Onward and Outward . . . .

April 17th, 2010 No comments

“All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses”
— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)

Last week’s student conference in Camden brought “Looking for Whitman” to a rousing, poignant close. Four months after the classes involved in the project had ended, students from the University of Mary Washington, Rutgers-Camden, and City Tech gathered together to share their experiences and to meet one another in person. Understandably, students from the University of Novi Sad were not able to make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to be with us in person.

There was something special about this day that reflected the entire spirit of the project. It was fed, no doubt, by the amazing cadre of students from UMW who boarded a bus at 6am on a Saturday morning to take a five-hour bus ride up to Camden for a conference related to a class that they had taken in the previous semester. Led by faculty members who had devoted intense amounts of energy to the project, these students arrived at Camden at a fever pitch. They weren’t there for a conference; they were there for a revival.


What intensity these students brought with them!! They came into the room wearing Whitmanic beards, clutching their texts, brimming with excitement. And that excitement bolstered us throughout the day.

2010-04-10 11.18.04

UMW students arrive in Camden festooned with Whitman beards, t-shirts, and shoes.

We knew we were very lucky to have this group with us. It can be difficult — particularly at commuter campuses like City Tech and Rutgers — to round up students four months after a class has ended, let along to convince them to take a two-hour trip from NYC or a five-hour trip from Virginia for a student conference–especially at the end of the semester, with finals and senior thesis projects looming. I know that many students wanted to attend but couldn’t because of work or family obligations. Many Rutgers graduate students couldn’t because of concurrently scheduled comprehensive exams.

UMW students felt right at home on the RU campus; here are Sam and Brendan posing with a statue of Walt:

2010-04-10 11.54.31

Sam P. and Brendan B. pose with Walt himself.


A Generative Conference
Early on, we decided that this conference would not be presentational, but generative. We wanted the conference to be an active event that embodied the pedagogical imperatives of the project as a whole: students would not just lecture about the work they had done during the Fall 2009 semester, but would also create new work to accompany it. To this end, we handed out FlipCams to all students there and encouraged them to take footage of the day. In the coming days and weeks, I look forward to seeing the posts that will come out of that footage.

Some of the highlights of the day included:

— Small group discussions in which students and faculty members shared their experiences in the project and discussed the Whitman they had found in their project location.

— A viewing, over lunch, of several videos created during the course of the project. These included:

Two Videos from Novi Sad
We watched two videos from students at the University of Novi Sad that deserve special mention. As Professor Karbiener noted, many Whitman poems have not yet been translated into Serbian. In her class, Prof. Karbiener chose to concentrate on the Calamus section of Leaves of Grass, which contains some of Whitman’s most sexual poems. This was a brave choice, given Whitman’s sexuality and a Serbian culture that is not always understanding of gay rights.

Even braver and more inspiring, Prof. Karbiener’s students chose to translate some of Whitman’s most openly sexual verse into Serbian for the first time. Here are two deeply moving films depicting readings and interpretations of those verses:


“to a stranger (Calamus 22)”

This film from Indira at the University of Novi Sad feels like a mashup of Godard, neorealist Italian film, and Whitman. It’s a stunning piece of work that gets to the heart of Whitman’s democratic vision by putting his most open words in the mouths of ordinary Serbian citizens as they go about their daily lives.


“Walt Whitman, Calamus 9

A powerful meditation on and translation of Whitman’s poem from Elma at the University of Novi Sad


Wonderful Videos From Other Campuses:

In Search of Wendall Slickman

A rollicking twenty-minute rock ‘n roll mockumentary by Sam P. of UMW about a figure named “Wendall Slickman,” a hybrid figure of Walt Whitman and Elvis Presley


Whitman, Commercialism, and the Digital Age. Will Whitman Survive?

Virginia S. of UMW created this beautiful cinepoem marked by a moving reading of Leaves of Grass playing over video footage of traveled roads, sweeping waves, and setting suns.


