Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Christine’s Video in Camden reading for 12/10

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 4:44 pm on Thursday, December 10, 2009

Here’s my YouTube video clip of where I found Whitman in Camden. I attempted to load this video all day and I kept getting error messages. It should be fine now (well, hopefully). The sound quality is so horrible that my “S’s” all sound like I have a lisp…sorry.

WW Video in Camden reading

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 12:37 am on Thursday, December 3, 2009

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:



Christine for 11/12

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 3:13 pm on Thursday, November 12, 2009

The first annex poems are surprisingly short, when you compare them to poems such as “Song of Myself.” A common theme that I noticed in these poems, which is a common theme of Whitman’s in general, is the nautical theme – the oceans, being a pilot, etc. etc. A word that stood out for me was “undulate” which he used twice within just a couple of the first several poems. Why did Whitman choose to use so a strong, sexually-connotative word to describe the waves? Possibly because his mind was just always so wrapped up in sexually charged ideas that this word just fit perfectly in line with his regular descriptions.

I really liked the feel of “As I Sit Writing Here”, on Page 614, because he is describing all of the things he’s experiencing now that he’s in his old age (and last few years on Earth). He lists the aches and lethargy, as all older folk tend to get in the end. Mentioning his constipation and boredom (as he describes here as “wimpering ennui”) is classic! I was thinking something along the lines of, “Gee, thanks, Whitman…really needed to know that!” It was still pretty funny though.

“The First Dandelion” (Page 615)  was very Whitman-esque, if you will because he is talking about a weed; a mundane item to someone else but to Whitman is wonderful and beautiful in its own way, which he points out when he states, “innocent, golden, calm as the dawn”. He surely has created a trend, in the texts we’ve read thus far, to write about the everyday things of life that others would not give such credability to, even if they felt so. This short poem also reminded me of the mullein that Whitman mentions in Leaves of Grass (deathbed edition) because it is also a weed or a weed-like flower, I forget, but they are both golden and simple.

Another interesting poem was “Abraham Lincoln, Born Feb. 12, 1809” which was to commemorate Lincoln’s birthday, which in itself is a bit obsessive. We did already know this about Whitman’s attachment to Lincoln. However, in this poem, Whitman actually capitalizes the word “him” as if he was signifying an extreme devotion to Lincoln as if he were some kind of deity. I suggest this because the only time I have ever recalled seeing “Him” is when a text is referring to God. This being said, I feel even more so now that Whitman definitely has some kind of gross, homosexual-like obsession.

The final poem that I wanted to discuss because I though it was rather interesting was “Life and Death” on Page 629. I think it was completely true in the fact that they are two “problems” that are “intertwined” because they are the realities that each person has to deal with not only everyday but eventually, in eternity, as death would have it. I think it’s so true that no matter how long an individual person is to live, death meets each one of us, sometimes when we are prepared, sometimes not.

Christine for 11/5

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 11:44 pm on Tuesday, November 3, 2009

“Years of the Modern” is the poem that was particularly interesting to me this evening while I read for Thursday because it was one of the poems that related directly with my Material Cultural Museum project. Because my project was on the telegraph, I noticed a lot of the technological connections that Whitman attempted to make in regards to the expansion of acceptance between races and cultural combinations of the peoples of America and the internationally. In this poem, I noticed that Whitman is discussing the progression of not only America, but other countries as well in regards to technology, freedoms, and breaking of boundaries.

Whitman always seemed to be an advocate of the self – to be self-indulgent and then further, to be proud of it. From this poem, I get the sense that Whitman is alluding to being quite the opposite; instead of being involved in oneself, to be involved in the development of onself with others and the greater good of the country and humanity. 

I really like the part where Whitman says, “Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one heart to the globe?” (Whitman, 598). I feel like in this instance, Whitman is pointing to the idea that internationally there is an effort to come together in understanding of other people and other viewpoints, no matter what the subject.

Another great poem from the selection for Thursday was “Song at Sunset” because I could completely imagine the sunset that Whitman describes, even though I can never experience exactly what he was experiencing in that moment. I think it’s wonderful how Whitman relishes in the events of the day and how he is completely amazed by even the smallest things. This amazement in minor items can be seen in “Leaves of Grass” like when he mentions “mullein” and similar weed-like flowers. It is within the mundane things that Whitman feels most connected and attracted to. Back to “Song at Sunset” – Whitman says, “O amazement of things – even the least particle!” – he is specifically pointing out the volume that even the littest items possess.

