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Whitman Found (and then FINALLY uploaded to YouTube)

So here’s Erin and mine’s final videos for the class,  WordPress is finicky today, so I have the direct links to YouTube below..

Your Friendly Neighborhood Joe D! Reads Walt Whitman’s Thoughts (Parts 1 & 2)

Your Friendly Neighborhood Joe D! Presents Walt Whitman’s A Font of Type

And here’s Erin’s wonderful work!

Erin McCool Reads Walt Whitman’s Years of the Modern

Erin McCool Presents Walt Whitman’s I Sing the Body Electric

The Narcissist Walt Whitman

Origins and Manifestations of Narcissism in the Life and Work of Walt Whitman

I hear and behold God in every object, yet I understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
—Song of Myself


Walt Whitman was a narcissist. His narcissism began in childhood when, as an infant unable to idealize his father or detach from his mother, he became his own love-object. Whitman’s attachment to his mother and disappointment in his father lasted throughout his lifetime and complicated his role in the Whitman family. His narcissism was the cause of both his obsession with the public’s reception of his work and his determination to be the nation’s poet. It is also the root of the autoeroticism in his poetry and an explanation of the fractured self his poetry portrays. Most poignantly, Whitman’s narcissism informed his homosexual impulses and the commingled pleasure and torture Whitman experienced as a nurse in the Civil War hospitals.

In terms of theoretical research, I analyzed Whitman from a Freudian standpoint and did not address later theories of narcissism (either Lacanian or post-Freudian psychoanalysis) at length. Any information on post-Freud theories was based on Lynne Layton’s article, “From Oedipus to Narcissus: Literature and the Psychology of the Self,” which explores the roots of narcissism through a modern psychoanalytic lens. Primarily, I relied on theory provided by Freud’s essay “On Narcissism” in The Freud Reader, although I found useful information in some of his other essays as well (for example, Civilization and Its Discontents). “On Narcissism” was useful in defining narcissism and providing a theoretical framework with which to establish Whitman’s narcissism and relate it to his autoeroticism, homosexuality, and relationship with his mother.
Regarding historical research, I contextualized Whitman’s sexuality and mother-son relationship using Reynolds’s Whitman biography and Myrth Jimmie Killingsworth’s article “Whitman and Motherhood: A Historical View.” Reynolds provides an excellent description of the views of same-sex relationships in Whitman’s time and Killingsworth explains Whitman’s use of the motherhood mystique in relation to the intense mother-son relationships that were typical of the nineteenth century. My analysis of Walt Whitman’s narcissism was based on both biographical information and a selection of his writing that included the poems Song of Myself, “As at Thy Portals Also Death,” and “The Wound Dresser;” and the prose work Specimen Days.

Works Cited

Bauerlein, Mark. “Whitman’s Language of the Self.” American Imago 44.2 (1987): 129-148. Print.
Cavitch, David. My Soul and I: The Inner Life of Walt Whitman. Boston: Beacon Press, 1985. Print.
Fredrickson, Robert S. “Public Onanism: Whitman’s Song of Himself.” Modern Language Quarterly 46.2 (1985): 143-60. Print.
Freud, Sigmund. The Freud Reader. Ed. Peter Gay. New York: Norton, 1989. Print.
Killingsworth, Myrth Jimmie. “Whitman and Motherhood: A Historical View.” American Literature 54.1 (1982): 28-43. Print.
Layton, Lynne. “From Oedipus to Narcissus: Literature and the Psychology of Self.” Mosaic 18.1 (1985): 97-105. Print.
Moder, Donna. “Gender Bipolarity and the Metaphorical Dimensions of Creativity in Walt Whitman’s Poetry: A Psychobiographical Study.” Literature and Psychology 34.1 (1988): 34-52. Print.
Reynolds, David S. Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography. New York: Vintage, 1996. Print.
Whitman, Walter. Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose. Ed. Justin Kaplan. New York: Library of America, 1996. Print.
Zweig Paul. “The Wound Dresser.” Ed. Harold Bloom. Modern Critical Views: Walt Whitman. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. Print.

Final Paper Presentation

Whitman, Motherhood, and the Ideal Nation

My final project examines Whitman’s ideal of motherhood in relationship to his desire to create the ideal nation.

I propose that women to Whitman were necessary tools in his creation of the ideal nation.   Influenced by early eugenic thinkers, Whitman needed women to fulfill his dream of creating a perfect nation of physically fit and intelligent beings capable of understanding the unifying purpose of his poetry.

