Kenneth M. Price
In this course we will consider selected Whitman texts in relation to broader cultural issues. Whitman's life was shaped by his long engagement with books, magazines, and newspapers--that is, with key features of print culture. Our own cultural moment is shaped by the explosion of new technology that is changing the face of education, editing, libraries, and classrooms. Thinking about Whitman in terms of both print and bytes can offer new perspectives on the tools of knowledge that characterized his world and shape our own.
Whitman has also become a cultural icon. He figures in collective memory in remarkable and varied and competing ways. Whitman's afterlife can be traced in architecture, classical and popular music, the visual arts, advertising, and film. His continuing life is also seen in Walt Whitman schools, bridges, murals, and museums. For the sake of focus, we will study the continuing reinvention of Whitman primarily in literary genres, though we will also touch on film and the fine arts.
Reading assignments are listed below. Despite the specificity of this schedule, I want this course to retain flexibility so as to be responsive to your evolving interests, to my own enthusiasms, and to new scholarship that emerges even during the course itself. I would like the class to be a vital process (as seems fitting because process itself is a central concern in the study of this poet). We will study how, for Whitman, to create was to write, revise, and refine as he created a poetry that was more evolutionary than static.
Presentation and class participation
Seminar paper, 15 -20 pages
Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Penguin)
Whitman, Poetry and Prose (Library of America)
Perlman, Folsom, and Campion, ed. Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song (Holy Cow!)
9/8 "Song of Myself" (1855); discuss the online biography "Walt Whitman" through the section
"The Beginning of the Civil War"
9/15 continue discussion of "Song of Myself"; Emerson's 1855 letter to Whitman;
Whitman's open letter to Emerson of 1856, in Poetry and Prose, 1350-1361;
Price, "Whitman in Blackface"
9/22 "The Sleepers," "I Sing the Body Electric," "To Think of Time" in Leaves of Grass,
(1855); Folsom, "Walt Whitman's 'The Sleepers'"; Whitman's poetry manuscripts
9/29 "Live Oak,with Moss"; Alan Helms, "Whitman's 'Live Oak with Moss'";
Hershel Parker, "The Real 'Live Oak, with Moss': Straight Talk about Whitman's
'Gay Manifesto'"; "Once I Pass'd Through a Populous City"
10/13 Reviews of Whitman; Essay provided on reviews; Annotated bibliography due.
10/20 Fall break.
10/27 Specimen Days in Poetry and Prose.
11/10 Images of Whitman: discussion will focus on the marriage photos; "Dalliance
of the Eagles"; Whitman and the Ben Shahn mural; Whitman and Plymouth Rock
11/17Civil War stories about Whitman
11/24 Measure of His Song, 21–74; Hughes essays and poems; June Jordan, Lawrence; Ostriker; Rich (all in Measure)
12/1 In class presentation of another student's work; class discussion and critique
12/12 Paper due in my box by 5:00 p.m.
Links to Online Resources:
1. Major Authors on CD-ROM: Walt Whitman, ed. Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price (Primary Source Media, 1997).
The CD includes thousands of scanned images of Whitman manuscripts and notebooks from the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. Moreover, we include, in freshly keyed form, the twenty-two volumes of The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman (New York University Press), making available to students and scholars an electronically searchable edition of the full range of Whitman's writings. The CD also includes both e-text and scanned facsimiles of the pages of all six editions of Leaves of Grass, nearly all the contemporary reviews of Whitman's work, and all known photographs of Whitman (over 130).
2. Microfilm of the Feinberg-Whitman Collection at the Library of Congress
The Feinberg Collection is the world's single greatest collection of Whitman manuscripts, books, and related materials. There are over 300,000 items in the Feinberg collection. Roughly half of the collection (which has thankfully been indexed!) is available on microfilm. Love library recently purchased the microfilm collection.
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