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! We found another great asset on YouTube sharing this on their channel. So, we move forward in the name of using educational material for educational goals. View the first twenty minutes of this video and strive to connect a specific scene from the documentary to one or two lines from any of the Whitman poems on the syllabus. Compose your in 5-7 sentences of Standard English in Word or another word processing software. Read it out loud for fluency’s sake. Then post it in the comment thread below.
Here is an outline below:
0-5 minutes: excellent overview of 19th century American culture.
5-9 minutes: important family background information. Growing up on the margins of early 19th century culture. 9:40 New York City: the place where a young man goes to make his mark in the world. Is that true today for women and men?
10:00—15 minutes: young Walt cultivates a sense of self-reliance (Emerson) and follows his Democratic sympathies and impulses. Needless to say, it’s not great career advice to tell give these “ideals” as excuses for missing work. The technology staff in the Crowsnest wants to prepare you for college and career.
15:00—21: 55 minutes: this portion completes the biographical idea of his growing “urban affection” by the end of this section. It is so fascinating to note that Melville and Poe are walking the same streets during the same period and write about other subjects!
Walt Whitman was a man who wanted to be free from the confinements of being ordinary. Walt Whitman wanted and therefore found the freedom to be who he wanted to be. Whitman expresses this individualism when he writes, “I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable” (“Song of Myself” 1331). Walt Whitman also believed in the strength of literature. He had such faith in the power of words that he believed a book would prevent civil war. When Whitman writes “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” (“Song of Myself” 1332) he is expressing how he wanted to be heard and that he was a poet of urgency. Walt Whitman used his poems, such as “Song of Myself,” to express his feelings and characteristics as a person.
At 11:00 in the documentary, the narrator describes Walt Whitman’s personality. He says, Whitman was “stubbornly self-reliant,” and “equipped with a self-regard that bordered arrogance.” This can be easily supported by Whitman’s famous poem, Song of Myself. Just the title of this poem is narcissistic, and this sets the tone. In line one Whitman writes, “I celebrate and sing myself,” reading rather arrogant and self-centered. Constantly using the first person, Whitman brings the subject of the poem back on himself, reinforcing his self-idealistic nature. In general, Whitman’s work is about the self, but this one is especially true in that it describes the author’s love and admiration for himself.
Walt Whitman felt a calling towards his work and was always striving for freedom from what others expected of him. He chose his own path and who he wanted to be, fleeing his father’s dark shadow and creating his own future. In his poem, “Song of Myself”, these traits are evident in the way that Whitman delivers his work. He claims, “Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you” (“Song of Myself” 1344-1345). Whitman makes it evident that he is on his own path, where nobody expects him to be. Because he is not following his father, his moves always come as a surprise to those around him. His arrogance also shines through when he hints that nobody can keep up with him and he is always the one to turn back and wait for others to catch up to him. Walt Whitman uses his poems, such as “Song of Myself”, to convey his traits that define both him and his works.
Whitman always showed exceptional affection towards New York city. He found humanity and flowing of people fascinating. Along with looking around the city and randomly getting on the omnibus, he enjoyed having people that he admired and observed. According to these traits, Whitman valued community and people. In his poem Live Oak, with Moss, he says, “and its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself” (10) about dark green moss. He then adds, “But I wondered how it could utter joyous leaves, standing alone there without its friend, its lover-For I knew I could not;” (11-12). These lines project Whitman’s view on the significance of other people and society on one’s life, especially his own.
My selection comes from Section 15 of Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself” where he writes, “And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, and such as it is to be of these more or less I am, and of these one and all I weave the Song of Myself” (328-330). This excerpt relates to Whitman’s fascination with New York City. The video talked about how he would go out to museums and shows during lunch and even after, simply because he saw beauty in the novelty of the city. By taking in all the city has to offer, Whitman becomes part of New York, and likewise, New York molds Whitman. It is interesting to wonder then, how Whitman could appreciate New York, with its untamable mass of humanity, because he was so focused on life adhering to his own concept of perfection.
