Essay about Walt Whitman Changes the Face of Literature

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Walt Whitman Changes the Face of Literature


When Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass it was received with a wide variety of reactions. From critics to fellow poets the reactions to his first volume were often admiring, but also dubious. This pattern continued with each of the six editions of Leaves.

Many wondered where this 36 year-old "poet of the people" came from. The very way he presented his first volume of poetry was controversial. Whitman presented himself in this self-published volume as, "Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a Kosmos, a Disorderly, fleshy and sensual".eating drinking and breeding." (2725) This style of self declaration was unheard of at that time. "It was as
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Charles Dana wrote in his review or the New York Daily Tribune:

"Indeed; his independence often becomes coarse and defiant. His language is too frequently reckless and indecent though this appears to arise from a naive unconsiousness rather than from a naive impure mind. His words might have passed between Adam and Eve in Paradise, before the want of fig-leaves brought no shame: but they are quite out of place amid the decorum of modern society, and will justly prevent his volume from free circulation in scrupulous circles." (3)

It is obvious today from Whitmanís place in American literature that the "scrupulous circles" did pay some attention to his poetry and identifying with at least portions of it. Dana did contend that, "no impartial reader can fail to be impressed with the vigor and quaint beauty of isolated portions" (3).

By the time Whitman published the 1867 edition of Leaves his place in American Literature was much less tenuous. The stories of the unorthodox poet took on a near mythical ring; Robert Buchanan wrote in Broadway Magazine:

"Sprung from the masses, as he tells us, Walt Whitman has for many years lived a vagabond life, labouring, as the humour seized him, and invariably winning his bread by actual and…

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