ELA 11: 4.8a Walt Whitman

For one of the most important poets in American and Civil War history, Walt Whitman sure wrote a lot about the birds and bees.

19th-Century Literature19th-Century American Literature
American Literature19th-Century American Literature
All American Literature
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureAmerican Literature

Transcript

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poems that lacked regular meter and refused to follow traditional rhyme

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schemes. In fact, young Walt thought he was destined to be a printer. Yep, every young

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boy's dream. He loved his job so much that teenage Walt actually stayed behind [Whitman works as printer]

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in the city when his family moved to Long Island. He took up people-watching...

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you know, the not super creepy kind. He explored the Big Apple, he ate whatever [Whitman lives in city]

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and whenever he wanted. It was a pretty sweet life for a kid. But then New York's

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printing district burned to the ground, and Walt was forced to move to Long [printing district burns]

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Island. Well, in order to make living, he had to become a teacher, a profession he

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hated with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns. By 1841, he was back in New [Whitman teaches in Long Island]

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York City and working as a journalist and then as a poet. In 1855,

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Leaves of Grass was published. It was a kind of a big deal. The United [Leaves of Grass published]

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States was coming apart at the seams in the lead-up to the Civil War, and Walt [soldiers rip map]

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was hoping his poetry would stitch the nation back together. He believed [Whitman offers poetry]

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that his poems could speak to every single American. Got to have that ego

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working for you there, right Walt? But the Americanness of Walt's poetry isn't [Whitman inflates ego]

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what made Leaves of Grass famous. Instead, it was the discussion of female

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sexuality, erotic love, and homosexuality. Guess it was a few years [themes of Leaves of Grass]

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before someone coined that "sex sells" phrase. Well, some people read Leaves of

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Grass and thought it was amazing, groundbreaking, totally awesome. And some [people react to poetry]

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people read Leaves of Grass and were horrified. Women fainted, religious men's

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has exploded... It was not the reaction that Walt had been hoping for,

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especially not the exploding heads. What a mess. America's refusal to [Whitman disappointed]

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embrace his poetry in the manner intended made Walt really depressed. He

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would spend the rest of his life editing Leaves of Grass. He would also try to [Whitman edits]

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bolster his reputation by submitting positive anonymous reviews for his work

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that he himself had written to anyone who would publish them. So [Whitman mails reviews]

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basically the equivalent of that restaurant owner setting up that

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fake Yelp account and bragging about his meatballs. Well, during the Civil War, [chef cheats on Yelp]

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Walt took himself down to Washington D.C., where he served as a nurse looking after

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wounded soldiers. He then had a brief stint with the Department of the [Whitman works as nurse]

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Interior, but got fired when his boss discovered that Walt had offered the

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smut known as Leaves of Grass. Well, in 1873, Walt had a stroke, and he'd have [Boss fires Whitman]

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several more before his death in 1892. The strokes didn't [Whitman has stroke]

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stop him from editing his poetry collection, however. In fact, given that

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Walt published an edition of Leaves of Grass shortly before he died, you might [new edition published]

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even say that he edited the book to death. Yeah... too soon? [Death takes book... and Whitman]