Connect a Specific Line from Whitman to the PBS Film

The technology staff in the Crowsnest is still trying to find out why PBS took the great episode of Whitman off of their American Experience website.

Moving forward, let’s have everyone view and absorb these three great segments below. Then, as you are reading and rereading our 19th century national bard, connect an exact moment in one of these films with a line from Whitman’s poetry. How does the film enlighten or enlarge your understanding of this specific line? What insight do you find in this specific line? How does this line relate to some larger theme, trend or motif in Whitman’s poetry? Please cite our Norton page number of your edition and the line so we can all easily access your line and appreciate your insight. Compose 5-6 sentences of Standard English.

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.
This entry was posted in 21st Century Learning, American Literary Studies, Honors English III, Slavery and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Connect a Specific Line from Whitman to the PBS Film

  1. ablyster says:

    Uncle Walt’s moral platform is built strongly on the basis of equality and understanding. In the first video discussing the beginning of his collection “Leaves of Grass”, a quotation is used describing him standing between slave and master. He wanted to understand all walks of life, and in turn they may come to understand him. In this specific part of the video the idea being conveyed is that Whitman did not believe the slave to be inferior of his master or vice versa. His ethical code of equality is evidenced in a specific line in “Song of Myself” when Whitman professes, “I do not call one greater and one smaller, That which fills its period and place is equal to any” (1367). This line epitomizes his belief that all human beings are on the same level. All three videos discussed Whitman’s views of humans and their equality not just on a societal level, but in that we all possess a sacred human body in which can ultimately act as a key element of life that connects everyone in some way. In addition, the videos gave ample examples of Whitman’s compassionate nature in helping the soldiers, regardless of what side the fought for in the Civil War. This accepting view of a variety of people despite their race, background, or level in society, further supports Whitman’s belief in equality; a key theme that repeats itself often in “Song of Myself”.

  2. cbauchiero says:

    The line from Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself” that I found strongly connected to the first section of the films is, “I help myself to material and immaterial, no guard can shut me off, no law prevent me” (1356). This quotation reminds me of the segment of the clip where the narrator is reciting how Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” break all boundaries of all genres. I feel this is significant to the piece as a whole because Whitman, in his poetry, often celebrates the individualism of each person as well as the bare aspects that characterize people. This quotation is saying this exact thing since it is saying to accept and rejoice in everything and to not be embarrassed or worried about accepting it. Therefore, this quotation easily relates to this segment of the poem.

  3. jteich7 says:

    As interesting as it was to learn about Whitman’s minor obsession with Lincoln, I believe that the most important concept highlighted in the videos was Walt Whitman’s interest in the ways society dictates an individual’s worth. “And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else” (page 1338, line 242) was the quote I believe to be best interpreted with the help of the video. Throughout the second video especially, the professors speak about Whitman’s view of race, importance, and overall equality. It is enlightening, for without the context to explain Whitman’s personal belief in equity and originality, one could miss the meaning behind the words entirely. Just because a man has different skin tones does not mean he cannot be incredible and make an impact on the world. Likewise, he implies that a Caucasian man in black tie apparel is not necessarily worthy just because of his clean-cut appearance. The tortoise refers to unique people, and in that simple switch one can see how a person should not be judged for one criterion in life, and especially not by a criterion decided by another person. Following this thought, the core trend in Whitman’s poetry is the continuous idea that on should see a man for who he is, and not for who he seems to be through tinted glasses. In a vast majority of his poems in “Leaves of Grass”, Whitman makes the very same argument from different angles.

  4. Julia Harris says:

    After watching the videos, one concept that stuck with me was the explanation of Whitman’s commitment to the American people. The video describes that Whitman was unperturbed by the poor reviews, and cared only that his poetry was able to resonate with the average people. He most desired to celebrate democracy and American life while denunciating aristocracy. The first line in Whitman’s seventeenth poem supports this concept. Whitman writes, “These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me” (1342). In this line Whitman is connecting himself to Americans of all backgrounds and making his writing accessible. This is a trend that is seen throughout Whitman’s poems in Leaves of Grass.

  5. 15nca says:

    Walt Whitman’s true connection with bringing blacks and whites together stands out to me as his main objective when writing his thought provoking poetry. The line that truly illustrates this is written in “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” where Whitman says,” Two Together! Winds blow south, or winds blow north, day come white, or night come black, Home, or rivers and mountains from home, Singing all the time, minding no time, While we two keep together” (page 1388, lines 35-40). These five lines emphasize that blacks and whites should stick together and not fight no matter the circumstance. The moment in Leaves of Grass Two connects perfectly with this line as Whitman is defending the value of a black man on the selling block saying no matter what bid is placed, he is worth more. This line in “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and moment of Leaves of Grass 2, put Whitman’s love of equality at display, which is especially significant considering that he produced all of his poetry during the time of the Civil War, a time of racial tensions. For a white person to openly support black slaves through poetry is remarkable for that day and age.

