Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman is possibly one of the best examples of an artist who drew no distinctions between art and culture. To Whitman art is culture, and culture is history. His role as an artist must then be intrinsically manifesting himself as a representative of the America masses, or express himself as America personified. He saw democracy as an inseparable attribute of Americaness. However, the America he lived in was desperately fractured amongst differing factions with different opinions on the definition of “democracy”. Regardless, Whitman did not see the problems of his day as a top versus bottom, bottom versus top issue (no entendre intended). But, rather, an issue that exploded out of every orifice of American life.

Ernesto Guevara spoke of love and conflict:

“Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality…Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize their love for the people, for the most hallowed causes, and make it one and indivisible…They must struggle every day so that their love of living humanity is transformed into concrete deeds, into acts that will serve as an example as a mobilizing factor.” (Minogue, 33).

Ezra Greenspan explains that most contemporary criticism falls into one of two camps that are separated by two major historical events. He explains that there is a “Cold War generation who tended to focus on what they perceived to be the unrestrained freedom of the self” (143) and that there is the “post-Vietnam War” generation who argue “that Whitman’s attempts to celebrate modern freedom are compromised and complicated by the immersion of author, subject and t...

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... on the battlefield, however, they return to the eternal mother in which they again convene and become an even more physical manifestation of a collective as they combine into the geography of America “in unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence” (396).

Works Cited

Greenspan, Ezra, and Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: A Sourcebook and Critical Edition. New York [u.a.: Routledge, 2005. Print

Minogue, Kenneth. “Che Guevara.” The New Left. New York: Library, 1971. 17-48. Print.

Pascal, Richard. “Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie: American Prophet-Singers and their People.” journal of American Studies 24.1 (1990): 41-59. Web. Apr. 2012.

Press, H. “The Existential Basis of Marxism.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 37.3 (1977): 331-344. Web. Apr. 2012.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. New York: Bantam, 1983. Print.
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