Archive for category visitorscripts

Visitors Center Script: Whitman and the Beats

Whitman and the Beats

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlowsky

Peter Orlowsky and Allen Ginsberg

The Beat Generation–poets of the 1950-60′s who rejected mainstream American culture in favor of poetic and spiritual libration.  The Beat poets experimented with drugs and alternative forms of sexuality, and developed an interest in Eastern thought and spirituality.  Among their most famous works: Howl by Allen Ginsberg, On the Road by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch.

Jack Kerouac was a proponent of stream-of-consciousness writing, a style that Ginsberg later adopted.  This can be compared to Whitman’s Specimen Days and his in-the-moment “unedited” prose of detailing Civil War events from the capitol.

Ginsberg also uses long-lines in an approach to capture the rhythm of jazz with the length of a breath–Howl and other poetry is particularly well-suited to oral recitation:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz…

Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Whitman was among the first to popularize long lines of verse, which the Beats readily adopted for its poetic power and oracular quality.

Whitman and the Beats are similar in more than just style–they share many poetic themes and political beliefs.

One of these is a distaste for American materialism.  The Beats struck down mainstream culture for its materialism, embracing spontaneity and liberation over conventionality.  Whitman also criticized materialist culture, stressing an appreciation of the simpler things in life, among them, the beauty of nature and the human body.

The Beats also shared Whitman’s fascination with the sexualized male form.  Although Whitman never admitted to homosexuality, Ginsberg felt no shame with his own sexual relations with Peter Orlowsky, his life-long partner.

Whitman and the Beats were both poets that were involved with the change of the nation’s character in the face of war.  Whitman still retained a somewhat positive outlook on America throughout the Civil War, even after all the casualties that he witnessed in the hospitals.  Ginsberg and the Beat poets adopted a far more grim approach, writing about the alienation of men and women and the destruction of individuals of great character by malign societal control and conformity.

Nevertheless, both poets awoke America with their radical poetry and politics and shaped the cultural, political and literary scene for decades to come.

Jack Kerouac at a reading

Jack Kerouac at a reading

Christine’s blog, Whitman and the Equality of Women

Jessica’s blog, Whitman, Bucke and Carpenter

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Visitors Center Script: Whitman and the Beats

Whitman and the Beats

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlowsky

Peter Orlowsky and Allen Ginsberg

The Beat Generation–poets of the 1950-60’s who rejected mainstream American culture in favor of poetic and spiritual libration.  The Beat poets experimented with drugs and alternative forms of sexuality, and developed an interest in Eastern thought and spirituality.  Among their most famous works: Howl by Allen Ginsberg, On the Road by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch.

Jack Kerouac was a proponent of stream-of-consciousness writing, a style that Ginsberg later adopted.  This can be compared to Whitman’s Specimen Days and his in-the-moment “unedited” prose of detailing Civil War events from the capitol.

Ginsberg also uses long-lines in an approach to capture the rhythm of jazz with the length of a breath–Howl and other poetry is particularly well-suited to oral recitation:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz…

Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Whitman was among the first to popularize long lines of verse, which the Beats readily adopted for its poetic power and oracular quality.

Whitman and the Beats are similar in more than just style–they share many poetic themes and political beliefs.

One of these is a distaste for American materialism.  The Beats struck down mainstream culture for its materialism, embracing spontaneity and liberation over conventionality.  Whitman also criticized materialist culture, stressing an appreciation of the simpler things in life, among them, the beauty of nature and the human body.

The Beats also shared Whitman’s fascination with the sexualized male form.  Although Whitman never admitted to homosexuality, Ginsberg felt no shame with his own sexual relations with Peter Orlowsky, his life-long partner.

Whitman and the Beats were both poets that were involved with the change of the nation’s character in the face of war.  Whitman still retained a somewhat positive outlook on America throughout the Civil War, even after all the casualties that he witnessed in the hospitals.  Ginsberg and the Beat poets adopted a far more grim approach, writing about the alienation of men and women and the destruction of individuals of great character by malign societal control and conformity.

Nevertheless, both poets awoke America with their radical poetry and politics and shaped the cultural, political and literary scene for decades to come.

Jack Kerouac at a reading

Jack Kerouac at a reading

Christine’s blog, Whitman and the Equality of Women

Jessica’s blog, Whitman, Bucke and Carpenter

No Comments

Visitors’ Center Script: Whitman’s Disciples, part three

John Burroughs

My first disciple is John Burroughs.  Like Kevin explained about Maurice Bucke, Burroughs imagined himself a friend and disciple of Whitman before they had even met.  Burroughs acts as a loyal friend and defender to Whitman two years prior to meeting him:  “In 1862 he had frequently visited Pfaff’s beer cellar, a bohemian watering hole and the center of literary life in Manhattan. There Burroughs championed Whitman in literary arguments, anticipating at every moment a meeting with the poet himself” (Sarracino).  This is a behavior Burroughs would continue to exhibit toward Whitman after they became friends and throughout their friendship.

In 1864 Burroughs and Whitman met, by chance, in Washington D.C.  Whitman was heading toward the army hospital, so he invited the unemployed Burroughs along.  Burroughs got a job nursing the wounded, but he didn’t have the stomach for it and quickly left.  Even though Burroughs’s employment at the hospital didn’t last, his friendship with Whitman would last until the poet’s death—and beyond.

