Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

Many of us will contemplate the Civil War during the sesquicentennial, and Randall Fuller inaugurates the proceedings with a study of how the war changed the poetry of Walt Whitman. Writing verse that echoed the drums of war in 1861, Whitman envisioned a poetic response that was muscular and heroic. A year later, after the massive Northern defeat at Fredericksburg and after he'd walked the hospital wards in Washington, searching for his brother, he began thinking of war and the poet's responsibilities very differently.

Less poetry seems to be written today in this vein, charged with idealism and yet heavy with the weight of national destiny. Today's poets are more likely to be scholars of the self, and closer in spirit to the confessional culture Trysh Tra vis explores in her NEH-funded Language of the Heart: From Alcoholics Anonymous to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Christine Rosen, an essayist who reveals some of the moral shifting behind our shifting mores, looks at what it means for American society to have discovered solace in the public display of our private wounds-and then to market the exposed self for the sake of commercial success and voyeuristic entertainment. …

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