- By David S. Reynolds

Walt Whitman's America

  • Title: Walt Whitman's America
  • Author: David S. Reynolds
  • ISBN: 9780679767091
  • Page: 490
  • Format: Paperback
  • Walt Whitman s America In his poetry Walt Whitman set out to encompass all of America and in so doing heal its deepening divisions This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his achievement as well as the dr

    In his poetry Walt Whitman set out to encompass all of America and in so doing heal its deepening divisions This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his achievement, as well as the dreams and anxieties that impelled it, for it places the poet securely within the political and cultural context of his age.Combing through the full range of Whitman s writing,In his poetry Walt Whitman set out to encompass all of America and in so doing heal its deepening divisions This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his achievement, as well as the dreams and anxieties that impelled it, for it places the poet securely within the political and cultural context of his age.Combing through the full range of Whitman s writing, David Reynolds shows how Whitman gathered inspiration from every stratum of nineteenth century American life the convulsions of slavery and depression the raffish dandyism of the Bowery b hoys the exuberant rhetoric of actors, orators, and divines We see how Whitman reconciled his own sexuality with contemporary social s and how his energetic courtship of the public presaged the vogues of advertising and celebrity Brilliantly researched, captivatingly told, Walt Whitman s America is a triumphant work of scholarship that breathes new life into the biographical genre.

    1 thought on “Walt Whitman's America

    1. This is one of the best books of its type that I have ever read. The scholarship that went into the writing of this book is just incredible. It is called a cultural biography, and examines Whitman's life experience and the culture in which he lived as influences on his poetry.Whitman lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. for most of his life, and, by going to Manhattan had access to all of the great cultural trends of his time. His life is examined through his interfacing with politics, sociology, the arts, e [...]

    2. Man, I don't know why I stuck with this big, honkin' book. I love Whitman's poetry and was that more interested in this book after reading "Team of Rivals". This work could have been 1/2 the length. Although it does a fairly good job in presenting aspects of "Whitman's America". Reynolds provides way to much of meaningless trivia that one forgets about he or she is reading a biography. I also really dislike Reynold's academic ego. He constantly criticizes previous biographies (which would have b [...]

    3. Although I have read Leaves of Grass a few times, I knew little of Whitman past his life in Brooklyn and his early abolitionism. That gap of knowledge and the current political divide in the U.S. which seems to parallel his time made me want to check this out of the newly impressive New Orleans Public Library. It's a handful but very readable. The author does an excellent job detailing the times Walt lived in and how this led to his belief that poetry was to be the way to unite a dividing countr [...]

    4. Reynolds shows how Whitman was of his culture and why he is an authentic American voice. Whitman gave the new country a new poetry, a poetry that broke the bounds of format and content. He gave poetry zest, a proud "I" and what we consider today, a healthy view of the body and sex. The cultural biography concept is most appropriate for this poet.Reynolds draws the picture of the world that shaped Whitman, and then the greatly changed world following the Civil War. Following President Polk, the n [...]

    5. 167. Walt Whitman by David Reynolds.I was taking a MOOC (on-line course) about Whitman from the University of Iowa, a writing school. The course was quite boring and very male centric which is sad, because Whitman himself was so interesting and ahead of his time. He was actually my grandparents’ favorite poet. This biography is short and I think a lot of things have been skimmed over. There are some interesting pictures, but some of the most interesting parts are the quotations from his work. [...]

    6. I love Walt Whitman's poetry and I think he's a very interesting historical figure. This book, of course, played down his sexuality but really focused on the political background to his inspiration. It turns out that, according to Renynolds, Whitman was a political conservative at a time of political radicalism, particularly during the 1850s-1870s. Whitman sadly following the racial rule of the day, which doesn't reconcile very well with his democratic philosophy as it comes through "Leaves of G [...]

    7. This was an outstanding biography of Whitman and his time. You will learn a great deal about 19th century America from this book and Whitman will come alive as a man of his time and place.

    8. This is a cultural biography. It is much broader than just Whitman. The content is good for a fan of Whitman or even a fan of the Civil War era however, I found the writing style to be dry and a Literature classmate agreed. For anyone who is mildly interested in Whitman, I would recommend the PBS American Experience documentary instead. The author of this book was interviewed for the documentary.

    9. An exceptionally good biography.In the first section, Reynolds introduces us to a pretty standard birth-and-growth story of Whitman. This section annoyed me somewhat, I'll admit, because occasionally Reynolds' own desire to be a poet - describing Whitman's Long Island with something approaching purple prose - overrode the point of the work. But overall, it also confirms his admirable journalistic aims. Like Shakespeare, Whitman is a man with a lot of question marks in his early history, and Reyn [...]

    10. I came to this through Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson in which David Reynolds showed himself to be a gifted writer. I was not disappointed in reading this earlier work. While I waited for this copy, I read Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples which, I also recommend, but if you read it, read it after this book, not before it as I did.Reynolds shows how Whitman was of his culture and why he is an authentic American voice. Whitman gave the new country a new poetry, a poetry that br [...]

    11. If you like Whitman’s poetry, and think the poet is like his work, you may want to hold on to your illusions and not read this book. This history explores the racist, reactionary, egotistical underbelly of the old poet, how he broke hearts with his unexpected prudery and spun a fake tale of woe in order to drum up his sales numbers. It is also an eye-opening look into the popular culture and politics of pre-war-of-secession America, when there were no moral police, free love, drug use and poli [...]

