Whitman the Political Poet
Oxford University Press, 1996 - 360 pages
Recent critical studies have emphasized the formal, mystical, and psychological dimensions of Walt Whitman's art, dwelling mainly upon his Emersonian and Transcendental sources. This study is the first book to undertake a detailed analysis of Whitman's entire work in relation to the political struggles of the 19th century. Erkkila repairs the split between the private and the public, the personal and the political, the poet and history, that has in the past defined the analysis and evaluation of Whitman's work. Her approach combines close reading and historicist analysis, examining his poems as both products and agents of the political culture of his time. Among the topics explored are the ways in which the politics of race, class, gender, capital, technology, western expansion, and war enter into the poetic design of "Leaves of Grass"; the relation between Whitman's (homo)sexual body and the body politic of his poems; and the ways in which the Civil War and its aftermath affected Whitman's artistic ordering and reordering of his work.
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1 A Revolutionary Formation
2 The Paradox of the American Republic
3 The Poet of Slaves and the Masters of Slaves
4 Aesthetics and Politics
5 Leaves of Grass and the Body Politic
6 The Fractured State
7 Democracy and HomoSexual Desire
8 The Union War
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