My reactions to pages 607-608: Why the heck are these poems so short?? Are they even poems; seems more like “line-ers”, whatever that may mean…they are just snipits of Whitman’s mind, like he couldn’t even decide what to write about so he just kind of threw some quick thoughts on the page. Was this to make the reader confused, to question his purpose, to question even more the greatness of these ideas, something else?!

What about “Portals” (608), I wonder…Whitman alludes to the portals of death-moving from life to death but portals in general are just a transition from one stage in life to another; the transcendence of a state of being into another. The power of portals is incredible when one thinks about life in general in that every situation or event or person is meant for a special purpose. Perhaps each of these things is a metaphorical portal that carries a person from ignorance into revelation. I can see that Whitman’s writing can be viewed as a portal into his mind and imagination, as small as the portal may be, it’s possible.

Christine for 10/22

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 11:52 pm on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The rhythm of the readings we had for this week strike me as very different compared to the poetry and prose that we have read thus far. With the knowledge that we have about these writings are taken almost verbatim from personal letters Whitman wrote, perhaps I feel as though they are the most “life-like” for this reason exactly. The rhythm seems to be of a quicker tempo; a bit staccato, if you will. It seems to be very broken language, colloquial-like, without caring much about a flow. Very stream-of-conscious in the sense that he just says whatever comes to mind as fast as he can – like there is so much to say, but just not enough time (or paper, I guess!).

In two of the pieces, I noticed that Whitman used the word “melange,” which is a French word meaning a mixture, or medley of (typically) incongruous elements. I found this word choice rather intriguing, but quite Whitmanesque, considering that he always alludes to the fact that the mixing of races and genders is of no negativity in his own mind. The images of medley stem from the Civil War – that on the battlefield, the North and South are mixing together to fight for or against a single idea (in this case, slavery). How about also the idea of the white and black Americans joining together as one unit, versus white supremacy in power over the inferior blacks, even though not all would be slaves at this time (some would have already joined the Northern part of the U.S.).

I found it a bit disturbing how Whitman describes the cedar tree in such detail. I was not disturbed in such a way that I was scared, but I was taken back by how Whitman seemed to personify, almost, the tree’s position not only in the ground but also in the presence of a human’s life (the crazy old woman he sees in Camden). What about the cedar made her have such zeal and joy? Was it because she was crazy and was impressed by almost anything? Was Whitman’s interpretation of her zeal and joy mistaken for something else? Why did Whitman include the point about her “well-off married daughter”? Did I miss the point here? I’m assuming that the same person from whom he heard the lady was harmless told him that she lived with this daughter of hers… but why it would make a difference to the rest of the story?

The last little section of the “Cedar-Plums Like – Names” was pretty powerful, I felt. The point that everything has a name to distinguish it and separate its characteristics from other things can be translated into the names of people. Without names, we’d all be just faces, but what good is that when a name gives our face a purpose? It appears throuh this section that perhaps one of the major reasons for name-giving is to determine with what and whom we like to associate ourselves, so that each item/person is the basis for all other distinctions.

Christine’s Material Cultural Museum Exhibit: Telegraph

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 11:06 pm on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

               The telegraph was developed for the purpose of uniting people across large distances, including a world-wide “civilization” of even the lowest of underdeveloped peoples. The first appearance of the electric telegraph in the United States was in 1828, invented by Harrison Dyar. Later, other versions of the electric telegraph were developed, including Joseph Henry’s electromagnetic (bell strike) version and Samuel Morse, who proved that signals, in code, could be transmitted over the wire signals sent through electromagnets. Paul Gilmore states in his article, “The Telegraph in Black and White,” “Because electricity was understood as both a physical and spiritual force, the telegraph was read both as separating thought from the body and thus making the body archaic, and as rematerializing though in the form of electricity, thereby raising the possibility of a new kind of body” (Gilmore, 806).  As the technology of the telegraph, telephone, and other electrical devices progressed, Whitman and other prominent authors, like Thoreau and Emerson, began to realize the connections between the electricity and the superiority/inferiority complexes of the white and black races. Other notable dichotomies are visible through the works of Whitman, who in particular, made some interesting associations between the electricity of the telegraph and sexuality and spirituality on the individual level as well as through interracial relationships. “Whitman [then] illustrates how the technology of electricity and the telegraph became a vehicle for imagining not simply a cultural and spiritual exchange between races which would unite them in brotherhood, but also a bodily, sexual exchange which would link the nation and the world in one blood” (Gilmore, 824).  Although the two ideas of spirituality and sexuality seems to be somewhat unrelated, Whitman does a fascinating job of expressing how closely related the telegraph’s inner-workings are to spirituality and sexuality, especially when observed through the lens of race.