  6. lflynn says:

    In most of Walt Whitman’s work there is an overarching theme of equality. To him everyone is a valued and contributing member of society. The President is put on the same platform as a farmer, neither one superior to the other. This was a revolutionary view of society at a time when slavery and prejudice were so prevalent. He also puts himself on this level, “I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise…Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man”(1341). This idea is also shown in the videos when they discuss Whitman’s unification of the slave and slave master. All of his poetry speaks a very powerful message that all types of people should be accepted and treated with respect.

  7. Gray Johnson says:

    Throughout these three videos the narrator speaks of how limitless Walt Whitman was. He would go boldly where no man has gone before in poetry. All of his work had no boundaries, and because of this I believe that the line that best relates Whitman to these videos is in “Song of Myself” and found on page 1356. It says “No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me,” for obvious reasons this line totally characterizes his nonchalant behavior with his readers.

  8. hopkinsg says:

    From watching the videos and analyzing Walt Whitman’s poetry, it is clear that Whitman’s main objective is the idea of unity. Whitman believes that all people should live in harmony together, and he annunciates this within his poetry. As said in the videos, Whitman was a strong supporter in social equality, such as race and sexuality. In his poem, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, it evidently emphasizes on the uniting of all people. “Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping, Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor or actress, The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like, Or as small as we like, or both great and small.” In this quotation, Whitman is expressing how at the end of the day, every person is similar to one another despite how they appear on the outside. Throughout the rest of the poem, Whitman continues to articulate these ideas about equality that were described in the videos.

  9. kira.demitrus says:

    In the fourth minute of the second video, it discusses the reactions of Whitman’s first book, “Leaves of Grass.” These reactions discussed were all emotions of disgust and outrage at the honesty inside the book. Whitman, instead of being discouraged by bad reviews, is delighted. This happiness at bad reviews gives me a better understanding of the lines, “I too am not a bit tamed, I am too am untranslatable. I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” (1374). Whitman is clearly proud of how much he stands out, and the video only helps to intensify this trait of Whitman’s. The video helps me to understand his confidence of his “barbaric yelp” and why he did not flinch at a single bad review from some of the other most influential writers of his time. Whitman takes pride in how honest and open he is in his writing, and this line epitomizes these feelings of confidence in his stand-out book. Whitman was so truly delighted by the bad reviews because he took the disgust from his peers as jealousy, and fear as his writing prowess. Whitman broke through all boundaries in his book “Leaves of Grass,” and although many writers of the time despised the book, Whitman’s confidence only grew with every negative comment.

  10. owen hern says:

    One connection that I made from the videos about Walt Whitman to his poetry is the idea of freedom and no structure. On page 1374, poem 52, line 1331, Whitman says “I too am not a bit tamed. I too am untranslatable”. In the first video, starting at 3:51, Billy Collins, a contemporary poet, talks about how Whitman was the first American poet to write his poems without the structure and boundaries that had confined previous poets. After Collins says this, he mentions that anything can flood into the poems now that the boundaries are gone. Then, for about the next minute on the screen it shows text of different people, places, times, cultures, and beliefs that Whitman wrote about in his poems. I found a connection between these two because Whitman’s line in poem 52 shows that he was not tamed, or wild and free, just like his writing style.

  11. anneking says:

    On page 1351 Whitman writes “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars, and the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren”. This line shows his great appreciation and love for nature and also gives the reader some insight about his thoughts on equality. He was writing poems that anyone could read and relate to. The video mentions that on the title page of “Leaves of Grass” instead of choosing a picture of himself from the shoulders down, dressed in his formal wear, he chose a casual picture depicting a regular man. He wants his readers to know that he is one of them, and that he is equal to them. Just as he believed a blade of grass was as miraculous as a traveling star, he believed that one person’s life was as worthy of respect as the next.

  12. Lindsay Reilly says:

    In Walt Whitman’s famous work, “Song of Myself”, all of humanity is united through one all-powerful narrator. Even though individual lives vary in specific experiences, Whitman identifies that the human race is coalesced as everyone has a natural birth and a natural death. On page 1372, lines 1288-89, Whitman addresses the afterlife specifically by writing, “And as to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me”; he advises his readers to not fear death and its finiteness because from death comes new life. By using the oxymoron “bitter hug” to define death, Whitman suggests it is not all that dreadful to die, and that it can bring relief similar to the comfort of an embrace. Whitman’s inspiration for this idea could have possibly been derived from seeing over one hundred thousand hospital patients during the American Civil War, as described in the third video. Around 5 minutes, one patient, Oscar F Wilbur, is said to have told Whitman that he does not fear death even though it is approaching him quickly. Whitman witnessed this man as well as countless others on their deathbeds and conjured up the conclusion that death is not to be anticipated with horror and despair; it is the natural conclusion of all beings.

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