The homosexual themes displayed in Walt Whitman’s works, especially in his most famous collection of poems Leaves of Grass, raise the question of his own sexuality. Many of his poems depicted affection and sexuality in a simple, personal manner, causing nineteenth century Americans to view them as pornographic and obscene. Based on this poetry, Whitman is usually assumed to be homosexual, or at least bisexual. However, this assumption does not account for major influences of his writing such as the shift from transcendentalism to realism and the American Civil War. After considering these factors, it can be concluded that Whitman’s poems were not intended to set apart a few homosexual men, but to bring all men and women together. Walt Whitman’s poems of spiritual love and physical togetherness of both genders emphasized exalted friendships and are indicative of his omnisexuality, or lack of a complete sexual preference, rather than his alleged homosexuality.
The earliest western documents depicting homosexuality came from ancient Greece and Rome where same sex relationships were a societal norm and very common. These relationships did not replace marriage between a man and a woman; rather, they occurred before and alongside marriage. They were based on emotional connections or physical attractions and valued as a means of population control (The Homosexual Theme, 2005). Shortly after, beautiful odes began to be written in Persia and Arab lands to wine boys who served men in taverns and shared their beds in the evening.
As the practice of homosexual love became more widespread, poetry became more erotic, celebrating beautiful boys. A similar erotic theme was then seen in the homoerotic “friendships” developed between mal...
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Robertson, Michael. "Whitman Is Not a Gay Poet." The Quote of the Day. 15 May 2010. 22 November 2013.
Sarracino, Carmine. "Dyspeptic Amours, Petty Adhesiveness, and Whitman's Ideal of Personal Relations." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 8.2 (1990): 76-91.
Streitmatter, Rodger. "Walt Whitman & Peter Doyle ~ A Gay Poet and His Muse." LGBT-Today. 2013. 22 November 2013.
"The Homosexual Theme in the World Literature (from the Ancient World up to the Renaissance)." The Homosexual Theme in Walt Whitman's Poetry. Gasia Productions, 2005. 24 Nov. 2013.
"Transcendentalism, An American Philosophy." UShistory.org. Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, 2008. 30 November. 2013.
Wilper, James. "Sexology, Homosexual History, and Walt Whitman." Critical Survey 22.3 (2010): 52-68.
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