               It was apparent that around Whitman’s time, many people approached the use of the developing telegraph as a metaphor for white superiority. “The telegraph was imagined as uniting white Americans into one body that would maintain the slave system, but at the same time, it separated white Americans from the body by making them the disembodied “brain of humanity” (Gilmore, 815). One interpretation of this statement would be that although the telegraph was an effort to connect all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, or the like, the overall achievement would actually be that the white Americans would be the ones in control of its operation and therefore still have an upper-hand over the blacks, specifically because of the time period; that is the Civil War era, where there was debate over the legitimacy of having slaves and slave trade. Therefore, in the context of the United States, although the telegraph’s position was to unite the nation for communication purposes, it would still leaving the white Americans to be the controlling factor, while the blacks would be left in still an inferior role, whether slaves or free.

               Whitman’s position to the subject of racial inferiority was quite the opposite, as readers have come to know through his poetry. Examples that prove Whitman’s opinion of racial equality would be Leaves of Grass as well as his prose works. Whitman’s tendency towards linking the races is alluded to in a few of his poems in Leaves of Grass where he celebrates the telegraph for communalizing nations and peoples. “While the 1855 version of Leaves of Grass, especially “I Sing the Body Electric,” celebrates the possibilities of cross-racial identifications, and perhaps even cross-racial sex, and describes ‘the procreant urge of the world’ as ‘electrical,’ these possibilities become explicitly linked to technologies like the telegraph in the postbellum poems, “Passage to India” (1871) and “Years of the Modern” (1865)” (Gilmore, 823). Here, Gilmore is stating that Whitman writes in the hopes of having interracial connections at some point in time, not only platonic, but relationships that can also be intimate or sexual.

                Whitman’s own sexuality is something that scholars even today attempt to reveal and so it really comes as no surprise that he sexualized the electricity of the telegraph as a reflection of his sexual nature. By the time Whitman began writing Leaves of Grass, the telegraph had become one of the few references for attributing the body as being electric. Even though adjustments were made to Leaves of Grass after the Civil War, “Whitman repeatedly mentions electricity, twice alluding to the telegraph” (Gilmore, 479). Whitman’s poem “To a Locomotive in Winter” portrays the uses of an inanimate object and the technological advances of it to further exemplify the body as “electric.” In his article entitled, “On Whitman’s ‘To a Locomotive in Winter’,” author Michael Collier states, “‘To a Locomotive in Winter’ is a thrilling example of ‘golden brass and silvery steel…side-bars and connecting rods…spring and valves’ to personify and humanize something mechanical to imbue a particular with his all-encompassing inclusive, idiosyncratic, obsessive, and modern sensibility” (Collier, 205). Of course Whitman, a man who was quite in tune with his own sexuality, even though he makes it quite hard for his readers to understand, inevitably changes the idea to not only is the body electric, but further that sex is manifested as electric. Whitman expands on the sexual implications in the 1855 version of “Song of Myself” when he claims, “I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop, / They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me. / I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy, / To touch my person to some one else’s is about as much as I can stand” (Whitman, 55). This section of text seems to be quite sensual insofar as he states that simply touching is so electrically charged (sexually stimulating) that all he can bear is just that. 