Burroughs held several odd jobs, none of which lasted long to the chagrin of his wife, Ursula, but he always wanted to write.  Under Whitman’s tutelage and encouragement, Burroughs developed his writing skills, sending pieces to magazines while working at his day jobs.  Eventually, with Whitman’s help, he discovered his niche in writing about nature; he had an amazing eye for the details of nature, which in turn inspired Whitman to sharpen his eye for his poetry.  Once again, Whitman’s relationship with his friend/disciple involved giving and receiving advice:  It was a true friendship, not a one-sided relationship.

Burroughs’s behavior also reveals a proto-feminist perspective in Whitman.  When Burroughs and his wife were having marital problems, Whitman sided with Ursula, always.  He chastised Burroughs for his infidelity and insisted Ursula’s lack of sexual interest in Burroughs was a result of his failings to earn her love.  This is a very interesting defense of the wife of a friend.  Naturally, Ursula was a good friend of Whitman, though not a disciple.

There is also a quasi-sexual element between Burroughs and Whitman.  I’m not claiming that they were lovers, though it is a possibility that can never be proven, but I thought it was very interesting that Burroughs referred to the love of his life (not Ursula) as “Whitmanesque.”  She could have been described as beautiful, or intelligent, or any other adjective, but Burroughs chooses to describe her in similar terms as his dead friend.  Clearly, this is an indication of the love and devotion Burroughs felt for Whitman, which persisted after the poet’s death and remained until his own death.

Like Bucke, Burroughs also wrote a biography of Whitman, Notes on Walt Whitman, which was also edited and partially written by Whitman.  It also isn’t very objective.  In his introduction, Burroughs includes inflated language about how Whitman isn’t appreciated in his own time, but will one day be absorbed by America—in the way Whitman sought to be absorbed.

Click here for Notes on Walt Whitman

Horace Traubel

My next disciple is Horace Traubel who, unlike the previous disciples, was only fourteen when he met Whitman in Camden in 1873.  Because of the vast age difference between Traubel and Whitman, there were whisperings and rumors of a sexual nature among the neighbors.  Again, there is no evidence of anything sexual in their relationship, but there is a quasi-sexual element present between them.

Traubel viewed himself as Whitman’s son, and he played the role of a devoted son—even after Whitman’s death.  He tended to Whitman as he was ailing, carefully writing a journal/book With Whitman in Camden.  In his note to readers in With Whitman in Camden, Traubel explains his motivation for writing the book and how it is designed to honor Whitman’s wishes.

Click here for the first part of With Whitman in Camden

Traubel writes about how he will tell the truth about Whitman in his final months because that is how the poet wanted to be remembered.

Growing up, Traubel was increasingly interested in reform and read Leaves of Grass as having a socialist agenda.  He received confirmation from a reluctant Whitman.  In any event, Traubel’s work was to take what he felt Whitman started in Leaves of Grass and extend it to be even more radical with a major socialist slant.  Traubel wrote his own books, but they can be read as “socialist refigurings of Whitman’s work” (Folson).  His work as a radical reformist made it difficult for him to find and keep a good job.  So, he lived a relatively impoverished life.

A few days before he died in 1919, Traubel saw a vision of Walt Whitman beckoning him to the afterlife.  Again, this is an example of Whitman having the divine meaning of a demigod for his disciples.  Traubel is buried in Harleigh Cemetery close by Whitman’s tomb—like a son would be buried nearby a father.

Works Cited

Folsom, Ed. “Disciples: Biography, Horace Traubel.” The Walt Whitman Archive, 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2009.

Sarracino, Carmine.   “Disciples: Biography, John Burroughs.” The Walt Whitman Archive, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2009.

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Visitors’ Center Script: Whitman’s Disciples, part three

John Burroughs

My first disciple is John Burroughs.  Like Kevin explained about Maurice Bucke, Burroughs imagined himself a friend and disciple of Whitman before they had even met.  Burroughs acts as a loyal friend and defender to Whitman two years prior to meeting him:  “In 1862 he had frequently visited Pfaff’s beer cellar, a bohemian watering hole and the center of literary life in Manhattan. There Burroughs championed Whitman in literary arguments, anticipating at every moment a meeting with the poet himself” (Sarracino).  This is a behavior Burroughs would continue to exhibit toward Whitman after they became friends and throughout their friendship.

In 1864 Burroughs and Whitman met, by chance, in Washington D.C.  Whitman was heading toward the army hospital, so he invited the unemployed Burroughs along.  Burroughs got a job nursing the wounded, but he didn’t have the stomach for it and quickly left.  Even though Burroughs’s employment at the hospital didn’t last, his friendship with Whitman would last until the poet’s death—and beyond.

Burroughs held several odd jobs, none of which lasted long to the chagrin of his wife, Ursula, but he always wanted to write.  Under Whitman’s tutelage and encouragement, Burroughs developed his writing skills, sending pieces to magazines while working at his day jobs.  Eventually, with Whitman’s help, he discovered his niche in writing about nature; he had an amazing eye for the details of nature, which in turn inspired Whitman to sharpen his eye for his poetry.  Once again, Whitman’s relationship with his friend/disciple involved giving and receiving advice:  It was a true friendship, not a one-sided relationship.

Burroughs’s behavior also reveals a proto-feminist perspective in Whitman.  When Burroughs and his wife were having marital problems, Whitman sided with Ursula, always.  He chastised Burroughs for his infidelity and insisted Ursula’s lack of sexual interest in Burroughs was a result of his failings to earn her love.  This is a very interesting defense of the wife of a friend.  Naturally, Ursula was a good friend of Whitman, though not a disciple.

