Walt Whitman: Here and Now

Walt Whitman: Here and Now

Walt Whitman: Here and Now

Walt Whitman: Here and Now


The contributors analyze Whitman's life and work as a reflection of his concerns for such societal issues as war and peace, women's rights, and the threat of slavery to American democracy, as well as a reflection of more personal issues of sexual preference and familial ties. Each of these and many other topics receive careful consideration and attention by scholars who have devoted much of their professional lives to aspects of Whitman's life and work.


When Hofstra University decided to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the publication of Leaves of Grass with a scholarly conference it was not difficult to choose a focus. Walt Whitman has always been a contemporary, part of the "here and now" of succeeding generations of readers whom he addresses directly, assuring them, "I stop somewhere waiting for you."

America has been catching up with the Whitman who waits. Sometimes the pace slows, but at other times we seem to double our stride in the effort to more quickly close the gap between ourselves and the great figure who, like us, once set out along the nation's open road. in the century-plus that has elapsed since the first Leaves of Grass in 1855, America has made a passage "to more than India" that has taken us to realms of outer space Whitman knew by intuition alone. Closer to home, we find that the "forbidden voices" who once spoke only through him are forbidden no more.

Yet we still have a long way to go; for Whitman would have us know that the doing is not enough, and the achievements of here and now are not sufficient in themselves unless we are at the same time mindful that "a kelson of the creation is love." Hofstra is proud that the conference of scholars who gathered here in April 1980 seemed to hold this fact uppermost, so that in this instance fine scholarship was enhanced by faithfulness to the spirit of its subject.

A deliberate effort has been made, in compiling this volume, to retain as much as possible of the flavor of the conference; therefore, if, in some instances, the contents seem somewhat informal it is for this reason.

The proceedings as they appear here do not follow their original order of presentation. After a word of . . .

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