I analyze 3 poems based on their chronological composition to reveal eugenic influences in his writing:

A Woman Waits for Me

Democratic Vistas

With All Thy Gifts America

I conclude stating that: The woman reader could rejoice in the admiration Whitman had for her reproductive ability.  However, women should take caution, for behind the praise is an over-zealous American who prefers what the womb can offer rather than the person attached to it.

Final Project – Whitman & Meditation


Below are links to my final project and the meditational exercise on powerpoint.  Hope everyone has a great break!



Where Tara Found Whitman



Ok. So here’s my disclaimer:  I cheated. (technically)

This was supposed to be a video of me reading. I’m in the video, but only my feet can be seen. :) My excuse is two-fold. 1. Whitman told us (via his epitaph) to look for him under our bootsoles. I looked under my moccasins. 2. The old saying that some people come into our lives and leave footprints and we are never ever the same. I think my influence on my students is not my face – but the learning I (hopefully) inspire – about life more than English. Thus, when all is said and done, my footprints have far more impact than the rest of me – that will change, the influence will last forever.

I cheated one more time. This video was supposed to be in Camden. This video was filmed in my classroom at Timber Creek High School in Erial, NJ. My excuse, again, is two-fold. 1. Whitman didn’t stay in Camden either in his later life. He traveled to many places in NJ – one of which was Timber Creek (the actual creek…but still!). 2. This poem for me had to be in a classroom. When I think about “The Unexpress’d”, I think about my students and the potential they hold to change the world, be the next Whitman, and begin to express themselves – and expression that remains unexpress’d until they send it into the world.

Full text of the poem in Whitman’s own writing: (from whitmanarchive)

the unexpressd

Jennica’s Final Project (Dr. Singley’s class)

Final Paper presentation

Final Paper

Bibliographic Essay 2

Bibliographic Essay

The following essay examines Walt Whitman’s criticism from 1973-2004 in relation to motherhood, feminism, and the woman reader.  Four articles discuss Whitman’s relationship to his mother.  Six articles debate if Whitman’s poetry reveal feminist support.  Two articles discuss Whitman’s relationship with the woman reader.  Through this, one can view the ambivalence surrounding Walt Whitman’s relationship with his mother and women.


Barbara Schapiro’s, “Shelley’s Alastor and Whitman’s Out of the Cradle: The Ambivalent Mother” introduces the reader to a psychological approach to understanding Whitman’s relationship with his mother.  Schapiro counters Gustav Bychowski and Edwin Miller who see the bird in “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” as a representation of an oedipal triangle (254).  To her, “the bird song portrays an essentially loving mother, but a mother who is specifically withdrawing her love to the bird/boy” (Schapiro 255).  Schapiro provides insight on the complex relationship between Whitman and his mother.  Perhaps the withdrawing of love is Whitman’s conflict over his mother’s disinterest in his poetry.  Unfortunately, Schapiro fails to provide necessary biographical information in understanding her hypothesis.  Further research into Whitman’s relationship with his mother could provide a greater understanding of his poetry regarding the maternal and its position in the Women’s Rights Movement.

“Whitman’s Impossible Mother” by Steven A. Wartofsky describes Whitman as a man grappling with the voice of the Other.  The Other is described as society’s patriarchal voice.  Wartofsky analyzes “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life” to determine that Whitman is trying to empower the voice of his mother.  This voice represents both himself (possibly his homosexual identity) and his mother’s voice repressed by patriarchy.  Wartofksy notes that Whitman’s mother’s voice is finally freed from the oppressive Other however Wartofsky writes, “But that’s the catch: the fierce old mother never really says anything in ‘As I Edd’d with the Ocean of Life” (206).  This article benefits the reader in showing Whitman’s revolutionary behavior.  He is a man trying to speak out against male dominated society.  However, the reader is left perplexed with the knowledge that the mother did not speak.  Once again, an ambiguous Whitman is revealed.  Is he a revolutionary or not?  Future work should analyze the ambivalence presented in Whitman’s work to determine if there are certain points which he stresses more often than others.  Perhaps a researcher could determine his true thoughts regarding women and a patriarchal society by tallying remarks in opposition of and in support of certain beliefs.