There is also a quasi-sexual element between Burroughs and Whitman.  I’m not claiming that they were lovers, though it is a possibility that can never be proven, but I thought it was very interesting that Burroughs referred to the love of his life (not Ursula) as “Whitmanesque.”  She could have been described as beautiful, or intelligent, or any other adjective, but Burroughs chooses to describe her in similar terms as his dead friend.  Clearly, this is an indication of the love and devotion Burroughs felt for Whitman, which persisted after the poet’s death and remained until his own death.

Like Bucke, Burroughs also wrote a biography of Whitman, Notes on Walt Whitman, which was also edited and partially written by Whitman.  It also isn’t very objective.  In his introduction, Burroughs includes inflated language about how Whitman isn’t appreciated in his own time, but will one day be absorbed by America—in the way Whitman sought to be absorbed.

Click here for Notes on Walt Whitman

Horace Traubel

My next disciple is Horace Traubel who, unlike the previous disciples, was only fourteen when he met Whitman in Camden in 1873.  Because of the vast age difference between Traubel and Whitman, there were whisperings and rumors of a sexual nature among the neighbors.  Again, there is no evidence of anything sexual in their relationship, but there is a quasi-sexual element present between them.

Traubel viewed himself as Whitman’s son, and he played the role of a devoted son—even after Whitman’s death.  He tended to Whitman as he was ailing, carefully writing a journal/book With Whitman in Camden.  In his note to readers in With Whitman in Camden, Traubel explains his motivation for writing the book and how it is designed to honor Whitman’s wishes.

Click here for the first part of With Whitman in Camden

Traubel writes about how he will tell the truth about Whitman in his final months because that is how the poet wanted to be remembered.

Growing up, Traubel was increasingly interested in reform and read Leaves of Grass as having a socialist agenda.  He received confirmation from a reluctant Whitman.  In any event, Traubel’s work was to take what he felt Whitman started in Leaves of Grass and extend it to be even more radical with a major socialist slant.  Traubel wrote his own books, but they can be read as “socialist refigurings of Whitman’s work” (Folson).  His work as a radical reformist made it difficult for him to find and keep a good job.  So, he lived a relatively impoverished life.

A few days before he died in 1919, Traubel saw a vision of Walt Whitman beckoning him to the afterlife.  Again, this is an example of Whitman having the divine meaning of a demigod for his disciples.  Traubel is buried in Harleigh Cemetery close by Whitman’s tomb—like a son would be buried nearby a father.

Works Cited

Folsom, Ed. “Disciples: Biography, Horace Traubel.” The Walt Whitman Archive, 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2009.

Sarracino, Carmine.   “Disciples: Biography, John Burroughs.” The Walt Whitman Archive, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2009.

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Adam’s visitors center script–Whitman disciples–Sadakichi Hartmann

SADAKICHI HARTMANN

SadakichiHartmann

While doing a search project about Whitman’s racism during his Camden years, I came across an interesting story about a Whitman disciple named Sadakichi Hartmann. Surprisingly, Reynolds does not mention Hartmann in his book.

Whitman’s admiration for Asian civilizations is apparent in his work. In “Passage to India,” he suggests that the complete of the transcontinental railroad as the completion of Columbus’ voyage, and America as a connection between the great civilizations of Europe and Asia. Whitman had a circular view of civilization–Asia as the beginning of civilization, Europe as the absolute end. In “Passage to India,” he even advocates interracial marriage.

Passage to India!

Lo, soul, seest though not God’s purpose from the first?

The earth to be spann’d, connected by network,

The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,

The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,

the lands to be welded together (Whitman, 532)

Whitman was horrified by the Chinese Exclusion Act passed by Congress in 1882. Whitman threatened to denounce his citizenship in protest saying, “In that narrowest sense, I am not an American—count me out” (Li, 181). He made his view on immigration clear telling Traubel,

“Restrict nothing—keep everything open: to Italy, to China, to anybody. I love America, I believe in America, because her belly can hold and digest all—anarchist, socialist, peacemakers, fighters, disturbers or degenerates of whatever sort—hold and digest all. If I felt that America could not do this I would be indifferent as between our institutions and any others. America is not all in all—the sum total: she is only to contribute her contribution to the big scheme” (Traubel 1:113).

Whitman’s contact with Asian immigrants was rather limited since Camden had only two Chinese-Americans in 1880 and fifty-four in 1890. By 1895, the city directory listed 29 Chinese-run laundries. As their numbers grew, so did anti-Chinese hatred. In the late 1890s, white locals stoned, burned, and dynamited Chinese laundries. Chinese were frequently harassed, beaten, and on a few occasions, murdered (Dorwart, 91).

Whitman’s only known contact with an Asian American in Camden was with Sadakichi Hartmann. He was born in Japan in 1867 to a German father and Japanese mother and raised mostly in Germany. When his father disinherited him for refusing to attend military school, Hartmann immigrated to California. There, he was harassed on suspicion of being a Japanese agent. He moved to Philadelphia to live with an uncle and studied briefly at the Spring Garden Institute. A “dusty bookseller” encouraged Hartmann to visit the poet in Camden telling him, “He is living across the river in Camden and likes to see all sorts of people.” Hartmann visited the poet frequently and became a Whitman disciple, founding a Whitman club. Their relationship soured when Whitman told Hartmann, “There are so many traits, characteristics, Americanisms which you would never get at . . . After all, one can’t grow roses on a peach tree” (Hartmann, 8). Whitman was furious when Hartmann published some of Whitman’s catty remarks about contemporary writers in the New York Herald (Li, 184). The annoyed Whitman questioned Hartmann integrity to Traubel.

