Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature

By Myerson, Joel | Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature


Myerson, Joel, Walt Whitman Quarterly Review


Ed Folsom. "Walt Whitman." Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature, ed. Jackson R. Bryer, Richard Kopley, and Paul Lauter. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. oxfordbibliographies.com.

What?! Another bibliography of Walt Whitman?! Don't we already have excellent ones by Scott Giantvalley for 1839-1939, Donald Kummings for 1840-1975 (and, within the previous spread of years, Evie Allison Allen for 1945-1960, James Tanner for 1961-1967, and William White's bibliographies in the Walt Whitman Review through 1982), Brent Gibson for 1976 -1985, not to mention the regular bibliographies in WWQR and American Literary Scholarship, and, of course, the omnipotent MLA Bibliography? And then there's the monolithic Walt Whitman Archive with its vast searchable bibliography. Well, the answer is "yes," we do need another, different type of bibliography.

When I started graduate school in the late 1960s, everyone had to create their own bibliographies (unless they were fortunate enough to have had someone do it before them). For W hitman, that meant Gay Wilson Allen's Handbook (1946), American Literary Scholarship (which had only begun with the volume covering 1963), and slogging through annual issues of the MLA Bibliography. Now, of course, everything is either on the web or accessible through a database, or so our students would have us believe. Personally, I think bibliographical control today is a lot like the parable of Buridan's ass, where the hungry and thirsty creature is placed midway between hay and water, and, unable to choose between them, dies of hunger. Today's researcher (and especially one early in an educational or professional career) begins a topic confronted by multiple piles of bibliographical data and, overwhelmed by the choices and lacking guidance as to their value, intellectually starves by slinking away in defeat, guessing what is worthwhile, or cutting and pasting from Wikipedia.

All of which is to say that Ed Folsom's Oxford Bibliographies annotated guide to a century and a half of Whitman criticism is a most welcome vade mecum for the novice and an opportunity to compare evaluations for the advanced reader. After a brief biography of W hitman, Folsom presents sections on General Overviews, Scholarly Print Editions (with sub-sections on Leaves of Grass, Early Poems and Fiction, Manuscripts and Notebooks, Nonfiction Writing, Correspondence, Journalism, Comprehensive Reading Editions), Reference Works (General, Bibliographies), Archives, Biographies (General, Family, Friends, and Disciples, Personal Reminiscences), Journals, Reception, W hitman and Other Writers (General, Modern American and British Writers, International Writers), and, of course, the largest category, Criticism, with sub-sections on History of Criticism, Collections, Foreground of Leaves of Grass, Reading "Song of Myself," Printing and Journalism, Sexuality, American Bohemianism, Civil War and Reconstruction, Race, Slavery, Ethnicity, Philosophy and Religion, Language and Discourse Theory, Politics and Culture, Science and Ecology, the Arts, and Pedagogy. …

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