Whitman's Drama of Consensus

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, 21. nov 1988 - 269 pages
In this elegant study, Walt Whitman's democratic, consensual idealism emerges for the first time as truly central to his poetic achievement. Though Whitman's democratic idealism has often been dismissed as a blindness to the political complexities of his day, Kerry C. Larson argues that the poet was in fact vitally engaged in the problems of preserving social continuity at a time (1855-60) when the specter of disunion and fractricidal war grew increasingly ominous. Whitman conceived his poems as vehicles for social integration whose entire aim was to dramatize the joining of the many and the one, speaker and listener, universal and particular without subordinating either term. For Whitman, the poet's role was to be "the better President," the figure in whose person all contending interests and competing factions would be resolved. The importance of "drama" in Larson's title is borne out in his argument that Whitman's most memorable poems depict the goal of consent as an active process, something to be achieved rather than merely affirmed. By way of making this drama vivid, these poems project a fictive audience or interlocutor which, in being invoked by the poet, furnishes him with a partner in the ongoing dialogue of voices Leaves of Grass both embodies and records.
 

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Contents

Abbreviations
ix
Acknowledgments
xi
Introduction
xiii
A More Perfect Union Whitmans Hymns of You
1
Contacts and Contracts
7
Lessons of the Master
30
Unbetrayable Replies
56
Organic Compacts The Conception of Free Growth
75
Native Models
106
The Overstaid Fraction
132
Breaking the Tally The Body Comradeship and Death
147
The Armies of Love
153
SeaDrift
185
DrumTaps and Beyond
207
Notes
245
Index
265

Embryos and Skeletons
83

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