At 10:15 in the video, the man says, “Whitman could get off the ferry right there…and feel like he had entered the world.” (PBS). This heavily related to Whitman’s poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” due to the theme of unity and common experiences. When Whitman wrote, “I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills of mine, I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it.” (Whitman 1366), it tied both the setting of New York, and the common experience that is mentioned throughout the work. Whitman expressed how much time was spent on the ferry and the people on it. Everyone on the ferry, whether they are male or female all experience the same ride together, tying in the factor of unity. When he boards the ferry, Whitman begins to see the future he has in front of him. When the quest is done, he can get off the boat knowing who he is and prepare to have his whole life in front of him. Whitman has changed when he took the ferry ride, he suddenly became united with the world and the people living in it. It is not until he is off the ferry that Whitman realizes he, “had entered the world”.
Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” represents many of the qualities that are explained about him in the video. He is quite arrogant; however, it is said that this is not just his ego talking, rather he actually has very meaningful things to share with the world. This work is very selfish, as it is all about him, but he is very excepting of his true self. Whitman writes, “I exist as I am, that is enough, if not other in the world be aware I sit content, and if each and all be aware I sit content” (1326). He is at terms with who he is no matter what other people think; this is an important strength to maintain pride in oneself. Whitman is not just an egotistical man sharing his thoughts; he is promoting self love and teaching the reader valuable lessons about staying true to oneself. He beings the poem with “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, (1312) opening right away by showing his appreciation for who he is. The video and “Song of Myself” display similar traits of Whitman.
Walt Whitman is the encapsulation of everything American. The founder of American Culture. He is a self-assigned Savior, a humble but brilliant wandering poet, a people’s intellectual. He assumes his own greatness and wills into being despite most of his readers thinking otherwise. The video quotes him as saying “the American democratic experiment needed saving, is worth saving” (4:45) with the implication that he is this savior. Brash, arrogant, narcissistic, but infuriatingly correct in his own laudatory self-assessment, that is Walt Whitman, and that is the spirit that continues in the heart of this country today. For example, the popular tv show Dr. House’s titular main character is this same ideal. He is arrogant, overly confident, vulgar, and brash, but he is also brilliant and wonderfully unique. Dr. House represents another instance of the ideal that we as Americans love, and an ideal the Walt Whitman began. In his poem, “Live Oak, With Moss” Walt Whitman dedicates almost two full stanzas on how to teach “You bards of ages hence” (VII) how to talk about him and cite his work! And yet the “bards” of today are talking about him, and are talking about him almost exactly as he thought we would. Having the arrogance to believe that your works will be talked about for years to come and then having your works actually be talked about for years to come is the epitome of Whitman, and it is something that we as a culture love and emulate even today with tv shows like Dr. House. Whitman did away with the high brow intellectuals that were trying to forge American Culture as just another emulation of European culture and created something that was wholly unique and wholly American, and that something is the culture we still hold near and dear today.
Walt Whitman was a man who, from a very young age, was very sympathetic and wanted to learn and pursue his dreams. When he was younger he had little time to pursue his dreams because his dad could not support the family. He instead was pulled out of school at age 11, so Whitman could make money to help support the family. Early in life his father would always say, “Keep a good heart, the worst is yet to come” (PBS Video), but instead Walt Whitman would always say “I stand for he sunny point of view” (PBS Video). In Section 16 of Whitman’s Poem, “Song of myself” Whitman speaks about how he is “Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine” (333). This excerpt allows the reader to see that he had gone through it all and has seen both the great, amazing times, but has also seen times of hardship and gloom. He is made up of what he has experienced, and his actions can display that. He also writes, “I resist anything better than my own diversity, Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, And am not stuck up, and am in my place” (349-351). Throughout Whitman’s quest through life, his sensitive nature has always been apparent. He knows he should only take what he needs and he should not speak out unless it is in his own right to do so. He acknowledges the fact that there is a time and place for everything. Whitman is able to be mentally mature and pursue his dreams while carrying around the baggage of his past which helps him act in a way of a mature man.