“In is in him something basic—something that relates to origins . . . He is a biggish young fellow – has a Tartic face. He is the offspring of a match between a German—the father—and Japanese woman: has the Tartic makeup. And the Asian craftiness, too—all of it!” (Traubel 5:38).

Just before Whitman’s death, Hartmann and his wife visited Whitman and the two made amends. When he learned of Whitman’s death, Hartmann was in New York and unable to afford the train fare to attend Whitman’s funeral. He went to Central Park and “held a silent communion with the soul atoms of the Good Grey Poet, of which a few seem to have wafted to me on the mild March winds” (Hartmann, 50).

Like many of Whitman’s disciples, he wrote a short book detailing his interactions with Whitman. In 1894, he wrote Conversations with Walt Whitman. Hartmann wrote became an early proponent of literary Modernism in the twentieth century. He wrote several volumes of poetry in the early and was one of the first to write English language haikus. He died in 1944.

Works Cited

Dorwart, Jeffrey M. Camden County: the making of a metropolitan community, 1626-2000. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Hartmann, Sadakichi. Conversations with Walt Whitman. New York: Gordon Press, 1972.

Li, Xilao. “Walt Whitman and Asian American Writers.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 10.4 (1993): 179-194. Print.

No Comments

Adam’s visitors center script–Whitman disciples–Sadakichi Hartmann

SADAKICHI HARTMANN

SadakichiHartmann

While doing a search project about Whitman’s racism during his Camden years, I came across an interesting story about a Whitman disciple named Sadakichi Hartmann. Surprisingly, Reynolds does not mention Hartmann in his book.

Whitman’s admiration for Asian civilizations is apparent in his work. In “Passage to India,” he suggests that the complete of the transcontinental railroad as the completion of Columbus’ voyage, and America as a connection between the great civilizations of Europe and Asia. Whitman had a circular view of civilization–Asia as the beginning of civilization, Europe as the absolute end. In “Passage to India,” he even advocates interracial marriage.

Passage to India!

Lo, soul, seest though not God’s purpose from the first?

The earth to be spann’d, connected by network,

The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,

The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,

the lands to be welded together (Whitman, 532)

Whitman was horrified by the Chinese Exclusion Act passed by Congress in 1882. Whitman threatened to denounce his citizenship in protest saying, “In that narrowest sense, I am not an American—count me out” (Li, 181). He made his view on immigration clear telling Traubel,

“Restrict nothing—keep everything open: to Italy, to China, to anybody. I love America, I believe in America, because her belly can hold and digest all—anarchist, socialist, peacemakers, fighters, disturbers or degenerates of whatever sort—hold and digest all. If I felt that America could not do this I would be indifferent as between our institutions and any others. America is not all in all—the sum total: she is only to contribute her contribution to the big scheme” (Traubel 1:113).

Whitman’s contact with Asian immigrants was rather limited since Camden had only two Chinese-Americans in 1880 and fifty-four in 1890. By 1895, the city directory listed 29 Chinese-run laundries. As their numbers grew, so did anti-Chinese hatred. In the late 1890s, white locals stoned, burned, and dynamited Chinese laundries. Chinese were frequently harassed, beaten, and on a few occasions, murdered (Dorwart, 91).

Whitman’s only known contact with an Asian American in Camden was with Sadakichi Hartmann. He was born in Japan in 1867 to a German father and Japanese mother and raised mostly in Germany. When his father disinherited him for refusing to attend military school, Hartmann immigrated to California. There, he was harassed on suspicion of being a Japanese agent. He moved to Philadelphia to live with an uncle and studied briefly at the Spring Garden Institute. A “dusty bookseller” encouraged Hartmann to visit the poet in Camden telling him, “He is living across the river in Camden and likes to see all sorts of people.” Hartmann visited the poet frequently and became a Whitman disciple, founding a Whitman club. Their relationship soured when Whitman told Hartmann, “There are so many traits, characteristics, Americanisms which you would never get at . . . After all, one can’t grow roses on a peach tree” (Hartmann, 8). Whitman was furious when Hartmann published some of Whitman’s catty remarks about contemporary writers in the New York Herald (Li, 184). The annoyed Whitman questioned Hartmann integrity to Traubel.

“In is in him something basic—something that relates to origins . . . He is a biggish young fellow – has a Tartic face. He is the offspring of a match between a German—the father—and Japanese woman: has the Tartic makeup. And the Asian craftiness, too—all of it!” (Traubel 5:38).

Just before Whitman’s death, Hartmann and his wife visited Whitman and the two made amends. When he learned of Whitman’s death, Hartmann was in New York and unable to afford the train fare to attend Whitman’s funeral. He went to Central Park and “held a silent communion with the soul atoms of the Good Grey Poet, of which a few seem to have wafted to me on the mild March winds” (Hartmann, 50).

Like many of Whitman’s disciples, he wrote a short book detailing his interactions with Whitman. In 1894, he wrote Conversations with Walt Whitman. Hartmann wrote became an early proponent of literary Modernism in the twentieth century. He wrote several volumes of poetry in the early and was one of the first to write English language haikus. He died in 1944.