    12. This paragraph in today's Boston Globe, enticed me to want to read a "definitive biography" about Whitman. Hopefully, this is the one?"As John Marsh observes in the essays of “In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America From Itself,” Whitman’s pervasive, passionate trust in the equality of all things inspired poetry that imagines man (and everything else) to be “the journeywork of the stars” (“made of star stuff,” as Carl Sagan would go on to say), but it also (an [...]

    13. I had never really read much by Whitman, a few things in college which I really don't remember. This was another (excellent) recommendation by . I had been reading a couple of history's of the Civil War, and this book provided some good ( cultural and sociological) background for that period, especially the period leading up to the Civil War. Reynold's analysis of Whitman's poetry (as well as prose) inspired me to read some his work, including Leaves of Grass ( 1st ed version). Reynold's provide [...]

    14. David S. Reynolds excels in writing cultural biographies. I also enjoyed his biography of John Brown which covered some of the same era. From the early days in Brooklyn to the almost hagiographic vision of Lincoln late in Whitman's life Reynolds captures the growth and changes of the American poet. But he goes beyond the basic life of Whitman by integrating it with the broader culture and ideological movements of the era. The result is great biography and history all buttressed by the ideas that [...]

    15. Whitman should have written more journalistic accounts of his travels, observations, and musings. Still, he wrote at a time when people would pay for poetry, so he did make an impact. He encountered some of the most dynamic personalities of a turbulent time, and was eyewitness to the human cost of war. This biography puts him on the scene of some horrific and culture-altering events which would leave most of us incapable of expression, but he had the words to describe them.

    16. Great book on Mr. Whitman. I am not a poet nor is it may favorite genre, but since he lived during the 1800's, one of my favorite periods, I really got into it. He was an amazing person save the accusation of child molestation. He was a homo-sexual and I assume that during that time, it was a very difficult thing to be. I love biographies and this one did not let me down. Got it from the Library though and do not have it in my personal collection. Plan to buy a used copy though.

    17. Whitman's America provides a thorough trip through mind-19th century America, expounding on social, political, and intellectual influences on Walt Whitman. While Reynolds's prose can be somewhat tedious at times, the vast expanse of meticulously researched information he provides more than makes up for the dull bits. Read this and be enriched--just make sure you allot yourself plenty of time.

    18. This book does a great job of examining the culture context in which Whitman wrote Leaves of Grass. We find out about the cultural, sexual, political, literary, religious world Whitman lived in. Reynolds does all of this in an easy to like non-academic language that keeps one reading. My only complaint about the book is that sometimes the personal side of Whitman's biography gets less attention than I would like. My solution was to read another bio, Irving's Walt Whitman: Song of Himself.

    19. When J dropped off the books I was immersed in David S. Reynold's cultural biography of Walt Whitman, Walt Whitmans' America: A Cultural Biography (New York: A. Knopf, 1995) which turned out to be a rich biography. Reynolds has done a good job of situating Whitman's life, and his work in larger cultural trends of the 19th-century.

    20. Whew, done! Overall I found this book had some very interesting things to teach me about the culture of the US in the 19th century. I learned a lot about the spiritual and entertainment fads that influenced Whitman. However, the author definitely had some personal theories about Whitman that he was determined to flog at the reader that I soon got tired of.

    21. Whitman's poetry has never engaged me, but having read Reynolds I will return to it. He creates an intricate picture of Whitman's times and it is this history - of among many things newspapers, publishing, and theater, of Quaker sects, phrenology, and spiritualism, of family life, sexuality, and friendship that really makes this a wonderful (and long) book.

    22. A fantastic look at America during Whitman's lifetime. Even people who aren't familiar with Whitman will find this engrossing. There is so much here it's hard to know where to start. But I know that Whitman makes alot more sense now that I've learned about all the science he was reading. Yes. Science.

    23. I read this years ago, and it had some disturbing imagery in it and was (to an extent) eye-opening. I am not sure I agree with all of Reynolds' conclusions, but that is to be expected with any biography. Overall, worth the reading if you are a fan of Whitman and a lover of his words.

    24. So far, it is really interesting. Major historical figures wander in and out of the narrative. Whitman is not put on a pedestal at all. This is a work of criticism as well as history. A perfect celebration of the times and how they affected his poetry.

    25. I like to read about this period of time. America in the 1850's, New York in one of it's most extreme periods. DH Lawrence said Whitman may have been the greatest of all poets, and I'm not sure about that, but I love his writing, so I enjoy this book about him. This history is fascinating.

    26. The best biography of Whitman I've read -- particularly as a portrait of the intellectual and political climate in which Whitman lived and wrote. Somehow this all sets the poems themselves free, rather than ties them down. A real lovely book.

    27. Detailed but very readable biography/cultural history of Walt Whitman and his environment. Has inspired me to read Whitman's poetry again.

    28. Good historical biography of the grandfather of American poetry. A bit of excess (unnecessary) information, though. Otherwise, it would have 5 stars.

    29. Dense, small type, hard on the eyes - but what a read. Set Walt in context, brought the century to life, and reminded me why the 19th is so crucial to our understanding of who we are as Americans.

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