Connect a Specific Line from Whitman to the PBS Film

The technology staff is still trying to find out why PBS took the great episode of Whitman off of their site. In the meantime, an old fashion DVD is being shipped in the mail.  Moving forward, let’s have everyone view and absorb these three great segments. Then as you are reading and rereading our 19th century national bard, connect an exact moment in the film with a line from Whitman’s poetry. How does the film inform your understanding of the line?  Please cite our Norton page number and line so we can all easily access your insight.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/whitman/program/

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
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11 Responses to Connect a Specific Line from Whitman to the PBS Film

  1. 13jpf says:

    Whitman openly describes his acceptance of the human body and sexuality throughout his poem, “Song of Myself.” Specifically in section 11 on pg. 2217, he tells of a group of men bathing together and a woman secretly watching, “yet they do not think whom they souse with spray.” As explained by the video, specifically the beginning of excerpt 2, talk of sexuality was unheard of in Whitman’s time. Sexuality and praise for the human body was considered extremely risqué during this time period, and as a result, “Song of Myself” was deemed controversial and unorthodox. In addition, section 11 brings the concept of homosexuality into public view. This angered many, but also showed Whitman’s prominent theme of democracy and individualism in America.

  2. 13ans says:

    Whitman did not come from a life of privilege like most poets of the time, and video one states this clearly. He was not of great social standing, therefore Whitman had a mission to give voice to those had normally been oppressed or silenced. Though his poetry is centered around the pronoun ‘I’, it is really a representation of a a great underbelly of society. ‘I’ represents a part of a whole, Whitman as a part of a modest or inferior society. Video one expresses this when it explains Whitman’s meager social standing, and his desire to express thoughts to the public for people who could express themselves; “Through me many long dumb voices,/ Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,/ Voices of the diseas’d and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs”(2227 lines 508-510 section 24). Though Whitman’s poetry may come off as narcissistic, the video clearly shows the reader that Whitman is using his talent to represent those who have been routinely silenced, native americans, blacks, homosexuals, etc.

  3. Loni Mnich says:

    Whitman wanted Americans throughout the country to be amazed by his poetry; he expected them to read in between shifts, carry the book with them while working, and be saved by the ideas that he provides. In the first page of “Song of Myself,” Whitman writes, “I stop somewhere waiting for you.” In this quotation, he is telling Americans that he will be there to direct them down the right path, of being natural and patriotic. Whitman is also saying that they will always have his support in their journey to become a person who embodies America, just as Whitman believes that he himself has become. These morals were very important to Whitman, as was the first poet to present himself to the public as someone who was just a regular person that other people can relate to. Whitman feels as if he is the partner of the American public who will enlighten them, in order to make them embrace his ideals.

  4. Georgina B says:

    Whitman believes in the body of a person and every individual part of it. He has no boundaries in what he says about the human body and sexuality which is looked down upon at the time. Whitman frequently talks about every part of the body and he believes that every one part is special, this is apparent when he writes in section 23, “I believe in the flesh and the appetites, seeing hearing, feeling, are miracles and each part and tag of me is a miracle.” Whitman feels that through feeling and agreeing on life through our bodies that there will be the beginnings of democracy because of the individuality and uniqueness in everybody. He believes that because everyone is special and every part is special that it will create the beginnings of democracy.

  5. Livy P says:

    A well-known asset to Whitman’s poems was the use of the word “I”. “I” was the subject of all of his poems, and when reading any of them one may find it frequently throughout the poem. This gives a sense of connection with his personal thoughts and feelings. In the first video, Ed Folsom mentions the poem where he realizes Whitman decided to use “I” as his subject. In the first section of Song of Myself, the reader notices the usage of “I” as the subject. “I CELEBRATE myself and sing myself” (line 1 section 1). The usage of himself as the subject opened up an entire different world for poetry, and was one of the many factors that differentiated Whitman from the average poet of his time.

