Walt Whitman's Concept of the American Common Man

Walt Whitman's Concept of the American Common Man

Walt Whitman's Concept of the American Common Man

Walt Whitman's Concept of the American Common Man

Excerpt

Scholars who have studied Walt Whitman and his relationship to his own time have, in many instances, used descriptive or explanatory terms which Whitman himself employed. Whitman spoke of himself as the poet of democracy and the poet of the common man; he considered himself a representative democrat. To use these established terms simplifies considerably the task of anyone who wishes to define the general impression left by Whitman and his works, but in a sense these terms have lost specific meaning chiefly because of their widespread and indiscriminate use. In many instances, the effect was that which Whitman personally encouraged, and the various essays in Whitman biography and interpretation have often been primarily a continuation of the Whitman autobiography. The robust expansiveness of Leaves of Grass and the prophetic utterances of a dawning new day have been taken as indicative of the general tenor and purpose of Whitman the man and the poet.

In the preface to The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, Emory Holloway remarked that many believed that Whitman would not have been pleased with his work, but Holloway recognized the need for a full Whitman biography as well as autobiography. It is only through Whitman biography and Whitman analysis that the poet's meaning will become clear since Whitman never satisfactorily defined either . . .

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