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					 American Literature:
Literary Eras and Authors

  Lecture 11 Walt Whitman

         American Literature (I) Autumn
        Walt Whitman

I hear America

          American Literature (I) Autumn
Walt Whitman:
The True Voice of Americans
 assume v. 假定;设想                    odorless a. 无气味的
 atom n. 原子(诗中暗指人是由相同的物质构成)         undisguised a. 不掩饰的;公开的
 loaf v. 游荡;闲混                      naked a. 裸露的
 spear n. (草的)叶片                    respiration n. 呼吸
 law of nature 天理。天理的存在是近代西方民主      inspiration n. 鼓舞;灵感
 思想体系的支柱之一, 其主要含义是, 天理高于君
 权, 天理的基本原则是人人生而平等。                 homosexual a. 同性恋的
 Leaves of Grass 《草叶集》。惠特曼创作的全部     abase v. 贬低
 诗歌都收集在此诗集中。1855年初版时仅有诗歌            transparent a. 透明的;半透明的
 l2篇, 惠特曼去世那年出版的第九版中有诗歌400          athwart ad. 横跨
 多篇。                                bosom-bone n. 胸骨
 free verse 自由诗体                    plunge v. (使)投入
 rhyme v. 押韵                        civil war 内战
 Song of Myself “自我之歌”, 《草叶集》中的一首   union n. 联邦;工会
 长诗, 被认为是惠特曼的最佳诗作。                  (be)sworn in (总统)宣誓就职
 disposition n. 气质;意向               inauguration n. (美国)总统就职
 rememberancer n. 纪念品;提醒物           When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d “当紫
 transpire v. 发生                    丁香最近在庭院中开放的时候”(惠特曼悼念林肯
 filth n. 污秽                        总统的著名诗歌)
 denounce v. 谴责、痛斥                  droop v. 低垂;下落
 whine v. 哀诉                        mourn v. 哀悼
 demented n. 痴呆的;精神错乱的              coffin n. 棺材
 mania n. 疯狂;狂热                     sprig n. 小枝
 array of terms 大量的言语               white locks 白发
 pismire n. 蚂蚁                      bequeath v. 遗赠
 wren n. 鹪鹩
Walt Whitman:
The True Voice of Americans
Questions for Comprehension and Discussion

  1. Do you agree with the idea that “Walt Whitman became a
  poet almost overnight?” Why or why not?
  2. In his poems. Whitman celebrates the common people and
  he also regards grass as a sign of everlasting life. Are there any
  links between the two -- people and grass?
  3. While Whitman was seen by the British as the outstanding
  voice of the new world, few Americans recognized his
  greatness. Why was there such a striking contrast then? Why
  were many great writers not fully appreciated while they were
  alive? Write down your answer with supporting examples, and
  then air your opinion in the class.

                     American Literature (I) Autumn
“I celebrate myself …”
 Walt Whitman was born May 31, 1819 on
 South Huntington, Long Island, New York.
 He was almost entirely self-educated,
 especially admiring the work of Dante,
 Shakespeare, and Homer.
 His mother described him as “very good, but
 very strange”.
 His brother described him as being
 “stubborner[sic] than a load of bricks.”

              American Literature (I) Autumn
 Apprenticed to a printer.
 Taught school at 17.
 Editor of The Brooklyn Eagle, a
 respected newspaper, but was fired for
 his outspoken opposition to slavery.
 Civil War nurse.

            American Literature (I) Autumn
Whitman’s Poetry
Whitman declared that his poetry would
   Long lines that capture the rhythms of
   natural speech
   Free verse
   Vocabulary drawn from everyday speech
   A base in reality, not morality

             American Literature (I) Autumn
Leaves of Grass
The first version of his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass,
appeared in 1855.
Emerson praised Whitman’s poetry as “the most
extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has
yet to contribute”.
Whitman used these words, written by Emerson in a
letter to Whitman, in a later introduction to Leaves of
Grass. Emerson was not amused.
John Greenleaf Whittier threw his copy of the book into
the fireplace.
Another critic dismissed it as “just a barbaric yawp.”
Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell were equally
Even Thoreau was appalled by Whitman’s poetry, and
he was certainly no conformist!
                 American Literature (I) Autumn
What’s his deal?
 Why were so many writers shocked by
   His lack of regular rhyme and meter (free
   verse) and nontraditional poetic style and
   subject matter shocked more traditional
   He also wrote poetry with unabashedly
   sexual imagery and themes, some of them
   homoerotic. Examples include the
   Calamus poems and “I Sing the Body
              American Literature (I) Autumn
O Captain! My Captain!
Whitman wrote poetry in praise of
Abraham Lincoln
  “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”
  (an elegy written after Lincoln’s
  “O Captain! My Captain!” memorializes
  Lincoln’s passing as the death of a great
  man and the death of the era he dominated.
  It was used to great effect in Dead Poets’

              American Literature (I) Autumn
Whitman’s Influence
Along with Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman stands as
one of the two giants of American poetry in the
nineteenth century.
Whitman’s poetry would influence such Harlem
Renaissance writers as Langston Hughes and James
Weldon Johnson.
Whitman influenced Beat poets such as Allen Ginsburg.
Chilean writer Pablo Neruda claimed to have been
influenced by Whitman.
Whitman’s poetry was a model for French symbolists,
such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur
Modernist poets such as Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and
W.H. Auden were also influenced by Whitman.
                 American Literature (I) Autumn
“Out of the Cradle, endlessly
rocking …”
 Whitman died on March 26, 1892, one
 year after the final edition of Leaves of
 Grass was published.
 His autopsy revealed his cause of
 death as emphysema.

             American Literature (I) Autumn
The Least You Need to Know
 Whitman created new poetic forms and
 subjects to fashion a distinctly American type
 of poetic expression.
 He rejected conventional themes, traditional
 literary references, allusions, and rhyme -- all
 the accepted forms of poetry in the 19th
 He uses long lines to capture the rhythms of
 natural speech, free verse, and vocabulary
 drawn from everyday speech.

               American Literature (I) Autumn
Reading Assignments
 Historical Introduction: The Literature of Realism
 (p.1-8, Textbook Two)

 Biographical Introduction of Walt Whitman (p.9-10,
 Textbook Two)

                 American Literature (I) Autumn

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