Arthur Wrobel in “Nobel American Motherhood” presents Walt Whitman not as a revolutionary feminist but as a poet influenced by the middle class ideals of motherhood.  Wrobel details various thoughts regarding nineteenth century women.  Inspired by eugencics and phrenologists Wrobel writes that, “The ideal woman according to Whitman, is a willing agent of republican America’s racial destiny” (19).  This article suggests that Whitman’s esteem for motherhood originated not from securing women’s rights but from a desire to attain a strong nation.  Although Wrobel initially contests D.H. Lawrence’s criticism that Whitman’s portrayal of women reveals, “muscles and wombs: functional creatures-no more,” (7) the article suggests Whitman’s women were used only as tools in creating his ideal nation.  This criticism follows others in that in conveys Whitman as influenced by the ideals of his time.  On the other hand,  it presents a new image of the poet desperate to create a utopia.  Future analysis of Whitman’s work could focus not on his relationship with his mother but on his identity as a mother seeking an ideal mate to create an ideal nation.

“Whitman and Motherhood: A Historical View” by Myrth Jimmie Killingsworth provides an understanding of Whitman’s portrayal of motherhood.  Killingsworth questions whether Whiman’s women support the feminist cause or abide by nineteenth century ideals of motherhood. He analyzes “Democratic Vistas, A Woman Waits for Me”, “On the Beach At Night Alone,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” “As At Thy Portals Also Death,” and “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” to determine that “The theme of motherhood as it is treated in Whitman’s poems, whether good or bad, is decidedly Victorian” (42).  Killingsworth also connects Whitman’s feelings toward motherhood to eugenicists and phrenologists.  Again the reader sees Whitman greatly admiring motherhood for reproductive purposes as “She holds the key to sex, life, love, and death” (35).  Killingsworth’s comprehensive analysis of Whitman’s poems and description of nineteenth century sentimentalism fosters a greater understanding of Whitman’s ideal of motherhood.  Future avenues of research could examine Whitman’s social and phrenological influences on his image of the ideal woman and mother.


Kay Reinartz asserts that Walt Whitman is indeed a feminist in “Walt Whitman and Feminism.”  Although Whitman was not a political activist, she claims that he “was a feminist in the sense that he endorsed the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” (127).  This article benefits the reader in that it aids in understanding of Whitman’s relationship to his mother and the Quaker religion which influenced his belief in the equality of women.  Reinartz explains that Whitman’s mother may have “influenced Whitman’s attitudes toward women by her failure to demonstrate an intelligent sympathy for, or interest in, Whitman’s poetry” (131).  Reinartz unfortunately only analyzed “Democratic Vistas” to evidence Whitman’s belief in feminism.  Though supportive of her claim, she could have included more poems.  In the future, one could analyze Whitman’s desperate need for his mother’s approval and its relationship to eagerly seeking a women readers (see below).

In “The American Woman in ‘Song of Myself’” Judy Womack describes each instance in the poem in which Whitman represensts women as “equals, as laborers, as lovers” (67).  Womack demonstrates Whitman’s understanding of “the force which women have on society and he lauds them for the compassion which makes them so necessary to all” (72).  This acknowledgement of Whitman reinforces his feminist beliefs.  On the other hand, Womack neglects to analyze what each line would mean for Whitman, nineteenth century society, or feminists.  Future work could compare each section of “Song of Myself” in relation to the Women’s Rights Movement.

Muriel Kolinsky  in ‘”Me Tarzan, You Jane?’: Whitman’s Attitudes Toward Women from a Women’s Liberation Point of View” counters critics who doubt that Walt Whitman’s feminism. She examines numerous poems from Leaves of Grass to conclude that, “even when Whitman extolled motherhood, he was probably more of a feminist, a believer in free choice for women” (158).  This article was useful in that Kolinsky analyzes several poems which direct the reader to Whitman’s admiration for women.  Of particular interest, Kolinsky notes Whitman’s “attack” on the word lady in “Democratic Vistas” and praises Whitman for making the woman’s body acceptable in “I Sing the Body Electric” (162).  Kolinsky however fails to address the question “does Whitman restrict women to stereotype occupations” (160-161).  Kolinsky writing in 1977 accepts Whitman as a feminist, future research could compare twenty first century feminists to Kolinsky’s analysis of Whitman.