Works Cited

Dorwart, Jeffrey M. Camden County: the making of a metropolitan community, 1626-2000. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Hartmann, Sadakichi. Conversations with Walt Whitman. New York: Gordon Press, 1972.

Li, Xilao. “Walt Whitman and Asian American Writers.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 10.4 (1993): 179-194. Print.

No Comments

Christine’s Visitor’s Center Script for 12/3

Group #2: Whitman’s involvement with/effect on social and/or political movements. My section involves his position on the women, sexual orientation, and slavery (although each section takes a look at a specific aspect of each of these broad ideas). I choose these three in particular because a lot of Whitman’s poetry is a reflection of some sort on all of them. See below:

Whitman’s view on Equality of Women (specifically sexuality)…

          Joann Krieg states, “Whitman has escaped feminist attack largely because the many gestures of inclusiveness – of race, class, and gender – in the poems confirm his assertion that he was ‘the poet of the woman the same as the man’” (Krieg, 36). I think it is fair to say that not only did Whitman’s writing push for equality among all peoples, but also that his writing reflected, at least somewhat, his personal views on the equality between men and women. Although Whitman believed that the ideal woman was above all others a mother, he still had strong views towards women’s sexuality, including prostitution. Whitman’s position on the topic of prostitution was stationed right among other progressive thinkers of the time when discussions regarding sex, gender, urbanity, and the health of the individual or society were “hot” topics. Krieg says, “Whitman’s insistence on the perfect equality of women with men and his celebration of female sexuality were unusual, but he was far from unique in holding such ideas. Rather, he was part of a wide movement among more advance thinkers that concentrated on all aspects of physicality, including sexuality” (Krieg, 37). In fact, Whitman never officially opposed prostitution on the grounds of morality, but instead he opposed it because he knew of the venereal diseases that could be linked with the behavior, as well as the breakdown of the ideal family. Still, Whitman viewed these women with compassion because he felt that they had been victimized by society for what he called the “social disease”. A particular instance when Whitman showed his compassion towards the prostitutes was an experience he had in New York, watching a police raid of over 50 prostitutes arrested and carried away. Another example of Whitman’s connection with these social “outsiders” is directly seen in his poem, “To a Common Prostitute”, where “he asserts that the prostitute is a part of nature and not to be excluded, spatially or otherwise, by the word or edict of man” (Krieg, 41).

 

Whitman’s view of Democracy and Homosexuality

          In the late nineteenth century, attitudes regarding same-sex relationships were shifting due to medical discussions that formulated theories that homosexuals were a distinct biological type. At the same time, the policies of the Communist Party of the U.S. had little tolerance of same-sex relationships. Therefore, the appeal of Whitman’s masculinity was highly complicated due to the question of his sexual orientation. When Whitman first released the “Calamus” poems in 1860, he dedicated them to the progression of exploring relations between men, as an attempt to “regenerate republican virtue” (Garman, 100). Essentially, Whitman’s purpose was to absolutely refuse to specify the sex of the partner of whomever he speaks in “Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand” because it “implies that an artificially delineated heterosexuality would be undemocratic because it would restrict the natural expression of love and pleasure solely to male-female relationships and would prevent its fair exchange between same-sex partners. Democracy could not make distinctions of any kind, particularly when it came to sexual matters” (Garman, 101). Whitman further complicates his indecisiveness through the difference in tone between the “Calamus” poems, which are frankly homosexuality and what seems to be a glorification of the behavior, and the “Children of Adam” section of Leaves of Grass, which could most definitely be read as obscene descriptions of heterosexual relations. On the whole, Whitman believed that it was unnecessary to conform to one individual “type” and this also carried into his poetry, where he did not conform to typical poetic conventions. He even so far as claimed that he fathered six illegitimate children to disprove others’ claims about his homosexuality.

 

Whitman’s view on Slavery and Democracy

          While working in New Orleans in 1848, Whitman was working as a reporter for the Daily Crescent, writing about “local color and charm as seen through Yankee eyes” (Gambino, 14). After returning to New York, Whitman began working for Brooklyn’s Daily Freeman, this time as editor. This editorial was the nation’s main face to the Free Soil Movement at the time, whose motto was, “Free soil, free labor, free men!” and Whitman retained his advocacy of this movement to the point that he was fired from his previous position with Brooklyn Daily Eagle before leaving for New Orleans. On the other hand, Whitman believed that white reproduction as a foolproof plan of minimizing social advancements against African Americans who were recently emancipated. Consequently, involvement in the Free Soil Movement caused unforeseen problems. Whitman came to hate the abolitionists, who ultimately had fight among themselves, as well as hating “the hypocritical and corrupt men of the Democratic Party” (Gambino, 14). Whitman expresses his true feelings of the flaws of the American democracy of the time in what Gambino calls a “lengthy, scathing critique”, called Democratic Vistas (1871) The flaws, to be precise, would be the failings of the American people and culture.

           

Works Cited

Gambino, Richard. “Walt Whitman.” The Nation. July 21/28, 2003. Page 14.

Garman, Bryan K. “‘Heroic Spiritual Grandfather’: Whitman, Sexuality, and the American Left, 1890-1940.” American Quarterly. Volume 52, Issue 1. 2000. Pages 100-1.

Krieg, Joann P. “Walt Whitman and the Prostitutes.” Literature and Medicine. Volume 14, Issue 1. 1995. Pages 36-7, 41.

