•Birth: May 31 on Long Island, NY. (Paumanok) ;
•Poor education: only public school in Brooklyn, NY.
•Long Island + Brooklyn: countryside pastoral life and hurly-burly city life as the resources for his poetry. •Work: printer； school teacher； newspaper editor
•An ardent supporter of the struggle for the abolition of slavery; •A volunteer nurse to take care of wounded soldiers in army hospitals in Washington; •Great admirer of Abraham Lincoln—O, Captain! My Captain!
•Death: after a paralyzing stroke in 1873, spent the rest of his life in Camden, New Jersey till 1892, unmarried.
Whitman: the Great Acceptor
•Influenced by American and European thoughts:
•The Enlightenment: rights and dignity of the individual, toleration, humanitarianism, cosmopolitanism;
•Idealism and transcendentalism;
•The idea of progress;
Publication of 1st Leaves of Grass
•1855, Brooklyn: self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass (only twelve poems)； widely ignored and
criticized for his breaking from the poetic convention, and its sexuality as well as its exotic and vulgar language:
―noxious weeds‖, ―poetry of barbarism‖, ―a mass of stupid filth‖.
•Ralph Waldo Emerson praises his work with a congratulatory letter:
Emerson’s Letter to Whitman
(21 July, 1855)
•―I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit
and wisdom that America has yet contributed…I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion;
but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty…”
Literary Works: Poetry
•Leaves of Grass (1855) First edition.
•Leaves of Grass (1856) Second edition.
•Leaves of Grass (1860) Third edition.
•Drum Taps (1865) and Sequel to Drum Taps (1865) 《桴鼓集及其他》
•Leaves of Grass (1867) Fourth edition.
•Leaves of Grass (1870) Fifth edition.
•Passage to India (1870)
•Leaves of Grass (1876) Centennial edition.
•Leaves of Grass (1881) Sixth edition.
•Leaves of Grass (1891-92) "Deathbed" edition contains all of his 400-odd poems. •Good-Bye, My Fancy (1891)
Leaves of Grass: Symbolism
•All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.；grass, the most common thing with the greatest vitality.
；the poet himself； grass roots;
；the flourishingly developing American;
；the vitality of American ideas of democracy and freedom.
•Nature – through describing and eulogizing American Nature, Whitman extols the development of American
capitalism and expresses his patriotism
•Labor and laboring people
•Democracy and freedom
•Democracy, freedom, equality;
•Greatness of the common laborers;
•The emergent flourishing America and his love for America. •Brotherhood /fraternity;
•Aim； try to develop a poetry that was uniquely American, that both surpassed and broke the mold of its
•Free verse:自由体诗―free‖ of the regular beat of meter or regular rhyme scheme; depending instead on the individual poet’s sensitivity to the music of natural speech rhythms; Often with irregular line lengths and fragmentary syntax.
•Extremely long lines--―catalog‖ ；Carl Sandburg, Allen Ginsberg
Leaves of Grass: Significance
•An epoch-making work in American literature:
；Its democratic content marked the shift from Romanticism to Realism; ；Its free-verse form broke from old poetic conventions to open a new road for American poetry.
； ―The Bible of Democracy‖—John Burroughs
•―A mountain in American literary history‖
•The first American poet to write free verse
•One of the most original and inspiring American poets •The precursor of 20th-century American new poetry and the exploiter of modern poetry
•Huge impact on Chinese poetry in the May Fourth Movement
Youth, Day, Old Age and Night
•Q: What do you think of the poet’s view of youth and old age? And do you agree with him? •Q: What rhetorical devices are used in the poem? •Alliteration: large, lusty, loving
•Internal rhyme: grace, force
•Metaphor: youth； day, old age； night
•Contrast: youth;；old age, day;；night
•Q: What does the first line modify?
•Q: Can you give any historical evidence to support the statement ―large masses of men following the lead of
those who do not believe in men‖?
To Those Who’ve Failed
•Q: What do those who have failed strive for? •Q: How should people treat them?
•Q: Do you think the poem has a wide appeal? •Q: What major rhetorical device is used?
THE BRAVEST SOLDIERS
•Q: Who in Whitman’s eyes are the bravest soldiers?
•Q: What is Whitman’s outlook on life?
•Q: What rhetorical devices are used in the poem?
•Q: What does the image ―unseen buds‖ symbolize?
•The potentiality of the developing America
from A SONG OF JOYS
•Q: Can you summarize what is the joy of manly self-hood? •Q: What should we do when meeting enemies according to the poet?
A Song for Occupations
•Q: What do you think is the theme of the poem? •Democracy
TO THE STATES
•Q: What in Whitman’s mind is a good way for the development of a state, obedience or disobedience? Why?
I SIT AND LOOK OUT
•Q: What does the poet see?
•Q: What does the poet feel after his observation? •Q: What major rhetorical devices are used in this poem?
•Please preview Emily Dickinson’s poems.