City of Ships
Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.
A moving cinepoem that takes us through Whitman’s Camden and Philadelphia by Rutgers-Camden student Tara Wood. This video was highlighted in an article about the Looking for Whitman project.


City Tech students bring us Whitman’s New York by finding his presence in two busy hubs of the city Whitman loved:

Ermir finds Whitman In Times Square:

And Fabricio finds him in Grand Central:


To be sure, these videos are just a sample of the amazing student work completed during the Fall 2009 semester. In the coming weeks and months, the Looking for Whitman team will continue to unearth and organize riches from the project. Stay tuned, and thanks so much to all students involved in the project for their good work!


A Trip to Mickle Street
At mid-afternoon, we hopped on a bus and rode a few blocks to visit Whitman’s House on Mickle Street — the only house he ever owned, and the house in which he spent the last eight years of his life. (During the course of our own project, Prof. Hoffman’s class wrote scripts for the Visitor’s Center that will soon be built at the site).

2010-04-10 16.08.29

Students gather in the backyard of the Whitman house after a tour.

I’ll let the students who were visiting the house for the first time speak about this experience, but I’ll just say that it was wonderful to observe the awe with which these students approached the house.

Many thanks to Leo Blake, curator of the House, and his volunteer staff for a wonderful tour.


Whitman’s Tomb at Harleigh Cemetery
After our tour of the house, we headed over to Whitman’s gravesite. We arrived to find the front gates shut and locked, even though we arrived a few minutes before closing time. While we tried to figure out what to do, I walked around the the cemetery looking for someone to talk to. Nearby, I found a section of the wrought-iron fence that had been bent open. After I went through, hoping to talk to a representative of the cemetery, I turned to find students and faculty from the project following me through the hole in the fence!

2010-04-10 17.03.04

Entrance to the Harleigh cemetery. Note the closed gate.

Finding no one around, we walked down the road a bit until we arrived at the tomb that Whitman had designed for himself and his family members:


Students and faculty members gather in front of Whitman's tomb. Thanks to Claire Fontaine for the shot.

And then, we read together the closing lines of Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” (video to follow). It was a fitting and beautiful way to end our time together.


The Smallest Sprout Shows There is Really No Death
Onward and outward. The project is drawing to a close, of sorts, but I have the sense that it will never end for many of us. Like one of the elastic, limber, ellipsis-trailing lines of Whitman’s 1855 Leaves of Grass, Looking for Whitman will continue to fling its likeness outward; and those of us who were a part of it, or who watched it from afar, will continue to draw from it as we find it under our bootsoles, filtering and fibering the soil in which we grow.


My deepest thanks to those who supported this project, including:

The NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant Program, offered through the NEH Office of Digital Humanities in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services. I am grateful to the NEH and to the Office of Digital Humanities for their support, and I hope that this project can serve as an example for others interested in multi-campus educational projects.

I am also grateful to the colleges represented in this project for the generous support and encouragement that they have given to the participants. In particular, I would like to thank the following people for their support of this project:

    Dr. Bonne August, Provost and Vice President, New York City College of
    Technology, CUNY

    Barbara Burke, Patty Barba, Eleanor Bergonzo, Yasemin Jones from the Grants Office of the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.

    Dr. Teresa A. Kennedy, Professor and Chair, Department of English,
    Linguistics, and Communication, University of Mary Washington

    Dr. Nina Mikhalevsky, Acting Provost and Vice President for Strategy and
    Policy, Professor of Philosophy, University of Mary Washington

    Dr. Michael A. Palis, Interim Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Graduate
    School, Rutgers University-Camden

This project would not have been successful without the efforts of its deeply committed faculty members and staff. For their enthusiasm, excitement, energy, and expertise, I would like to thank:

Most of all, I’d like to thank the students who took part in Looking for Whitman. Without your hard work, none of this would have been possible.


“Looking for Whitman” has been designated a “We the People” project by the National Endowment for the Humanities.