In “Writing the Male Body: Naked Patriarchy and Whitmanian Democracy” Robyn Wegman adamantly opposes any notion of Whitman as a defender of women.  She believes he is “phallocentric” and that his ideal image of motherhood “confines the female to a use-value contingent on her relation to the male and, significantly, the phallus” (18).  Wegman presents an opposing view to those who see Whitman as the equalizer of men and women.  It is useful to read Whitman’s poems with this background  of phallocentrism.  It is unclear though in which context Wegman is writing.  Could she be examining Whitman’s poetry by feminist standards set forth at the time of her 1987 writing?  In the future, one could examine this hypothesis of Whitman as an egotistical man concerned with the power of the phallus and using woman only as a means to achieve his ideal America.

Harold Aspiz describes Eliza W. Farnham’s book Woman and Her Era in “An Early Feminist Tribute to Whitman.”  Aspiz states that in Farnham’s book Whitman “is hailed as the precursor of a new feminist conscience” (404).  However this statement is contradicted in the article when Aspiz comments that Whitman’s name appears only three times in Farnham’s work and “none of them in the body of the text” (407).  This article proved useful in presenting insight on a feminist contemporary of Whitman.  Aspiz writes that Farnham’s book “is predicated on the hypothesis that woman is nature’s most highly evolved organism, physically, and spiritually, because she is charged with the highest function” (405).  Although Whitman and Farnham share similar thoughts regarding women Aspiz’s contention that Woman and Her Era is a tribute to Whitman fails to be proven in this article.  Future research should include a comparative study of Farnham’s beliefs, Whitman’s poetry, and the beliefs of other nineteenth century feminists.

Diane Middlebrook’s “Making Visible the Common World: Walt Whitman and Feminist Poetry” compares Walt Whitman to two feminist writers: Susan Griffin and Adrienne Rich.  Middlebrook writes that Whitman, Griffin, and Adrienne Rich share a common task of finding a space of their own and a woman audience.  Middlebrook explains that feminist writers use “Whitman as a model and precursor, feminist writers have identified an analogous need to free women from the literary culture long dominated by men as writers, critics, and publishers” (15).  This article proved useful in gaining a foundational knowledge of the task of feminist writers and it was inspiring to view Whitman as a model for which feminists could learn.  Middlebrook does not however indicate that Whitman was a feminist.  This foundational knowledge could be used in future work to inspire other feminist writers.  One could analyze Whitman’s pleas for unity in comparison to other feminist writers ultimately linking the two.

The Woman Reader

Lottie L. Gutty’s “Walt Whitman and the Woman Reader” describes the important role a woman audience played to Walt Whitman.  Like the feminist authors mentioned above, Whitman sought a female audience.  Whitman spoke to women encouraging self-esteem, equality with men, and treated them as adults (108).  Guttry explains, “The metamorphoses and expressions of sympathy reinforce the poet’s statements of love with evidences of real concern and understanding of women” (107).  Guttry portrays Whitman as an advocate for women.  According to Guttry, Whitman’s approach to women was counter-Victorian.  He wanted to release them from the middle class ideal of a weak woman in need of protection.  Guttry fails to incorporate Whitman’s feelings toward motherhood and his belief in strong mothers.  These maternal feelings had a great impact on one woman reader as evidenced below in Anne Gilchrist.  Future studies could examine a contemporary young woman’s reading of Whitman to determine if they are as empowered as Whitman would have wanted them to be.

In “Lover, Mother, Reader: The Epistolary Courtship of Walt Whitman” Suzanne Ashworth analyzes the correspondences between Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman to reveal Whitman’s influence on a woman reader.  From this critique, one views Whitman as a deeply in awe of the domestic woman.  Gilchrist uses this fascination to present herself more favorably to Whitman.  Ashworth writes, “Anne courts Whitman with domestic idylls-with visions of homebound happiness and normative gender roles” (186).  Ashworth points out the influence of nineteenth century society’s Whitman’s poetry.  She describes, “Anne’s conception of herself as a mother draws heavily on the strains of mother-worship that pervaded both her culture and Whitman’s poetry” (188).  Whitman desperately sought women readers and Gilchrist represented the intellectual, domestic, and sensual woman who understood Whitman.  Future research should analyze contemporary women’s feelings towards Whitman’s poetry.  Will the Whitman as read by a twenty first century evoke the same emotions as that of nineteenth century Anne Gilchrist?

Works Cited

Ashworth, Suzanne. “Lover, Mother, Reader: The Epistolary Courtship of Walt Whitman.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 26.2 (2004): 173-97. Print.

Aspiz, Harold. “An Early Feminist Tribute to Whitman.” American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography 51.3 (1979): 404-9. Print.