 

The links below are the other members of my group, Jessica and Liz, who have researched other aspects of Whitman’s involvement in social and political movements/affairs:

http://jessicaa.lookingforwhitman.org

 http://lizmoser.lookingforwhitman.org

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Christine’s Visitor’s Center Script for 12/3

Group #2: Whitman’s involvement with/effect on social and/or political movements. My section involves his position on the women, sexual orientation, and slavery (although each section takes a look at a specific aspect of each of these broad ideas). I choose these three in particular because a lot of Whitman’s poetry is a reflection of some sort on all of them. See below:

Whitman’s view on Equality of Women (specifically sexuality)…

          Joann Krieg states, “Whitman has escaped feminist attack largely because the many gestures of inclusiveness – of race, class, and gender – in the poems confirm his assertion that he was ‘the poet of the woman the same as the man’” (Krieg, 36). I think it is fair to say that not only did Whitman’s writing push for equality among all peoples, but also that his writing reflected, at least somewhat, his personal views on the equality between men and women. Although Whitman believed that the ideal woman was above all others a mother, he still had strong views towards women’s sexuality, including prostitution. Whitman’s position on the topic of prostitution was stationed right among other progressive thinkers of the time when discussions regarding sex, gender, urbanity, and the health of the individual or society were “hot” topics. Krieg says, “Whitman’s insistence on the perfect equality of women with men and his celebration of female sexuality were unusual, but he was far from unique in holding such ideas. Rather, he was part of a wide movement among more advance thinkers that concentrated on all aspects of physicality, including sexuality” (Krieg, 37). In fact, Whitman never officially opposed prostitution on the grounds of morality, but instead he opposed it because he knew of the venereal diseases that could be linked with the behavior, as well as the breakdown of the ideal family. Still, Whitman viewed these women with compassion because he felt that they had been victimized by society for what he called the “social disease”. A particular instance when Whitman showed his compassion towards the prostitutes was an experience he had in New York, watching a police raid of over 50 prostitutes arrested and carried away. Another example of Whitman’s connection with these social “outsiders” is directly seen in his poem, “To a Common Prostitute”, where “he asserts that the prostitute is a part of nature and not to be excluded, spatially or otherwise, by the word or edict of man” (Krieg, 41).

 

Whitman’s view of Democracy and Homosexuality

          In the late nineteenth century, attitudes regarding same-sex relationships were shifting due to medical discussions that formulated theories that homosexuals were a distinct biological type. At the same time, the policies of the Communist Party of the U.S. had little tolerance of same-sex relationships. Therefore, the appeal of Whitman’s masculinity was highly complicated due to the question of his sexual orientation. When Whitman first released the “Calamus” poems in 1860, he dedicated them to the progression of exploring relations between men, as an attempt to “regenerate republican virtue” (Garman, 100). Essentially, Whitman’s purpose was to absolutely refuse to specify the sex of the partner of whomever he speaks in “Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand” because it “implies that an artificially delineated heterosexuality would be undemocratic because it would restrict the natural expression of love and pleasure solely to male-female relationships and would prevent its fair exchange between same-sex partners. Democracy could not make distinctions of any kind, particularly when it came to sexual matters” (Garman, 101). Whitman further complicates his indecisiveness through the difference in tone between the “Calamus” poems, which are frankly homosexuality and what seems to be a glorification of the behavior, and the “Children of Adam” section of Leaves of Grass, which could most definitely be read as obscene descriptions of heterosexual relations. On the whole, Whitman believed that it was unnecessary to conform to one individual “type” and this also carried into his poetry, where he did not conform to typical poetic conventions. He even so far as claimed that he fathered six illegitimate children to disprove others’ claims about his homosexuality.

 

Whitman’s view on Slavery and Democracy

          While working in New Orleans in 1848, Whitman was working as a reporter for the Daily Crescent, writing about “local color and charm as seen through Yankee eyes” (Gambino, 14). After returning to New York, Whitman began working for Brooklyn’s Daily Freeman, this time as editor. This editorial was the nation’s main face to the Free Soil Movement at the time, whose motto was, “Free soil, free labor, free men!” and Whitman retained his advocacy of this movement to the point that he was fired from his previous position with Brooklyn Daily Eagle before leaving for New Orleans. On the other hand, Whitman believed that white reproduction as a foolproof plan of minimizing social advancements against African Americans who were recently emancipated. Consequently, involvement in the Free Soil Movement caused unforeseen problems. Whitman came to hate the abolitionists, who ultimately had fight among themselves, as well as hating “the hypocritical and corrupt men of the Democratic Party” (Gambino, 14). Whitman expresses his true feelings of the flaws of the American democracy of the time in what Gambino calls a “lengthy, scathing critique”, called Democratic Vistas (1871) The flaws, to be precise, would be the failings of the American people and culture.

           

Works Cited

Gambino, Richard. “Walt Whitman.” The Nation. July 21/28, 2003. Page 14.

Garman, Bryan K. “‘Heroic Spiritual Grandfather’: Whitman, Sexuality, and the American Left, 1890-1940.” American Quarterly. Volume 52, Issue 1. 2000. Pages 100-1.

Krieg, Joann P. “Walt Whitman and the Prostitutes.” Literature and Medicine. Volume 14, Issue 1. 1995. Pages 36-7, 41.