Lecture on the Irish and Tammany Hall

December 6th, 2009 No comments

Those of you who have worked a bit on the Five Points neighborhood in New York might be interested in the following lecture at the CUNY Graduate Center by some well-known journalists and historians:

Irish New York: A New Look at Tammany Hall and Its Legacy

Tammany Hall has long been a synonym for corruption. But was there more than mere venality to one of the most long-running and successful urban political organizations in the history of the United States? Did it also play a formative role in educating the masses in the constructive uses of politics and help turn the agenda of economic and social reform from wish list into law? A panel made up of Pete Hamill, Terry Golway and Peter Quinn will discuss this and other aspects of Tammany-style politics with Richard Welch, author of King of the Bowery: big Tim Sullivan, Tammany Hall, and New York City from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era.

Click here to register.

Class Notes – 11/17/09

November 17th, 2009 No comments

Themes in Franklin Evans; how do they show up in Whitman’s other work?

— destruction
— death
— liquor
— going astray
— being lost
— optimism –> despair
— city as dangerous
— tempation
— concern for health, the body

Issues of Genre
— temperance novels
— literature of moral reform
— episodic nature of narrative
— didacticism

Check out our group wire post for current assignments and the Projects Info page on our course blog for descriptions of those assignments.

Franklin Evans

November 10th, 2009 No comments
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Photos from the Brooklyn Historical Society Visit

November 9th, 2009 No comments

Here are some photos taken during the visit that the City Tech class made to the Brooklyn Historical Society on November 3rd.  The trip was part of a new research project in which each student in the course chose an address in which Whitman lived briefly during his time in Brooklyn.  Students will perform historical research on the address using insurance maps, land conveyances, city directories, and other resources provided by the BHS.  Many thanks to the BHS and librarian Elizabeth Call for their assistance with this project.

Here are some recaps of the trip from students in the course:

Remixing Whitman: A Challenge

October 26th, 2009 No comments

This, friends, is the competition.  Where are our Whitman remixes?

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Learn more about Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking.

Class Notes – October 13, 2009

October 13th, 2009 No comments

(thanks to Claire for taking these notes)

Posts this week were exemplary, in terms of interpretation, contextualization, conversation. Another thing people did well with this week was incorporating multimedia material, for example, photos, and citing them by linking back to the source.

In the future, remember to cite your sources. Use MLA format.

The theme for today is mapping, as a way of getting at Whitman’s New York. Readings for this week included Whitman’s journalistic works in the collection Walt Whitman’s New York. Next week we will look at Whitman’s Brooklyn through the lens of his biography.

Chuck comments that we have not focused on mapping for a few weeks… this is a lens we will using going forward.

The Material Culture project will count as the midterm. Think of it as if you are a museum curator presenting an object to the world. Eventually, you will create an entirely new blog for your museum exhibit. Rather than writing posts, you will write pages. In this way you are building a resource that is more like a website than a blog. Each of the pages will deal with a different aspect of your object, whether your object is Whitman’s opera dandy shirt, Grace Church, Bowery B’hoys, etc.

1. Create a new blog.
2. When you go in to edit your new blog, rather than creating a new post, create a new page. You may end up with 5 or 6 pages.
3. Password protect your pages when they are still in draft form.
4. Pages are handled differently in different themes. Sometimes they will show up in the sidebar and other times as tabs at the top.
5. You can go into widgets and change the settings so that the only thing that appears in the sidebar are the names of the pages. So there would be no list of blog posts, no list of categories.
6. You can also go in settings and change which of your pages is the home, or front, page.
7. Remember the tag – digitalmuseum

Claire’s presentation on Flickr and Flickr Maps
— New flickr group: Whitman’s New York
— everyone is now an admin on the WWNY group
— you can move your photos from your photo stream to the group
— then you can map them

— Adding photos to group map:
1. Upload image to flickr
2. Name it, tag it ww20
3. Send it to Whitman’s New York group
4. In your photostream, go to image and click “Add to your map”
5. Zoom in on map (can search for address) to find spot where you want to put image
6. Drag photo from bottom of interface directly onto map
7. It will show up on the group map within 5 minutes. To see it there, go to the Flickr group and click the “map” link at the top of the page.

