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Study Outline on Walt Whitman and other American Poets of the 19th century. Historical background and most influential poets of that time.
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 1 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. 2 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 3 rm of) man 3
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