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...
... middle of paper ...
...spitals." American Studies at the University of Virginia, 1 September 2009. 1 December 2013.
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.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819 in the state of New York. He was the second child of Walter Whitman and Louisa Van Velsor. Walt grew up in a large family which consisted of 9 children. They lived in Brooklyn and Long Island for about twenty years. Self-taught and self-made, Whitman was an American poet who can be considered as one of the greatest poets to ever take ink to paper At only twelve years old, Whitman began to understand the basics of reading and writing and became passionate with the subjects.... [tags: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman]
1032 words (2.9 pages)
- Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman are two of the most iconic American poets of the 19th century. Emerson and Whitman were both revolutionaries in American poetry, in their own time and their own right. When Emerson released his piece “The Poet,” a writing that challenged all of the American poets to become, as he put it, the next “Great American Poet,” which would address all of “the facts of the animal economy, sex, nutriment, gestation, birth.” Of all the poets that read Emerson’s piece, Whitman was the one who decided to “put the living, breathing, sexual body at the center of much of his poetry, challenging conventions of the day” (“Walt Whitman”, The Norton Anthology of American Lit... [tags: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman]
1223 words (3.5 pages)
- May 31, 1819, Walt Whitman was born to Walter Whitman and Louisa Van Velsor. Walt was the second son of nine children who lived in New York in the 1820’s and 1830’s. Between 1825 and 1830 Walt attended public school in Brooklyn while his family moved often within the city. At twelve Walt began to learn the trade of printing to then begin loving the written word. Whitman worked as a printer until the age of seventeen when a fire destroyed where he worked. In 1836 he began working as a school teacher in Long Island until 1841 when he became a full-time journalist.... [tags: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, United States]
923 words (2.6 pages)
- “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman is a great American poem that reflects the nation’s ideals such as freedom, equality, and unity. These ideas were much needed at the time of its first publication in 1855, ten years before the American Civil War. The poem was published again 1n 1891 just before the poet’s death. “Song of Myself” should serve as an American epic because of its representation of American tradition, culture, and ideals. It also strives to include all of the country’s extremely diverse population, which is a difficult task.... [tags: United States, Walt Whitman, American Civil War]
1081 words (3.1 pages)
- 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”.... [tags: Walt Whitman on Democracy ]
2891 words (8.3 pages)
- American poet, Walt Whitman explores the connection between the concept of the nation and the poet as a means of further establishing the national identity of the United States of America. The preface to his collection of poetry, entitled Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855 merely 79 years after the United States was founded acts as a reinforcement of nationalist sensibilities that work to define what the American is on a internal and international scale. Within this text Whitman creates an inventory of the attributes that are defining of the poet as an individual, emphasizing the positive qualities as being linked to their vocation.... [tags: United States, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson]
1332 words (3.8 pages)
- America during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s appeared to seemingly be a very controversial time. The experiences that American’s went through during this era heavily impacted the way they thought, wrote, and handled day-to-day life. For the poet, Walt Whitman, he was influenced to publish, “a volume containing twelve untitled poems along with an exuberant preface declaring his ambition to be the American bard” (Levine 1312). In his book, “Leaves of Grass,” Whitman’s preface gives truthful insight into the American life and culture, and recognizes that America symbolizes freedom for all and that we are equal.... [tags: Walt Whitman, United States, Ralph Waldo Emerson]
1031 words (2.9 pages)
- Walt Whitman as a Voice for the People "The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as much as he absorbs his country." This brilliant quote from Walt Whitman thus ends his preface to Leaves of Grass, and thereafter begins the poem "Song of Myself." To many, upon their first reading, this was a crude, shocking and distasteful piece of work. but to me...this was a celebration of life. And not just a celebration of his own life, but of every life, of the American life. Walt Whitman is the "voice of the people" and this I believe because, while he did write of things that were not seen as aesthetically beautiful by many...including homosexuality, loneliness, and death.... [tags: Walt Whitman Essays]
1192 words (3.4 pages)
- Walt Whitman's Influence on Germany Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is considered to be one of the greatest American poets of the nineteenth century. While Edgar Allan Poe may have been more widely read, Whitman had more international writers actively respond to him and his poetry than any other American poet. A century after his death, writers around the world are still in dialogue with him, pondering the questions he posed, arguing with him and elaborating on his insights. People have been attracted to Whitman for numerous reasons.... [tags: Walt Whitman Germany Poetry Poets Essays]
5654 words (16.2 pages)
- Walt Whitman's Drum-Taps - The Personal Record of Whitman’s Wartime Experiences Walt Whitman is one of America’s most popular and most influential poets. The first edition of Whitman’s well-known Leaves of Grass first appeared in July of the poet’s thirty-sixth year. A subsequent edition of Leaves of Grass (of which there were many) incorporated a collection of Whitman’s poems that had been offered readers in 1865. The sequence added for the 1867 edition was Drum-Taps, which poetically recounts the author’s experiences of the American Civil War.... [tags: Walt Whitman Drum-Taps Essays]
995 words (2.8 pages)