Categories: Class Notes Tags: , , ,

Mapping Whitman’s New York

October 13th, 2009 No comments

Mapping has been something of an undercurrent in our class so far:

  • When Claire Fontaine visited our class a few weeks ago, she spoke about the process of connecting flickr photographs to google maps (see her posts here and here for more info).
  • I’ve assigned you a “then and now” photography assignment in which you are to write a blog post that showcases a historical photo of a location mentioned by Whitman or important to his life and matches it with a photo that you’ve taken yourself of the same location. Ideally, we would then locate all of these photos on map and build together a collaborative map of Whitman’s New York.
  • Mapping sites/applications


    Historic Earth iPhone App

    Google Maps

    Flickr Maps

    Categories: Project Posts Tags: , ,

    Material Culture Museum Assignment

    October 11th, 2009 No comments

    Material Culture Museum Assignment

    Due Dates:
    10/13: Topic Selection Due
    10/20: First Draft of Entry Due (password-protected blog post)
    10/27: Second Draft of Entry Due (password-protected blog post)
    11/3: Final Post Due (tagged “digitalmuseum”)

    Assignment Background
    Students in all Looking for Whitman classes will build exhibits in a digital museum that presents Walt Whitman’s life and work through examinations of discrete material objects relevant to the time Whitman spent in a particular location. Our goal is to tie the study of history — and Whitman’s history specifically — to very concrete objects, in the same way that someone in the future might learn about our present culture by studying an iPod or a television set.

    If you’re wondering what a “material object” is, the term basically refers to any physical object that can be found in the world — a pen, a book, a piece of clothing, a building, a manuscript page. Looking at history by examining everyday material objects represents an alternative way of thinking about history. People used to study history by looking at the stories of “great men” and large industries. In recent years, historians have shown that we can learn just as much, if not more, about a culture by looking at the everyday physical objects it contained.

    In this assignment, you will pretend that you work in a museum and that you are putting together an exhibit on an object related to Whitman’s time in New York. Your goal should be to produce a well-fashioned and informative piece of writing that fulfills the following objectives:

    1. Provides a scholarly and readable introduction to a specific material object
    2. Thoroughly explores the general context of that object — its invention, development, and history of use
    3. Discusses its physical properties — how it looked and felt, and what people wrote about it
    4. Focuses on the relationship of that object to Whitman’s work

    To see examples of the general type of work we’re looking for, please visit the virtual museum built at the University of Mary Washington in Prof. Jeffrey McClurken’s History of American Technology & Culture class.


    1. You must choose your object from the list below (objects will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Simply email your preference to Prof. Gold)
    2. Your research should consist of scholarly, college-level sources, whether electronic or print. Use the bibliographies in the things you read to find further sources!
    3. You must use a minimum of four scholarly sources, and they should be meticulously cited in your entry. You will should provide a works cited page at the end of your post that provides complete citation information in MLA Format.
    4. At least one of your scholarly sources must be a book and at least one must be either an article found in a library database or a document found in a local archive.
    5. You must use at least one image in your digital museum entry. If you use more than one image, please identify which one of those images should serve as your entry’s iconic image on the navigation page for the museum. You must provide citation information for the images you use.
    6. Your entry must be at least 1500 words (the equivalent of a six-page paper).
    7. You must visit at least one New York Museum during the course of your research. See addendum for a list of NYC museums and archives that may be of interest.


    • Make sure that you know how to quote from your sources responsibly, and that you understand the difference between paraphrase and plagiarism. If you have any questions about how to cite from or quote material that you’ve found, please get in touch.


    Please choose an object from the following list. If you would like to research something that is not on this list, please get in touch.

