Walt Whitman and the Other Poets of the 19th century in American Literature by tenkaizen

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									                   WALT WHITMAN AND THE OTHER POETS OF THE 19TH CENTURY



Historical background:
    - 1860: Abraham Lincoln President
    - 1861 – 65: Civil War between North and South
    - 1870 – 90: Railroad expansion
    - 1898: Spanish-American War
    - Urbanization, industrialization, “Gilded Age”

Features:
   - Mid 19th century – new group – THE NEW ENGLAND BRAHMINS – group of poets and
       some historians
   - Massachusetts – Boston (center of culture), big opportunity for publishing
   - The North American Review (1815 – till now)
   - The Atlantic Monthly (1857 – till now)
   - Members of Brahmins: H. W. Longfellow, J. R. Lowell, Oliver Waldo Holmes (had high
       reputation)
   - Mostly academic and very intellectual poetry – so called GENTEEL TRADITION – high
       society, corruptness, conventionality (Brahmins = members of Indian caste – the high
       one)

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

Life:
     -   Very popular – even abroad
     -   Kind of national bard
     -   One of the first professors of European languages in America – important is his role of
         translator – he introduced many authors to America – e.g. Dante’s divinity Comedy
     -   Poems: family, nature, religion – inspired by English, German, Spanish, French and
         Italian literature

Work:
   - EVANGELINE – long epic poem – sentimentalized people called Aeadians (people
      expelled from territories in Canada and left to America)
   - VOICES OF NIGHT – col. of poems – history – THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH – (one
      of the leaders of Pilgrim fathers), celebration of colonial era
   - TALES OF WAYSIDE INN – epic poem
   - THE SONG OF HIAWATHA – long epic poem, his most famous, based on Indian myth –
      sentimental view of Indians, celebration of their culture, in spirit of romanticism. Starts
      with birth of this legendary chief (imaginary, didn’t live) – childhood – love for
      beautiful Minnehaha – their marriage, their death. Enriched language with words of
      Indian origin. Emphasizes beauty of the nature. Similarities and analogy.
   - Sometimes his poems are rather flat, lack the depth
   - Most of his ideas took from other writers (like Washington Irving)

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL (1819 – 1891)

Life:
     -   Poet, critic, journalist, also involved in politics
     -   One of the founders and editors of the Atlantic Monthly + editor of the New Am.
         Review
-        In poetry – many literary allusions
Work:
   - A FABLE FOR CRITICS – comprises both poetry and criticism – express certain opinions
      on his contemporaries in vers
   - THE BIGLOW PAPERS – satirical work written in Yankee dialect




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                   WALT WHITMAN AND THE OTHER POETS OF THE 19TH CENTURY



OLIVER WANDELL HOLMES (1809 – 1894)

Life:
     -   poet, scientist – professor of anatomy
     -   keyword – science – evening poetry
     -   confidence in human nature, science
     -   sometimes attacks orthodox religious views
     -   invented the name Brahmin for the literary group

Work:
   - Holmes wrote humorous poetry and wrote in “light verse” (poetry without a (very)
      serious purpose). His light verse uses humor to express his likes and dislikes.
   - Poem: OLD IRONSIDES – in light verse, most famous American battle ship “USS
      constitution”, poem helped to arouse interest in the ship

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER (1807 – 1892)

Work:
   - Wrote many poems x slavery (abolitionist poetry), about the beauty of New England
   - VOICES OF FREEDOM, LEGENDS OF NEW ENGLAND

SIDNEY LANIER (1842 – 1881)

   - He was not a member of Brahmins, he was from the South
Work:
   - MARSHES OF GLYNN – describes how a poet comes closer to nature as he
      approaches old age.
   - THE SCIENCE OF ENGLISH VERSE – book how to write poetry

WALT WHITMAN (1819 – 1892)

Life:
     -   founder of new American poetry of free verse (poetry in a form that does not follow
         any regular pattern)
     -   his type of poetry influenced many following generations – even the Beats in 1950s
     -   so unusual that ordinary people didn’t understand it
     -   many critics rejected his poetry – said he spoiled Am. poetry
     -   Emerson supported and influenced him
     -   Without formal education, was homosexual
     -   Important – NY, traveled to the South – crucial event

Work:
- LEAVES OF GRASS (1855)- 1st edition only 12 poems – incl. SONG OF MYSELF – very long
poem, actually discovering American self, 52 sections – expresses opinions, feelings…
               4th edition (before his death)
    - he himself called his poetry “prophet poetry”
    - nature, love freedom, civil war – (about the murder of A. Lincoln – “WHEN LILACS LAST
       IN THE DOORYARD BLOOM’D”; O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!)
    - democratic language, celebration of sexuality
    - very patriotic
    - optimistic vision of America
    - to him, message was always more important than form => free verse – the lines are
       not usually organized into stanzas; they look more like ordinary sentences. Although he
       rarely uses rhyme or meter, we can still feel rhythm. Words or sounds are often
       repeated.




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                 WALT WHITMAN AND THE OTHER POETS OF THE 19TH CENTURY




EMILY DICKINSON (1830 – 1886)

   -   New England writer, wrote during the Civil War.
   -   Wrote personal kind of poetry – poems about death, also spiritual death – emptiness,
       about nature, love => resembles transcendentalists – her poetics is largely
       metaphysical
   -   Unusual vocabulary and syntax, frequent dashes, often capitalized words
   -   Short poems mostly – like telegraph – she called them “letters”
   -   All poems published only after her death – BOLTS OF MELODY (1945)
   -   BECAUSE I COULD NOT STOP… - death – softened – comes as (in form of) man




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