Walt Whitman is unquestionably a great poet of the joys of living. But as Harold Aspiz demonstrates in this study, concerns with death and dying define Whitman's career as a thinker, a poet, and a person. Through a close reading of Leaves of Grass, its constituent poems, particularly ""Song of Myself,"" and Whitman's prose and letters, Aspiz charts how the poet's exuberant celebration of life - the cascade of sounds, sights, and smells that erupt in his verse - is a consequence of his central concern: the ever-presence of death and the prospect of an afterlife. Until now no one has studied as systematically the degree to which mortality informs Whitman's entire enterprise as a poet. So Long! devotes particular attention to Whitman's language and rich artistry in the context of the poet's social and intellectual milieus. We see Whitman (and his many personae) as a folk prophet announcing a gospel of democracy and immortality; pondering death in alternating moods of acceptance and terror; fantasizing his own dying and his postmortem selfhood; yearning for mates and lovers while conscious of fallible flesh; agonizing over the omnipresence of death in wartime; patiently awaiting death; and launching imaginary journeys toward immortality and godhood. So Long! is valuable for American literature collections, students and scholars of Whitman and 19th-century literature, and general readers interested in Whitman and poetry. By exploring Whitman's faith in death as a meaningful experience, we may understand better how the poet - whether personified as representative man, victim, hero, lover, or visionary - lived so completely on the edge of life.
Publisher: The University of Alabama Press
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 644 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 29 mm