticizing it)
    5.3-5 Not culture or even words, but free voice humming. Cf. Caliban’s soliloquy
    18. With music strong I come--with my cornets and my drums, / I play not marches for accepted victors
    only--I play great marches for conquer'd and slain persons.
    24: Ultimately Whitman seeks to promote a new, broader sense of democracy and literature as
    interrelated.
    52: His voice is untamed and wild
Day 2:
3: Collectives:
    Section 15 discusses the diverse people in the neighborhood and concludes by connecting them to the self.
What does Whitman do poetically to connect the collective together?
What kind of community does his poetry project—national or postnational? Does he draw any national
boundaries? Does he draw any boundaries at all? Is this Friedman’s flat world—a false, ideal illusion of
democratic capitalism that will probably never be?
    Section 15: People in the neighborhood
    Section 18 speaks for the oppressed.
    Section 31/37: Suffers with the sufferers

4: Realism:
    Section 8 discusses the realistic poetry of life. cf. p. 40, 42
    Section 12 observes how everyone, even ordinary workers, fits in his or her place.
    Section 14observes animals to see meaning of ordinary
    Section 15 discusses the ordinary people in the neighborhood.
    Section 26: do nothing but listen

5. What is Whitman’s sense of democracy?
    24: Kick out the jams
    25: Voice of all
    46: no ideologies or religions
Day 3:
6: Reconciles all opposites: This inclusive ethos reflects Whitman’s attempt to expand the limits of democracy
as far as they can go without hierarchies, binaries, or borders.
    5: All brothers and sisters
    6: All people and all of nature are interconnected
    16: Reconciles opposites
    19: Include all
    21: Body/soul
    41: Sacred and profane/Spiritual and material
    48: Body/soul
    51: Vast and contradictory sense of self, cosmos
A. How does Whitman try to reconcile oppositions?
    Bold confident assertions
    Opposites are not exclusive
    Inverts opposites
    Includes everything equally
    Everything is connected and necessary
    Everything is right in its own place
    I feel a part of everything
    My self is all things—unite opposites in the self
    There is a national unity of diversity

B. How successful is Whitman’s attempt to reconcile opposites? In 50, he claims to have a plan—what is it?
   Leans on others. Not an independent self, but an interdependent self
   Involves the reader in the project. More of a conversation than a didactic lecture. Judge for yourself.The
   reader must complete his project (last line of 52).
   Ultimately, however, Whitman admits that his project is contradictory—in the very section right after he
   claims to have a plan (Section 51). How can one have a plan to be contradictory—isn’t this itself a
   contradiction?

C. What are the implications of Whitman’s project being contradictory?
   Non-Hegelian dialectic
   Open project—last lines he waits for the reader

7. What kind of self does Whitman ultimately create?
    44: Everything completes me
    More than autobiographical/subjective self
    Blurs boundary between self and other
    Dynamic, changing
    Difficult to express/untranslatable: 47
    Metaphor of democracy
    Vast: 20, 51
    Multiple—many Whitmans
    Contradictory—intellectually honest

7. Ultimately, what are the national/postnational implications of Whitman’s poetry? How can a democratic
nation be shaped by borders, exclusions, conventions, ideologies, etc.? What comes after the nation?
     A. Why does he describe his writing as a barbaric yawlp, and what are the implications of this—especially
    as a model for a national literature?
        Everyday speech—nation of the people not elite
        Speaks for the downtrodden (18, 23.20, 24.12-22, 37.3)—expands national boundaries to be more
        inclusive)
   Loosens language from customs and conventions and taboos—makes national identity gounded in
   freedom not convention or tradition

B. Where do we see signs of the postnational/global in Whitman’s writing?
   End of 38
   46 (top of 245)
   “I Sing the Body Electric” #8
   “Facing West from California’s Shores” (271)
Day 4: “Children of Adam”

I. What is new about these poems?
     Celebrate Prelapsarian Edenic state
     Much more sexual—material (without counterbalancing spiritual): phallus “From Pent Up”; list of body
       parts “I Sing” part 9; love thoughts love juice “Spontaneous Me”; touch me “As Adam Early”

II. Why are they so sexual, and what is Whitman trying to say with this sexualized discourse that he couldn’t
say in “Song of Myself”?
    Grounds his poetics in the material and physical world: body electric (254)
    Gives his writing an orgasmic emotional intensity: “pent-up aching” (252), “furious storm” (253)
    Promotes a certain libertines sense of freedom: “utter abandonment” (253)
    “balks account” (255)
    To be surrounded by bodies—democracy happens at a physical level (“I Sing” 4)
    Love/the Body is a universal that connects all (“I Sing” 8)
    Critique of Puritan view of the New World as a wilderness that needs civilizing (sex needs correction and
    training) or as a world of savages (sex dangerous)—alternate utopian view more like Gonzalo
    “Sex contains all” (263): How/Why?
    “I pour the stuff” or “Through you I drain” to make American offspring (264).—But why does it need to be
    sexual to do this?
        His poem is the bull semen of American democracy? How can a poem be semen?
        He believes that we are dormant democratic eggs waiting to ripen
        Poetry draws on the powers of nature to change and enliven and create nature
        This is a material/sexual poem intended to have material effects—not just for contemplation
        He wants to break through the plane between artists and readers not leave it intact.
        A Whitman poem is a hand stroking your hair or even groping you

   “To The Garden,” “Pent Up,” “Ages”: procreation
   “I Sing”: Celebrates shared physical bodies of all
   “One Hour”: Whitman’s radical notion of freedom given full expression.