Guttry, Lottie L. “Walt Whitman and the Woman Reader.” Walt Whitman Review 22 (1976): 102-10. Print.

Killingsworth, Myrth Jimmie. “Whitman and Motherhood: A Historical View.” American Literature 54.1 (1982): 28. Print.

Kolinsky, Muriel. “Me Tarzan, You Jane: ‘”Me Tarzan, You Jane?’: Whitman’s Attitudes Toward Women from a Women’s Liberation Point of View.” Walt Whitman Review 23 (1977): 155-165. Print.

Middlebrook, Diane. “Making Visible the Common World: Walt Whitman and Feminist Poetry.” Kenyon Review 2.4 (1980): 14-27. Print.

Reinartz, Kay F. “Walt Whitman and Feminism.” Walt Whitman Review 19 (1973): 127-37. Print.

Schapiro, Barbara. “Shelley’s Alastor and Whitman’s ‘Out of the Cradle’: The Ambivalent Mother.” American Imago: A Psychoanalytic Journal for Culture, Science, and the Arts 36 (1979): 245-59. Print.

Wartofsky, Steven. “Whitman’s Impossible Mother.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 9.4 (1992): 196-207. Print.

Wiegman, Robyn. “Writing the Male Body: Naked Patriarchy and Whitmanian Democracy.” Literature and Psychology 33.3-4 (1987): 16-26. Print.

Womack, Judy. “The American Woman in ‘Song of Myself’.” Walt Whitman Review 19 (1973): 67-72. Print.

Wrobel, Arthur. “‘Noble American Motherhood’: Whitman, Women, and the Ideal Democracy.” American Studies 21.2 (1980): 7-25. Print.

Bibliographic Essay

I don’t think that Iever submitted this …

The attached represents the beginning of my search for evidence supporting/disproving Whitman’s support of the women’s rights movement.

My conclusion…I need more information!bib essay

Final Project

Topic: Whitman’s Song of Myself as a Monomyth

Thesis: Whitman adopts techniques from the classic hero’s epic and manages to convey the existential experience as well as the journey of the monomythic cycle. His long poem follows the form described in Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces and Whitman seems to see his narrator’s personal journey as a monomythic experience within the existential realm of his mind (The Hero With A Thousand Faces 66).

Scope: Specifically focusing on Song of Myself, existentialism, and Campbell’s monomyth.


Belasco, Susan. Leaves of Grass: The Sesquicentennial Essays. Nebraska: University of

            Nebraska Press, 2007.

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. California: New World Library

            Press, 2008.

Campbell, Joseph. Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation.

            California: New Library World Press, 2004.

Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Anchor Books, 1988.

Greenspan, Ezra. Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’: A Sourcebook and Critical Edition.

            New York, NY: Routledge, 2005.

Moon, Michael. Disseminating Whitman: Revision and Corporeality in Leaves of Grass.

            Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Richter, Eva and Balin Song. Translating the Concept of ‘Identity’ Translation and Cultural

            Change: Studies in History. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Benjamins; 2005.

            (xvi, 193 pp.)

Sowder, Michael. Whitman’s Ecstatic Union: Conversion and Ideology in Leaves of

            Grass. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. New York, NY: W.W. Norton Publishing Co., 2002.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. New York, NY: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1993.

Methodology: Existentialist analysis based on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth frame.


The Hero’s Journey  
Birth: Fabulous circumstances surrounding conception, birth, and childhood establish the hero’s pedigree, and often constitute their own monomyth cycle. Existentialist Birth: “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air, Born here of parents born here of parents the same, and their parents the same.” Whitman discusses the universal formation of humanity.
Call to Adventure: The hero is called to adventure by some external event or messenger. The Hero may accept the call willingly or reluctantly. Call to Adventure from an Inner Spirit: Whitman’s narrator finds his calling within the soul as he attempts to create an existential sensibility within himself.
Helpers/Amulet: During the early stages of the journey, the hero will often receive aid from a protective figure. This supernatural helper can take a wide variety of forms, such as a wizard, and old man, a dwarf, a crone, or a fairy godmother. The helper commonly gives the hero a protective amulet or weapon for the journey. Helpers/Amulet: Whitman’s series of tests are not even directly performed by him, instead two amulet characters (the boy and the woman at the bath) are observed interacting with their environment and the narrator analyses their reactions as an existentialist (Richter 31-5).
Crossing the Threshold: Upon reaching the threshold of adventure, the hero must undergo some sort of ordeal in order to pass from the everyday world into the world of adventure. This trial may be as painless as entering a dark cave or as violent as being swallowed up by a whale. The important feature is the contrast between the familiar world of light and the dark, unknown world

of adventure.