                The final implication of the telegraph was the spirituality that Whitman was able to produce from it. The final two statements in Whitman’s poem, “I Sing the Body Electric” read, “O I say these are not the parts of the poems of the body only, but of the soul, / O I say now these are the soul,” (Whitman, 258) which emphasizes the ideals that Whitman has regarding electricity “as both spiritual and physical” (Gilmore, 148). It seems that Whitman wants to describe his own poetry as telegraphic or electric. However, “the kind of connection Whitman strives to achieve and his sense that such complete knowledge, such thorough communication, is impossible” (Gilmore, 153). The transcendence of message from sender to receiver in a telegraph is by far much easier than poet/writer to reader, due to lack of or skewed interpretation, diction, tone, mood, et cetera. Still, he clearly wants to suggest that similar to the electricity in the body is equivalent to sexual desire, so too is electricity indicative of spirituality.

               Whitman’s use of the telegraph in his writing was not necessarily that of his own physical use of such an item. Rather, he wrote about the capabilities that the telegraph had to explore his interpretations of larger worldly issues, like race, sexuality, and spirituality. It is intriguing to think that this one man managed to accentuate the concept of worldly connection to broader issues that affect all people of the world; that one immaterial object, although used for communication, became another hindrance to the equality of races, that he already believed in, and also represented other human ideas.

Some more pictures of telegraphic items:


Listen to the Alphabet in Morse Code on YouTube:

Alphabet in Morse Code

 This sign is called “Early Telegraph”. It stands today in Elizabethtown, PA (near Lancaster) and it reads: “First commercial telegraph line in the U.S. ran along this railroad right-of-way. Completed from Lancaster to Harrisburg, 1845. The first message, ‘Why don’t you write, you rascals?’, was received, Jan. 8, 1846.” 



Works Cited:

  1. Collier, Michael. “On Whitman’s ‘To a Locomotive in Winter’.” Virginia Quarterly Review. Page 205.
  2. Gilmore, Paul. “Mad Filaments: Walt Whitman’s Aesthetic Body Telegraphic.” Aesthetic Materialism: Electricity and American Romanticism. Stanford University Press. Standford, California. 2009. Pages 148, 153.
  3. Gilmore, Paul. “Romantic Electricity, or the Materiality of Aesthetics.” American Literature, Volume 76, Number 3. Duke University Press. 2004. Page 479.
  4. Gilmore, Paul. “The Telegraph in Black and White.” ELH 69. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2002. Pages 806, 815, 823-24.
  5. Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass; “I Sing the Body Electric.” Poetry and Prose. Ed. Justin Kaplan. The Library of America. Penguin Books. New York, NY. 1996. Pages 55, 258.

Christine for 10/15

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 10:19 pm on Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walt Whitman is so genuinely interested in the well being of all of the men to whom he refers – the wounded, the frail, the dying…it is never out of the question for Whitman to be so deeply invested in caring about the humanity that he has come to know and love. In Whitman’s descriptions of the men and “the drapery of white curtains” (756) that surrounded them, I, as the reader, felt as if I was seeing the death in front of my eyes, just as Whitman had experienced.

Whitman seemed to be so affectionate for the men whom he described, like Oscar F. Wilbur, featured in “A New York Soldier” on Page 154. What struck me the most about this particular soldier was his request of Whitman, and then Whitman actually complying to the request that was made – reading from the New Testament!?! Wasn’t Whitman totally against religion? Or organized religion? Or God? I can’t remember off the top of my head where it was that Whitman drew the line in what he believed but I’m sure that reading any part of a highly religious text of a highly popular religion at the time had to be somewhat painful…that is figuratively, not literally, of course. Honestly though, he could have been completely against it and maybe suggested something else to pass the time  to get Oscar’s mind off of the fact that he was dying, but he didn’t do that. Whitman decided that this man’s life (or I guess what was left of it) was far too important to think of his own selfish desires or his pride. Oscar struck me in particular for the fact that he not only wanted to hear about Christ’s crucifixion but also of his resurrection. I suppose he needed something to look forward to, or at least suggest to himself that he was dying for a noble cause, just as Jesus did and perhaps his own resurrection would be in heaven or even further, just in a state of peace after death, which would be better than suffering with the wound and diarrhea.

