During a lecture in 1907, William James said "the philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos" (Bartlett 546) Individuality has been a prevalent theme in every type of literature for quite some time. Whether it is a character discovering his/her individuality or the author expressing his, literature is full of distinctness. The term individuality changes meaning with each person it meets. That is what makes the dynamic word so great. Throughout particular works read this semester, individuality has been the foundation for several of them. Walt Whitman takes his newfound ideas and Quaker background and introduces American Literature to a totally different meaning of individuality in "Song of Myself."
Whitman's radical ideas of individualism have a great deal to do with his Quaker background. The Quaker religion is one in which the authority was Inner Light. "Whitman himself was not only personally familiar with, but deeply impressed by, a religion whose only authority was the Inner Light" (Canoy 481). The Inner Light is a special influence, which made Whitman's poetry unique. This certain influence did such things as guide Whitman down his soul searching path as well as help him define within himself the characteristics of an individual. In section fifteen of "Song of Myself," Whitman discusses people from every class and every profession. He goes on to say "the young fellow drives the express-wagon... love him though I do not know him;" (2753). ...
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...either hasten their own delivery, not resist it" (2767). Would it really be that bad to be an individualist instead of conforming to the crowd? I do not think so.
*Bartlett, John. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Boston: Little,Brown and Company,1992.
*Canby,Henry Seidel, Johnson, Thomas H., Ludwig,Richard M., Spiller, Robert E., Thorp, Willard. Literary History of the United States. New York: The MacMillian Company, 1963.
*Franklin, Benjamin. Autobiography and Poor Richards almanacks. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. Ed. Paul Lauter.Boston, NewYork: Houghton Mifflin,1998.
*Renyolds, David S., Walt Whitman's America-A Cultural Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
*Whitman, Walt. Song of Myself. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. Ed, Paul Lauter. Boston,NewYork: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
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