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Lecture 2- Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.docx

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English (Arts)
ENGL 226
Kait Pinder

Lecture 2: Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson Introduction and Brief Discussion • 19thC poets • connections with the beginnings of American literature ◦ pointing towards the future, what we will be reading later • often brought together in a survey class • very different, kind of extreme on both sides • Whitman is lengthier but offers more to analyze • Dickinson offers enigmatic poems that make it harder to sink your teeth into it for analysis • stark gendered difference between the two ◦ Whitman is white man in America can make stronger statements ◦ Dickinson writes more privately • how to read the dashes in Dickinson poems, because they can mean different things • Whitman offers total view of America, omniscient speaker usually • Whitman was political, a journalist, a nurse during the Civil War • Dickinson was reclusive, living almost all her life in the family home • a bit of narrative to help you place yourself in Whitman's poems • both poets wrote around the Civil War, both from the North East Whitman • 1819-1892 • born in Long Island to Quakers, moved to Brooklyn in 1823 • left school at the age of 11 • journalist and teacher • at 21, stopped teaching, moved to Manhattan for journalism • democrat • political career speaking at dem. rallies and writing for the dem. review • free soil-er, which was a third pol. party that was a single issue party ◦ against the acquisition of more land to be used for slavery, such as colonizing Mexico • 1850s starts work on Leaves of Grass, spent his life editing and revising it ◦ self-published on July 4th, 1855 ◦ setting himself up as the voice of America ◦ minor works of literature are called "grass", and the pages of a book are called "leaves" ▪ hence the ironic pun title, pages of empty poetry ▪ its a revolution in poetry, because Whitman is saying what may be perceived as "grass" or unimportant will become important ◦ title evokes the idea of growth and maturation of America • Ralph Waldo Emerson helps to define Whitman ◦ Leaves of Grass is a response to Emerson poem ◦ Em. wanted an American poet to discuss the bodily abject things usually omitted from poetry ◦ Whitman revolutionized poem by writing an embodied poetry, of the body and about the body, in part b/c Em. said he should ◦ embodied life is just as important as the soul, heaven, and other abstract concepts ◦ Em. wrote letter to Whitman saying he finds Leaves of Grass the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom, that it has great power, and great power makes him happy ▪ Whitman sent this letter out with his book • Whitman wrote in free verse, revolutionary • transcendentalist and romantic roots ◦ describes a celebratory relationship b/w the individual and the natural world • fired from his job in the Department of the Interior for writing about bodily functions and heterosexual love (inappropriate and obscene) • Song of Myself ◦ at first untitled, then called Poem of Walt Whitman, then Walt Whitman, then in 1881 changed to Song of Myself ◦ change in title makes it applicable to the individual, you become the "I" ◦ the myself is America itself ◦ he claims everything as part of him, but tells people to take their own paths ◦ points to paradoxes of democracy ▪ every vote counts, but the majority rules ▪ conflict between one and many ▪ the person elected represents the people, is an individual who speaks for many ▪ an authority over those he represents, but he is also authorized by them ▪ both in the government and among the governed ▪ both above the people and of the people ◦ conflating the poet, he will become the acknowledged legislator of the world ◦ celebrating the America to come • against slavery on racial and economic lines ◦ Slavery in the South meant ppl could develop an aristocratic state ▪ people working free changed the economy ▪ white people that wanted to work and be payed for it were punished by this system • poetics ◦ free verse ◦ repetition (anaphora, epistrophe, polysyndeton) ▪ anaphora means carrying up or back ▪ i.e. all the lines start with "and" ▪ epistrophe means the repetition of a closing word of phrase at the end of a line ▪ i.e. "of my own" ending twice ▪ polysyndeton means the repetition of several conjunctions, more than you need ◦ catalogue ▪ figures of repetition contribute to the catalogue effect ◦ diction (especially language of accumulat
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