III. Why is the real (255) and love (265) more valuable than a poem?
Day 5:

I. How does Whitman’s project become more global in scope?
    SAM1-2: widens project to encompass globe

II. What are the implications of this? How does it continue, extend, or change his poetic project?
    OR5: Loosed of all limits and imaginary lines
    OR6: increases humanity and democracy—best people breathe air of open road—Democracy is not
    American anymore
    OR9: Must keep going—never finished
    OR10: Project is pathless and formulaless OR13: “I know not where”
    OR11/13/15: Transvaluation of value/reward
    SAM10: mixes indiscriminately

III. How successful is it? Can one really sing of everything from the penguin to the Arab muezzin (call to
prayer) to Syrian locusts?
     SAM4: “I plainly see the Himilayas”
     SAM4: “I see the superior oceans and the inferior ones”
     SAM7: “I see the burial cairns of Scandanavian warriors. / I see them raised high with stones by the marge
     of restless oceans, that the dead men’s spirits when they wearied of their quiet graves might rise up through
     the mounds and gaze on the tossing billows, and be refreshed by storms, immensity, liberty, action” (300).
     SAM9: “I see the propoise-hunters”
     SAM10: “I see the Turk smoking opium in Aleppo”
     SAM12: “You dwarf’d Kamtschatkan”
     SAM9: “I am a real Parisian”

IV. What value is there to such a thin, but broad poetic project?
    Does it extend democracy, break it, or transform it into something more—global brotherhood, universal
    rights of man, UN, etc.?
    Does it make any sense to say that I am Parisian? What notion of self is that?

V. How is “Crossing” the opposite, a poem of homogeneity? Isn’t there a tension between both in all of
Whitman? Is it possible to encompass such a broad road without erasing difference? Don’t you just end up with
“It’s a Small World” after all? Is Whitman Epcott—postnational but reductive?
    Includes all, but erases all differences.
    Erases all distance, time, difference
    All see things the same
    All experiences are the same


V. Cf. “One Hour to Madness and Joy” to OR5
Day 1:
**1. Self: I celebrate myself; / And what I assume you shall assume; / For every atom belonging to me, as good
belongs to you.
**2. Literature: I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked; / I am mad for it to be
in contact with me.
*3. All is Holy: Urge, and urge, and urge; / Always the procreant urge of the world.
4. Apart from crowd: Trippers and askers surround me . . . But they are not the Me myself.
5. Sexual: I believe in you, my Soul--the other I am must not abase itself to you; / And you must not be abased
to the other.
6. A child said, What is the grass? . . . the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
7. I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself;
*8. What living and buried speech is always vibrating here--what howls restrain'd by decorum;
9. The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon
10. Alone, far in the wilds and mountains, I hunt,
11. Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore
12. The butcher-boy . . . Blacksmiths.
*13. And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me, /And consider green and violet, and the tufted
crown, intentional; / And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else;
14. What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me;
*15. And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.
16. Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion; / A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor,
quaker; / A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest. / I resist anything better than my own
diversity;
*17. These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands--they are not original with me; / . . . This is the
grass that grows wherever the land is, and the water is; / This is the common air that bathes the globe.
Day 2:
*18. With music strong I come--with my cornets and my drums, / I play not marches for accepted victors only--
I play great marches for conquer'd and slain persons.
19. This is the meal equally set--this is the meat for natural hunger; / It is for the wicked just the same as the
righteous--I make appointments with all; / I will not have a single person slighted or left away;
20. One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself;
*21. I am the poet of the Body; / And I am the poet of the Soul.
22. I moisten the roots of all that has grown.
*23. I accept reality, and dare not question it;
**24. Walt Whitman am I, a Kosmos, of mighty Manhattan the son, / Turbulent, fleshy and sensual, eating,
drinking and breeding; / . . . If I worship one thing more than another, it shall be the spread of my own body,
or any part of it.
25. We also ascend, dazzling and tremendous as the sun; / . . . Speech is the twin of my vision--it is unequal to
measure itself;
26. I think I will do nothing now but listen, / To accrue what I hear into myself--to let sounds contribute
toward me.
27. I have instant conductors all over me, whether I pass or stop; / They seize every object and lead it
harmlessly through me.
28. I am given up by traitors;
29. Sprouts take and accumulate--stand by the curb prolific and vital: / Landscapes, projected, masculine,
full-sized and golden.
*30. All truths wait in all things; / They neither hasten their own delivery, nor resist it;
31. I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,
*32. I think I could turn and live with animals
*33.Time and Space: Voyaging to every port, to dicker and adventure; / Hurrying with the modern crowd,
as eager and fickle as any;
34. 'Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve young men.
35-36. Would you hear of an old-fashion'd sea-fight? . . . as my grandmother's father, the sailor, told it to me.
Day 3:
*37. I embody all presences outlaw'd or suffering; / See myself in prison shaped like another man, / And feel
the dull unintermitted pain.
38. Beholding his own crucifixion, Whitman “troop[s] forth replenish'd with supreme power, one of an
average unending procession”
39. The friendly and flowing savage, Who is he? / Is he waiting for civilization, or past it, and mastering it?
40. I seize the descending man, and raise him with resistless will.
*41. Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah, / Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his
grandson; / Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha, / . . . Accepting the rough deific sketches to
fill out better in myself--bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see; / Discovering as much, or
more, in a framer framing a house;
*42. Sermons, creeds, theology--but the fathomless human brain, / And what is reason? and what is love? and
what is life?
43. My faith is the greatest of faiths, and the least of faiths,
*44.It is time to explain himself: All forces have been steadily employ'd to complete and delight me; / Now
on this spot I stand with my robust Soul.
45. My rendezvous is appointed--it is certain; / The Lord will be there, and wait till I come, on perfect terms; /
(The great Camerado, the lover true for whom I pine, will be there.)
46. I tramp a perpetual journey--(come listen all!)
47. No shutter'd room or school can commune with me, / But roughs and little children better than they.
*48. I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, / Nor do I understand who
there can be more wonderful than myself. / Why should I wish to see God better than this day? / I see something
of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then; / In the faces of men and women I see God, and in
my own face in the glass; / I find letters from God dropt in the street--and every one is sign'd by God's name,
/And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go, Others will punctually come forever and
ever.
49. And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me.
50. It is not chaos or death--it is form, union, plan--it is eternal life--it is HAPPINESS.
**51. Do I contradict myself? / Very well, then, I contradict myself; / (I am large--I contain multitudes.)
**52. The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me--he complains of my gab and my loitering. / I too am not a
bit tamed--I too am untranslatable; / I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. / . . . I bequeathe
myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love; / If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.
Day 4:
“To the Garden the World”: “To the garden the world anew ascending”