 

The links below are the other members of my group, Jessica and Liz, who have researched other aspects of Whitman’s involvement in social and political movements/affairs:

http://jessicaa.lookingforwhitman.org

 http://lizmoser.lookingforwhitman.org

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Visitor’s Center Script

       Although Walt Whitman is now a highly respected and acclaimed writer, he was writing during a time that was very different to today’s society.  His thoughts on democracy, spirituality, and sexuality were massively forward thinking for their time, but were also highly influential.  Those who had a positive reaction to Whitman’s work went on to use his ideas to create new works of poetry and prose that attempted to influence society in the manner in which Whitman intended.  Two of these individuals are Dr. Richard M. Bucke (R.M. Bucke) and Edward Carpenter. 

            R.M. Bucke was a Canadian psychiatrist who greatly admired Whitman.  He was the author of Whitman’s biography, and also wrote many other works including Man’s Moral Nature and Cosmic Consciousness. The ideas in Bucke’s writing were heavily inspired by Whitman’s work, which can be seen when assessing the passages of Bucke’s prose.  In his article “The myth of a Canadian Boswell: Dr. R.M. Bucke and Walt Whitman” S.E.D. Shortt says of Bucke, “his ideas, he believed, simply derived from years of empirical study of Walt Whitman’s character and his principal work, ‘Leaves of Grass.’ Indeed, Bucke correctly saw a continuity in his scholarship to which the notion of cosmic consciousness was merely the logical capstone” (Shortt 56).  Bucke believed that through his study of Whitman, and his understanding of Whitman’s philosophy, his own writings were adding to the same body of work, and were furthering the influence of these ideas onto society. 

            Bucke was part of a group of scholars who would gather to enjoy many esteemed authors, including Browing, Wordsworth, and specifically Whitman.  In Bucke’s book Cosmic Consciousness he recounts one such gathering where, after leaving, he had an experience of absolute transcendence which he attributes to the recollection of Whitman’s work.  Shortt quotes the experience as follows:

“…Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash

of the Brahmic Splendor which has ever since lightened his life; upon

his heart fell one drop of Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for

                        always an after taste of heaven. Among other things he did not come

to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but

a living Presence, that the soul of man is inmortal, that the universe

is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work

together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle

of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone

is in the long run absolutely certain…” (Shortt 56-57).

           

              The ideas that all things in the universe work together for the good of everything is exactly the same idea that Whitman conveys in many of his works, specifically Leaves of Grass. In “Song of Myself” Whitman says, “I resist anything better than my own diversity, and breathe the air and leave plenty after me, and am not stuck up, and am in my place.  The moth and the fisheggs are in their place, the suns I see and the suns I cannot see are in their place, The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place” (Whitman 43).  The idea here is that all of these things have their role in the universe, and that all of these parts make up the living breathing thing that is the universe.  This idea is exactly what Bucke was expanding upon in Cosmic Consciousness, in attempt to influence social thought on spirituality and the nature of man.  In Part I of Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness he wrote, ““that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain” (Bucke in Shortt).  Bucke was trying to further pass on to society the ideas from Whitman’s work that inspired him.   

              However Bucke was not the only writer at this time so powerfully influenced by Whitman.  At the same time Edward Carpenter was also enamored with Whitman’s philosophies, and after meeting with Whitman on several occasions Carpenter recorded his experiences and published Days with Walt Whitman.  Carpenter was influenced by Whitman’s ideas of democracy, as well as his social and spiritual claims, and went on to publish a book titled Towards Democracy, which was a collection of poems expanding on Whitman’s ideas of democracy and equality.  In this piece Carpenter writes, “Freedom! At Last! Long sought, long prayed for – ages and ages long..”  (Carpenter 3).  Many of the poems speak of democracy in much the same positive light as Whitman does.  As influenced by Whitman, Carpenter’s writings on “sexuality, religion, aesthetics, and a range of political topics won him international renown as a progressive thinker” (jrank).  Carpenter became an active speaker on social issues such as environmental rights and women’s suffrage.  Openly homosexual, Carpenter was inspired by Whitman to speak out about his sexual preferences and be an example for society.  “In his emulation of Whitman, Carpenter became one of the first of many disciples, spreading Whitman’s message into another country and another century” (Kantrowitz).

                     It can be seen that Whitman had a very strong effect on Bucke and Carpenter, and many other writers who came after.  Whitman’s philosophies of religion, democracy, sexuality, and social interactions paved the way for many other writers to write openly about social issues that were not commonly explored.  Both of these writers were so inspired they not only wrote on similar topics as Whitman, but wrote about Whitman himself, which further shows their respect and admiration for Whitman as a poet, and as a social influence. 

 

Works Cited

 

Carpenter, Edward. “Towards Democracy”.  Kessinger Publishing, LLC (May 31, 1942)

 

Kantrowitz, Arnie. “Carpenter, Edward [1844-1929]”.  J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission. http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/…

 

Shortt, S.E.D.  “The myth of a Canadian Boswell: Dr. R.M. Bucke and Walt Whitman”.  Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, Vol 1, No 1 (1984)

 

Whitman, Walt.  “Whitman: Poetry and Prose”. Penguin Books USA Inc. 1996. Literary

Classics of The United States, Inc. New York, N.Y.

