Walt Whitman, Philosopher Poet

Leaves of Grass by Indirection


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About the Book

Was Walt Whitman—celebrated poet of freedom and democracy—a determinist at heart? A close study of Leaves of Grass shows that Whitman consistently acknowledges the inevitability of all things. As John McDonald argues, this seeming contradiction lies at the heart of Whitman’s poetry, a fact continually overlooked in the more than 100 years that critics have written about the poet and his magnum opus.
This volume contains an extensive study of Walt Whitman’s poetry that explores both Whitman’s guiding philosophy and its uses to unlock meaning within Leaves of Grass. Beginning with a detailed explanation of determinism, the author examines Whitman’s use of indirection, which the poet referred to at times as a game played to evade the reader’s comprehension. The work seeks to define a philosophy which was, in the author’s opinion, the most significant influence in Whitman’s thought and in his art. Various poems are examined in depth, including Song of Myself, Passage to India and the particularly significant With Antecedents. Gathered here will be evidence from Whitman’s poems and prose and from his notes and quoted remarks, enough evidence to show beyond doubt that determinism was indeed his most significant influence. An innovative look at one of America’s greatest poets.

About the Author(s)

The late John W. McDonald was a teacher and a fisherman. He lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

John W. McDonald
[Foreword by David Kuebrich]
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 250
Bibliographic Info: 2 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2388-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1

I. The Unseen Roots      5
II. Determinism      28
III. The Epiphany      47
IV. Inspirations      61
V. A Few Faint Clews      100
VI. The Meanness and Agony      134
VII. The Beautiful Necessity      159
VIII. The Indefinable It      176
IX. The Greater Religion      191

Notes      203
Bibliography      225
Index      235