“From Pent Up Aching Rivers”: “Singing the song of procreation” and the phallus

**“I Sing the Body Electric”: All people share similar bodies which are their souls.
   1. Celebrates that the body is the soul.
   2. The sensuality of bodies is indescribable.
   3. Desire for common farmer.
   4. Company is enough.
   5. The female form balances all things.
   6. The male form is all things in action.
   7. The male slave has the same body and heart as all men.
   8. The female slave has the same body as everyone.
   9. All of the parts of the body are the soul.

*“A Woman Waits for Me”: Sex contains all. Draining the “pent-up rivers of myself,” Whitman will produce
“sons and daughters fit for these States” (264).

“Spontaneous Me”: Our real poems of love swear the oath of procreation.

**“One Hour to Madness and Joy”: Remove all constraints in search of a reckless euphoria.

“Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd”: Two lovers are both part of the ocean.

“Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals”: Whitman is “bathing my songs in Sex” (268).

“We Two, How Long Were We Fool’d”: We are nature.

“Facing West From California’s Shores”: “Facing west from California’s shores, / Inquiring, tireless,
seeking what is yet unfound” (271).

“As Adam Early in the Morning”: Do not be afraid to touch my body.
Day 5:
“Salut Au Monde” (-305):
   1. Whitman’s links widen to include new peoples and lands
   2. His latitudes and longitudes lengthen to encompass the globe.
   3. Whitman hears people from all over the earth.
   4. Whitman sees the natural geography of the whole earth and the sailors who travel it.
   5. Whitman sees railroads, telegraphs, and rivers.
   6. He sees all religions.
   7. He sees much of the world.
   8. After seeing arctic regions, Whitman is a citizen of the whole world.
   10. He sees the unexplored countries and mixes indiscriminately with and salutes all the people of the
   earth.
   11. He celebrates rights of whole earth. Each is limitless, inevitable, and divinely here.
   12. He includes the marginalized of the earth equally.
   13. Whitman’s spirit encompasses the globe.

“Song of the Open Road” (305-):
   1. Take to the open road without complaints.
   2. Accept all you shall encounter on the road.
   3. Nature and the human environment will sustain you.
   4. The public road sustains
   **5. The road is radically free,
   *6. The road improves people.
   7. The soul grows through contact with strangers.
   8. The open air fills the soul with happiness.
   *9. We must keep going.
   *10. There is no path or formula.
   11. Old rewards must be left behind for new kinds of rewards.
   12. The road provides great companions.
   *13. The universe is many open roads waiting for travelers.
   14. The road passes through struggles and war.
   15. Leave lesser things behind and embrace the comradeship of the open road.

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”:
   1. Ferry crowds are curious to Whitman, including future generations.
   2. Past and future are similar, others will continue the same journey.
   *3. Time and place avail not.
   4. Same experience for all.
   5. Even one hundred years avails not. We all have the same experiences.
   6. We all share the same common faults of humanity.
   7. Whitman understands future generations.
   8. Nothing is greater than Manhattan.
   9. Flow on life of the city, we remember all great and small.

				
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