 

Edward Carpenter Biography – (1844–1929), Days with Walt Whitman, Towards Democracy, England’s Idealhttp://www.jrank.org/literature/pages/3549/Edward-Carpenter.html#ixzz0YMBUMZL3

 

http://lizmoser.lookingforwhitman.org

 

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Visitor’s Center Script

       Although Walt Whitman is now a highly respected and acclaimed writer, he was writing during a time that was very different to today’s society.  His thoughts on democracy, spirituality, and sexuality were massively forward thinking for their time, but were also highly influential.  Those who had a positive reaction to Whitman’s work went on to use his ideas to create new works of poetry and prose that attempted to influence society in the manner in which Whitman intended.  Two of these individuals are Dr. Richard M. Bucke (R.M. Bucke) and Edward Carpenter. 

            R.M. Bucke was a Canadian psychiatrist who greatly admired Whitman.  He was the author of Whitman’s biography, and also wrote many other works including Man’s Moral Nature and Cosmic Consciousness. The ideas in Bucke’s writing were heavily inspired by Whitman’s work, which can be seen when assessing the passages of Bucke’s prose.  In his article “The myth of a Canadian Boswell: Dr. R.M. Bucke and Walt Whitman” S.E.D. Shortt says of Bucke, “his ideas, he believed, simply derived from years of empirical study of Walt Whitman’s character and his principal work, ‘Leaves of Grass.’ Indeed, Bucke correctly saw a continuity in his scholarship to which the notion of cosmic consciousness was merely the logical capstone” (Shortt 56).  Bucke believed that through his study of Whitman, and his understanding of Whitman’s philosophy, his own writings were adding to the same body of work, and were furthering the influence of these ideas onto society. 

            Bucke was part of a group of scholars who would gather to enjoy many esteemed authors, including Browing, Wordsworth, and specifically Whitman.  In Bucke’s book Cosmic Consciousness he recounts one such gathering where, after leaving, he had an experience of absolute transcendence which he attributes to the recollection of Whitman’s work.  Shortt quotes the experience as follows:

“…Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash

of the Brahmic Splendor which has ever since lightened his life; upon

his heart fell one drop of Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for

                        always an after taste of heaven. Among other things he did not come

to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but

a living Presence, that the soul of man is inmortal, that the universe

is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work

together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle

of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone

is in the long run absolutely certain…” (Shortt 56-57).

           

              The ideas that all things in the universe work together for the good of everything is exactly the same idea that Whitman conveys in many of his works, specifically Leaves of Grass. In “Song of Myself” Whitman says, “I resist anything better than my own diversity, and breathe the air and leave plenty after me, and am not stuck up, and am in my place.  The moth and the fisheggs are in their place, the suns I see and the suns I cannot see are in their place, The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place” (Whitman 43).  The idea here is that all of these things have their role in the universe, and that all of these parts make up the living breathing thing that is the universe.  This idea is exactly what Bucke was expanding upon in Cosmic Consciousness, in attempt to influence social thought on spirituality and the nature of man.  In Part I of Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness he wrote, ““that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain” (Bucke in Shortt).  Bucke was trying to further pass on to society the ideas from Whitman’s work that inspired him.   

              However Bucke was not the only writer at this time so powerfully influenced by Whitman.  At the same time Edward Carpenter was also enamored with Whitman’s philosophies, and after meeting with Whitman on several occasions Carpenter recorded his experiences and published Days with Walt Whitman.  Carpenter was influenced by Whitman’s ideas of democracy, as well as his social and spiritual claims, and went on to publish a book titled Towards Democracy, which was a collection of poems expanding on Whitman’s ideas of democracy and equality.  In this piece Carpenter writes, “Freedom! At Last! Long sought, long prayed for – ages and ages long..”  (Carpenter 3).  Many of the poems speak of democracy in much the same positive light as Whitman does.  As influenced by Whitman, Carpenter’s writings on “sexuality, religion, aesthetics, and a range of political topics won him international renown as a progressive thinker” (jrank).  Carpenter became an active speaker on social issues such as environmental rights and women’s suffrage.  Openly homosexual, Carpenter was inspired by Whitman to speak out about his sexual preferences and be an example for society.  “In his emulation of Whitman, Carpenter became one of the first of many disciples, spreading Whitman’s message into another country and another century” (Kantrowitz).

                     It can be seen that Whitman had a very strong effect on Bucke and Carpenter, and many other writers who came after.  Whitman’s philosophies of religion, democracy, sexuality, and social interactions paved the way for many other writers to write openly about social issues that were not commonly explored.  Both of these writers were so inspired they not only wrote on similar topics as Whitman, but wrote about Whitman himself, which further shows their respect and admiration for Whitman as a poet, and as a social influence. 

 

Works Cited

 

Carpenter, Edward. “Towards Democracy”.  Kessinger Publishing, LLC (May 31, 1942)

 

Kantrowitz, Arnie. “Carpenter, Edward [1844-1929]”.  J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission. http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_12.html

 

Shortt, S.E.D.  “The myth of a Canadian Boswell: Dr. R.M. Bucke and Walt Whitman”.  Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, Vol 1, No 1 (1984)

 

Whitman, Walt.  “Whitman: Poetry and Prose”. Penguin Books USA Inc. 1996. Literary

Classics of The United States, Inc. New York, N.Y.

 

Edward Carpenter Biography – (1844–1929), Days with Walt Whitman, Towards Democracy, England’s Idealhttp://www.jrank.org/literature/pages/3549/Edward-Carpenter.html#ixzz0YMBUMZL3

 

http://lizmoser.lookingforwhitman.org

 

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