Another point that I noticed in Whitman’s descriptions of the men and Abraham Lincoln as well was their faces – the color, the description of their faces, and the depth of their eyes, almost as if he could see into their souls and was sharing with the readers the importance of being able to see such a vision. Whitman says of the young man in “Death of a Wisconsin Officer,” “The poor young man is stuffling painfully for breath, his great dark eyes with a glaze already upon them, and the choking faint but audible in his throat.” This description as well as so many others is at points unbearable for me to read. I can just feel the pain and the sorrow jump out of the page. Whitman’s way of writing is so intense in Specimen Days because he is relentless in his descriptions. However, this unbreaking nature is exactly the engagement in Whitman’s writing that I love – being able to see through his eyes and also into his kind heart that otherwise we may have never known.

Christine for 10/8

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 9:40 pm on Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I wanted to mention that “Race of Veterans” (Page 452) has so much “stuff” that could be discussed, I think I would have done better with this post if it was actually a 3-5 page paper…anyway…

So, where do I begin? How about the idea of race being thought of in two different ways: one being the distinguishing factor of origin of people based on skin color and/or geography or even of some kind of similarity (i.e. background, tradition, culture, etc) and the other as a journy to a destination of some sort, in competition with other people.

 “Race of veterans – race of victors” : In this phrase, I imagine that veterans are of their own race, or more specifically, of their own kind; that unless you personally have served in battle, killed another human being, watched a comrade die in front of your very eyes, or anything else that is experienced by a veteran, you have become a member of a group of people that average civilians know nothing about. By combining the two phrases together, it strikes me as a journey, where those who are battling against the opposing side have time either for or against them, resulting in a “victor.” As a side note, I took “victor” to mean not only the side that won the battle or the war, but as a veteran, are the individuals then victors themselves for defeating all the cold, hunger, and death that the others did not?

“Race of the soil, ready for conflict 0 race of the conquering march!” : I felt that this line was directly related to the poem entirely in that the race of veterans (the journey of veterans to defeat the opposing side) begins with the marching of their feet across the soil into the direction, and therefore direct conflict with those whom they are fighting. The “conquering” march is the one that the veterans believe will lead them to their victory.

“(No more credulity’s race, abiding temper’d race)” : To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this line exactly. I’m thinking that it has something to do with the idea that this race against time to win the war may not be founded in much evidence, the veterans-to-be believe that they can still conquer the opposing side. Possibly “abiding temper’d race” is leaning towards the idea that they are going to tolerate the other side’s desire to fight?! I’m really not sure…

“Race henceforth owning no law but the law of itself”” : Here, I feel that if talking about the race as a conquest, it means that there are no set rules or regulations to follow, except to just win. However, on the other side of what race could mean, insinuates that certain races (inferior/superior) have different sets of laws of which to abide, according to the other end of the spectrum but that each race individually does not own any one specific law; moreso that there are general laws that all humans must follow.

“Race of passion and the storm” : Through all kinds of weather (literal and figurative), each side of the war, each race, each group of people, must somehow reach some end.

Maybe none of this really makes sense, and maybe I did not combine all of the ideas too well. However, I though it was a remarkable little poem that each of us could reflect on and find some connection with, even if the connection is as simple as finding the struggle to overcome something like a fear, obstacle, whatever, just as the veterans of a war must overcome the other side, and death.

Christine for 10/1

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 10:12 pm on Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I enjoyed reading both Children of Adam and Calamus but I do have to say that overall, I prefer Calamus and even further, I still like Song of Myself much better than these two texts.

From Calamus, I was particulary drawn to a couple of the sections. The first was “Are You the New Person Drawn to Me?”. 

