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Walt Whitman

Walt-Whitman

Walt Whitman was arguably one of America’s most influential and innovative poets. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his controversial works. Whitman’s importance stems not only from his literary qualities, but also from his standing as a prophet of liberty and revolution: he has served as a major icon for socialists and communists. On the other hand, he has also been invoked on occasion by writers and politicians on the far right, including the National Socialists in Germany. In general, Whitman’s influence internationally has been most felt in liberal circles as a writer who articulated the beauty, power, and always incompletely fulfilled promise of democracy. He believed that only one nation can lead the world at a time, and he maintained that it is the role of the literatus to provide the nation its soul, which is, precisely, literature.

Whitman was concerned with politics throughout his life. He supported the Wilmot Proviso and opposed the extension of slavery. His poetry presented an egalitarian view of the races, though his attitude in life reflected many of the racial prejudices common to nineteenth-century America, and his opposition to slavery was not necessarily based on belief in the equality of races per se.

  • Walt Whitman’s Poetry
  • Walt Whitman’s Quotes