Nature/Spirit Connect-enters the subconscious: Whitman writes, “I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass” (Whitman 25). The narrator’s invitation of the soul and his examination of the “summer grass” show a connection with nature. The narrator is so strongly attuned with nature he appears to succumb to it entirely.
Tests: The hero travels through the dream-like world of adventure where he must undergo a seriesof tests. These trials are often violent encounters with monsters, sorcerers, warriors, or forces of nature. Each successful test further proves the hero’s ability and advances the journey toward its climax. Mental Tests: For Whitman, these tests are performed in the mind of his narrator and not in the physical world. The narrator is asked to examine his own thought process and in doing so he begins to questions his place within nature. The first test is in his encounter with the young boy. His second test occurs at the edge of the water as he observes the woman with the bathers.
Helpers: The hero is often accompanied on the journey by a helper who assists in the series of tests and generally serves as a loyal companion. Alternately, the hero may encounter a supernatural helper in the world of adventure who fulfills this function.



1.)    the boy examining the blade of grass

2.)    the woman watching the male bathers.

Climax/The Final Battle: This is the critical moment in the hero’s journey in which there is often a final battle with a monster, wizard, or warrior which facilitates the particular resolution of the adventure. Existential Climax: Whitman’s narrator reaches the climax at the end of the poem as he releases an animalistic “yawp” to signal his concession to the existentialist world, accepting he can not understand the science of life completely. Whitman writes: “I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” (Whitman).
Flight: After accomplishing the mission, the hero must return to the threshold of adventure and prepare for a return to the everyday world. If the hero has angered the opposing forces by stealing the elixir or killing a powerful monster, the return may take the form of a hasty flight. If the hero

has been given the elixir freely, the flight may be a benign stage of the journey.

Flight: Whitman’s narrator ventures from the dream state of his existentialist journey to return to the ordinary world. Whitman equates the end of the journey with the narrators symbolic return to natural elements. In the lines at the conclusion of the play the narrator is described as “vapor and air” and his “flesh in eddies” and Whitman enforces the notion that the journey ends with a lack of total understanding but a connection with the natural world (Moon 88-95).
Return: The hero again crosses the threshold of adventure and returns to the everyday world of daylight. The return usually takes the form of an awakening, rebirth, resurrection, or a simple emergence from a cave or forest. Sometimes the hero is pulled out of the adventure world by a force from the daylight world.


Return: Whitman’s narrator exemplifies this stage as he returns to his normal mental relationship with nature. His awareness is heightened and his understanding of himself is far greater than at the beginning of the quest. Yet, for the existentialist in Whitman the narrator must remain ignorant to a complete understanding of the world (Belasco 70-3). Whitman’s narrator does gain a new understanding of the world and his connection to it, although he is not able to draw any distinct conclusions. Whitman describes this notion by equating the narrator with the grass he attempted to understand. He writes, “You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, and filter and fibre your blood” (Whitman).
Elixer: The object, knowledge, or blessing that the hero acquired during the adventure is now put to use in the everyday world. Often it has a restorative or healing function, but it also serves to define the hero’s role in the society. Elixer: Campbell claims the elixir “defines the hero’s role in society” (The Hero With A Thousand Faces 179-84). For Whitman, this societal definition is comparably unimportant to the personal understanding his narrator gains from his journey. His existentialist approach places more significance on the mutual lack of understanding between the narrator and nature. Whitman writes, “Failing to catch me at first keep encouraged, missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you” (Whitman)
Home: The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. Home: Whitman return from his existentialist journey brings him back to the normal world and out of direct communication with the soul.

Adam B final project–musipoems

For my final project I took advantage of free access to Retro City Studios in Germantown (my friend is the owner). I was lucky that some of my former bandmates from Boston were down over Thanksgiving weekend and were happy to do a session while I read some of my favorite Whitman poems. I’m always struck by the music cadence in Whitman’s verse. I think Whitman is best experienced aurally. The background music is original–a collaboration with myself on piano, Adam Garland (guitar), Dave Barbaree (pedal steel), Sven Larson (bass), Steve Turcott (drums), and Brian “Lips” McGrath on trumpet. Hopefully it’s as enjoyable to listen to as it was to record!

“The Sleepers”


“Song of Myself”