    New York Daguerreotype Galleries (Brady’s and Plumbe’s)

    P.T. Barnum’s Museum

    American Phrenological Journal

    Bowery B’hoys – Assigned to Danique

    Snow Scene in Brooklyn Painting by Francis Guy

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle

    New York Aurora

    Franklin Evans and Temperance Novels

    Operas and opera singers reviewed by Whitman in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle – Assigned to Nicole F

    Prison Ship Martyrs Monument – Assigned to Fabricio

    The vault at Pfaffs – Assigned to Chuck

    Grace Church – Assigned to Pedro

    99 Ryerson Street

    Plymouth Church – Assigned to Jennifer

    Perris Real Estate Atlas

    Whitman’s hat – Assigned to Fia

    Rufus W. Griswold’s review of 1855 Leaves of Grass

    Nina (Whitman’s horse on Long Island)

    Compositing Type

    NY Tombs and McDonald Clarke – Assigned to Amber

    “Our Future Lot” manuscript

    Circulating Library

    Long Island Clams – Assigned to Nicole G

    Steam Frigate Fulton Explosion – Assigned to Chase

    Firefighting / The Great Fire of 1835 / Its Effects on the NYC Newspaper Industry – Assigned to Oktay

    General Lafayette Tour of 1825

    NYC area museums and resources (list courtesy of Prof. Karen Karbiener):

    1. Brooklyn Historical Society

    2. New-York Historical Society

    3. Brooklyn Public Library

    4.Lower East Side Tenement Museum

    5. Museum of the City of New York

    6. New York City Fire Museum

    7. Merchant’s House Museum

    8. Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

    9. Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden

    10. National Museum of the American Indian

    11. Museum of American Financial History

    12. Museum of Chinese in the Americas

    13. Walt Whitman Birthplace (Huntington, Long Island)

    Categories: Assignments Tags:

    Class Notes – Oct. 6

    October 6th, 2009 No comments

    Blog posts — please add context to your posts — include an introduction that introduces readers to the subject of your post

    — Image citations:  at bottom of post, include a line that says (Image credit:  Site Name) — a nd make “Site Name” a link to the webpage on which you found the image

    — Insiders and Outsiders NYC

    Philip Hone — describing the Great Fire of 1835 — burned down printing houses — forced WW to move back to L.I. and begin short-lived teaching career.

    Hone’s son — NYC commerce


    Charles Dickens

    Dickens visits 1842

    — compares NYC to Boston — faded town.  p. 51
    — Tombs — surprised by condition of the prisoners.  Suicides.  lack of exercise.  dark.
    — pigs — comparing the pigs to people —

    “He is in every respect a republican pig, going wherever he pleases, and mingling with the best society, on an equal, if not superior footing, for everyone makes way when he appears, and the haughtiest give him the wall, if he prefer it. He is a great philosopher, and seldom moved, unless by the dogs before mentioned. Sometimes, indeed, you may see his small eye twinkling on a slaughtered friend, whose carcass garnishes a butcher’s door-post, but he grunts out “Such is life: all flesh is pork!” buries his nose in the mire again, and waddles down the gutter: comforting himself with the reflection that there is one snout the less to anticipate stray cabbage stalks, at any rate.”

    — America as dirty, uncivilized

    Who is Dickens’ audience for this travelogue?  How these passages about the Tombs and pigs compare to his descriptions of colorful clothing and bright colors on Broadway

    Dickens’s tone — condescending — interview with Tombs guard

    How did Whitman deal with the pigs?

    — pp. 92-3 —

    Why what have you thought of yourself?

    Is it you then that thought yourself less?
    Is it you that thought the President greater than you? or the rich better off than
    you? or the educated wiser than you?

    Because you are greasy or pimpled—or that you was once drunk, or a thief, or
    diseased, or rheumatic, or a prostitute—or are so now—or from frivolity or
    impotence—or that you are no scholar, and never saw your name in print . . . .
    do you give in that you are any less immortal?”

    — Weren’t there slums in England?  Why would Dickens be so harsh about NYC slums when London had similar slums?

    Fanny Kemble

    Edgar Allan Poe

    Frances Trollope

    Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
    Skip to toolbar