An Analysis of Sing the Body Electric

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A Celebration of Life

“I Sing the Body Electric” is one of twelve poems that comprised the 1855 first edition of Walt Whitman’s self-published masterpiece, Leaves of Grass. Like other poems, especially “Song of Myself,” it is a celebration of life. It is hard to believe this classic was written during the Civil War era. A time historically riddled with slavery and injustice, of mass death and discord, as well as the expansion of industrialization, the movement out west and population growth. This 19th century classic defines an age-old problem. In brief, the human body is too often disrespected, abused, underappreciated, or taken for granted. According to Whitman, "If anything is sacred the human body is sacred," (Routledge, section 8), and “if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?” (Routledge, section 1). An analysis of “I Sing the Body Electric” assists us in recognizing our eternal state of existence and well-being; a state only conceived through a unified consciousness of the human body and soul. In it Whitman poetically expresses his appreciation and respect for the intricate, spiritual unification between the human body and the soul.

The idea of a unified consciousness is not limited to a mid-19th century America. As a matter of fact “. . . long before the first glimmerings of modern science, physicians and non-physicians alike have acknowledged that the way people felt in their minds could influence the way they responded in their bodies” (Gohde). “By the 1840s and 1850s, functional disorders of the nervous system (also called "neuroses") and the emotional causes that precipitated them had become a major area of clinical study" (Gohde).

Whitman utilizes a verbose approach to his poem “I Sing the Body ...

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...New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.Web.11 May 2014. < http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_71.html>.

Routledge Encyclopedia of Walt Whitman. edited by J.R. LeMaster, Donald D. Kummings.

Whitman, Walt “From I Sing the Body Electric” 1855. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. 9th ed. Boston:Bedford /St.Martin’s 2012.786-788. Print. 10 May 2014.

Wikipedia contributors. "Walt Whitman." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 May. 2014.

WriteWork contributors. "“Walt Whitman: Appreciation of the Human Body Through Poetry”" WriteWork.com. WriteWork.com, 21 April, 2014. Web. 11 May. 2014.

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