“Are You the New Person Drawn to Me?”  – I find it quite amusing and realisitic that the veneer to which Whitman referes is quite exact to what a lot of people wear, especially when meeting new people. I wonder if there is something intrinsically position within each of our characters that forces us to put up some kind of guard around certain people? There can’t possibly be a moment when meeting someone new allows us to be completely open or honest…raw, even, as though we were with someone we’ve know our whole lives. Then again, is one ever really completely open with oneself? Are there not things that we shy away from within our own minds and spirits because of embarrassment, jealousy, or otherwise? These were some of the ideas that immediately popped into my head as I was reading. To be in complete contact with oneself is to be completely honest that there are masks that are worn not only with new people but around certain people, one mask; with other people, another. When Whitman asks this “new person” (or the reader) all of these questions, such as, “Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?” or “Do you think I am trusty and faithful?” I think he is really pointing out the idea that first impressions are everything, whether good or bad. The first impression something has of another is probably what is going to remain in the back of their minds forever and sometimes it may be hard to redeem onself from a nasty image that s/he put in some else’s head. Then again, who wants to be too perky or nice because then it just seems that personality is one of a “pushover.” First impressions seem to be so tough because one must get it “just right” and it is what all will base their possible potential they see in you on this first impression. Surprisingly, in Song of Myself, Whitman seems to be strongly, if not completely, against the idea of conforming and then actually caring what people think of him. He seems to be in a world of his own, one in a million, and his attitude reeks of “I don’t give a damn.” So, I came to the conclusion that these questions are more for the new person to ponder, not so much that he actually cares what the answers are; just as long as the new person considers how superficial a first impression/mask/illusion can really be and how only skin-deep interest can lead nowhere if the honest personality behind the illusion is contradictory. In essence, I would think it’s fairly safe to assume that any kind of relationship would be started out with a lie, from both parties involved because neither one would be him or her self, yet I don’t know that there would ever be any kind of escape from it!

Christine for 9/24

Filed under: Uncategorized — pieruccm at 8:47 pm on Tuesday, September 22, 2009

After reading the remainder of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, I can’t help but notice that the section beginning on 118 and ending on 124 is perhaps the most sexually charged section of all of them, yet not all references are “dirty” ones; some I believe are a sincere expression of wonderment of the body in general.

In the very first couple of sections, Whitman talks about the bodies of men and women as “perfect,” which then he so aptly follows up with “The strong, sweet supple quality he has strikes through the cotton and flannel” (118) as a description of just how one is to know the perfectness of a man’s body other than his face. Is Whitman not referring to a man’s penis here? What else could possibly “strike through” the fabric of his trousers other than a hardened penis? However, the sex references do not end there, for sure.

Moving onto when Whitman describes the body of a female (as well as the importance of it), I noticed that he  claims “A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot” (120)  in regards to her form. I did not know the meaning of the word “nimbus” and so I looked it up on Merriam-Webster online and basically it refers to a luminous cloud that surrounds a god or goddess while on earth. The definition surprised me a bit – not because of it’s actual meaning but because Whitman, up until this point in Leaves of Grass, in my opinion, seems to be full of himself. Here, on the other hand, Whitman seems to be placing women on such a high pedestal – namely, one that could be as high as where he places himself.

The next section that I noticed, regarding the “dirtiness” of what the human body is capable, was on page 121. Whitman says,

“Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous….quivering jelly of love….white-blow and delirious juice,

Bridegroom-night of love working surely and sofly into the prostrate dawn,

Undulating into the willing and yielding day,

Lost in the cleace of the clasping and sweetfleshed day” (121).

To be honest, I could have never imagined the act of ejaculation to be described in a better way…at least that’s what I believe this passage to be about anyway. I take it to mean that on the wedding night, the newly married couple will make love until the early morning, while the husband releases his “limitless” man-seed, which goes hand-in-hand with the parts of the play that Whitman references fathers having five sons or on page 124 when Whitman asks the reader which of the sons of mothers who bore them will mate with the daughters of another mother. The ideas are all interconnected that life cannot exist without either the man or the woman.

Whitman makes more than one example of the idea that women are the bearers of men and because of this fact are so special and sacred. An example of this is when he states, “You are the gates of the body and you are the gates of the soul…She is all things duly veiled….she is both passive and active….she is to conveive daughters as well as sons and sons as well as daughter” (124). I think it’s quite interesting in this particular instance that the words passive and active can be duly defined – as the original meanings of the word, but further that “passive” being the physical passing of the baby through the cervix into the world and “active” in pushing the baby out and then subsequently taking action to rear the baby into an adult. Additionally, on page 124 Whitman makes a claim that within males and females lives a “natal love…in them the divine mystery” which furthers all of the references he makes earlier in the text to both the male and female bodies as being sacred. By stating this “natal love” is a “divine mystery,” it seems to me that he believes that through some powerful force, whether God or man-created, there is a physical representation (or even manifestation – get it?  – the “man” part meaning man-kind that lives within the mother for nine months) of the love shared and acted between the mother and father.

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