  6. 13lan says:

    In Whitman’s poetry there are no boundaries and no constraints keeping any beliefs out. Throughout his poetry it discusses all types of science and religions in addition to all the types of people who are usually ignored now are those who are peopled in these poems. These people originally are separated from one another by race, religion, beliefs, values, gender, position in society and careers but they are uniformed as one through Whitman’s powerful words. Whitman conveys his perspective “of every hue and caste i am, of very rank and religion” showing his appreciation for all individuals. This connects to video 1 angle on Whitman’s poetry depicting him as a man who utilizes his poetry to draw attention to those who cannot speak up for themselves in society. Not only his appreciation for individuals but also draws connections between these different kinds of people through the common human bond of experiencing the world through our body. This connection is evident in video 2 that later leads into how the idea of all humans living in bodies ties into Whitman’s approach on democracy.

  7. Riley Moore says:

    Whitman’s style throws around many “dirty” anglo-saxon words, which is cohesive with sexual themes–being in which they were both taboos of the time. In “Song of Myself” Whitman uses not only dirty “anglo-words”, but those pertaining to Romanticism and transcendentalism as well. In line 23, section 2 page 2211, Whitman uses vivid visual imagery to coax emotion out of his readers. “My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs”, this line is not only romantic, but also rough, fitting perfectly in a juxtaposition with his use of Anglo-Saxon words. “Blood and air through my lungs”, the mental imagery that accompanies these words are that of disgust and awe, thus getting a reaction out of the reader, one of Whitman’s possible motives.

  8. Natasha Grayson says:

    In “Song of Myself” Whitman describes himself dying and committing himself to the earth. In the beginning of the video it shows nature scenes where he is describing his union with nature. “I bequeath myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love,” is a line narrated during a scene where the video shows a grassy field, which symbolizes him becoming one with something he loves. Then, the video takes you to a city scene. “You will hardly know who I am or what I mean.” This represents him starting a new life to watch over others. He describes himself being “good health” to everyone. He gave up what he loved to help others, and that may have been his intention in his poetry.

  9. jray13 says:

    An especially prominent line from Whitman’s Song of Myself that was explained in the video was “I believe in the flesh and the appetites” (Song of Myself, section 24, line 522). Here, Whitman is emphasizing what is important to him in life. Being a rustic, rough American, he cares more about nature and the existance of things, rather than being formal and worldly. The usage of “flesh” symbolizes all that is real and tangible in the world as opposed to wealth or status. This is exemplified in Whitman’s style of writing also. Instead of following formal boundaries and rules of poetry, he writes about what he believes to be substantial truth and is direct with his writing. This idea of the importance of flesh also connects to video 2 that the human body was significant to Whitman because it is something that all humans share.

  10. pmetscher44 says:

    When Ed Folsom is talking about Whitman’s journal he mentions a line in it that reads, “I am the poet of slaves and of the masters of slaves. I am the poet of the body and I am…” Folsom recognize this “I” is the person that will be the character of each of Whitman’s poems. Watching this moment I was immediately drawn to the first section of the poem. “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,/ And what I assume you shall assume,/ For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (2210). When Whitman writes “I am” this makes me think of his celebration of himself in “Song of Myself.” He is proud of who he is and is “hoping to cease not till death.” Being a poet of the slaves and of the masters took me to the line “for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Whitman is saying I am not writing for a specific group of people, I do not care what people think of my work, but I am writing poetry for everyone, and I am getting my vision out there. Whitman is being original because he is not trying to impress a certain or group or trying to be something he is not. Whitman is simply writing poetry for everyone, and he could care less if someone viewed as a lowly member of the society of his time, like a slave, enjoyed his work. All he is concerned with is that they understand him and they liked it.

  11. scp94 says:

    Whitman’s poetry differed from the poets of his day because Whitman allowed the readers to feel connected to his poetry. The use of the first person is an especially important tool that Whitman uses. “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.” By using first-person Whitman allows the reader to see from his perspective and see what he’s thinking. Whitman threw himself into his poetry and by using ‘I’ it allowed readers to see Whitman’s perspective on everything he wrote about. It was the use of the first person that put Whitman in a different class of poets.

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