By Stephen John Mack
aIn this unusually well timed booklet, Stephen Mack examines WhitmanOCOs specific and engaging model of patriotism: his far-reaching imaginative and prescient of democracy. For Whitman, loyalty to the US was once loyalty to democracy. because the concept that democracy isn't just a political technique yet a social and cultural procedure to boot is linked to American pragmatism, Mack will depend on the pragmatic culture of Emerson, James, Dewey, Mead, and Rorty to illustrate the ways that Whitman is living during this culture.
Mack analyzes Whitman's democratic imaginative and prescient either in its components and as an entire; he additionally describes the ways that Whitman's imaginative and prescient developed all through his occupation. He argues that Whitman in the beginning seen democratic values reminiscent of person liberty and democratic strategies comparable to collective decision-making as primary, natural ideas, loose and unregulated. yet in the course of the 1860s and 1870s Whitman got here to gain that democracy entailed strategies of human organization which are extra planned and no more naturalOCothat human future is basically the made of human attempt, and a very humane society might be formed purely via clever human efforts to control the forces that will another way govern us.
Mack describes the basis of WhitmanOCOs democracy as present in the 1855 and 1856 versions ofa"Leaves of Grass, "aexamines the ways that WhitmanOCOs 1859 sexual drawback and the Civil warfare remodeled his democratic poetics in OC Sea-Drift, OCO OC Calamus, OCOa"Drum-Taps, "anda"Sequel to Drum-Taps, "aand explores WhitmanOCOs mature imaginative and prescient ina"Democratic Vistas," concluding with observations on its ethical and political implications this day. all through, he illuminates Whitman's nice achievementOColearning complete appreciation for the complexities of human lifestyles intended realizing that liberty can take many alternative and conflicting formsOCoand permits us to consider the relevance of that success before everything of the twenty-first century."
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Additional resources for The Pragmatic Whitman: Reimaining American Democracy
The yearning and swelling heart, (LV 150–151) Sensory Experience and the Democratic Self : 27 When we recall at this point that the poet is not simply recounting childhood experiences but enumerating those “objects” that were to become part of the growing child’s actual self, the last quoted line becomes particularly remarkable. By linking the objectivity of the relevant social group, the family, its customs, its language, and even its collectively owned furniture, together with the subjectivity of the individual’s emotional responses within the group, “the yearning and swelling heart,” the poet has blurred the boundary between externally perceived objects and internally experienced emotions.
So as the poem’s child moves in a centripetal fashion, out and away from the family and village and toward the “horizon’s edge,” he is also moving centrifugally, in from the objectiﬁed sense of the self that is entangled in social fact and toward the “Shadows . aureola and mist” of pure subjectivity, unmediated by other human beings — toward, in other words, the immediate, organic, impulsive presumption of essence we might usefully call the soul (LV 152). To say that the soul is not an entity but an intimation, a reiﬁed function of self-consciousness, is not to say that “inviting” it to the center of one’s attention — deliberately heightening one’s sensitivity to the workings of the self it designates — makes no sense.
He develops the metaphor later in his letter to Pragmatic Language and the Making of a Democratic Mythology : 19 Emerson that prefaced the 1856 edition. “Submit to the most robust bard till he remedy your barrenness,” he wrote. “Then you will not need to adopt the heirs of others; you will have true heirs, begotten of yourself, blooded with your own blood” (CRE 734). These and other similar sexual metaphors are typical of Whitman’s descriptions of his poetry, and they serve a variety of purposes in his work.