About Looking for Whitman
About This Website
This online space will be used by four different courses at four different college campuses to share their intellectual experiences of exploring Whitman’s work in relationship to specific places in which Whitman lived . The website will be used as a distributed space for sharing ideas, research, and feedback across these courses. The participating schools in this NEH funded project are the New York City College of Technology (CUNY), New York University, University of Mary Washington, and Rutgers University-Camden.
About the Looking for Whitman Project
At the conclusion of the 1855 edition of the poem that he later titled “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman advised his readers to “look for me under your bootsoles,” suggesting that the dilated, celebratory poetic presence they encountered on the printed page would continue to flower in the landscape around them. This experiment in multi-campus digital pedagogy, “Looking for Whitman: The Poetry of Place in the Life and Work of Walt Whitman,” helps students and faculty members from four educational institutions trace the lingering imprints of Whitman’s footsteps in the local soil. Utilizing open-source tools to connect classrooms in multiple institutions, the project has created a collaborative online space in which students will be able to research Whitman’s connections to their individual locations and share that research with one another in a dynamic, social, web-based learning environment. The project has two foci: engaging participating faculty and students in an active learning experience that connects Whitman’s writing to local resources, and creating an open repository of primary source materials from particular locations that Whitman inhabited.
The project engages classes at four academic institutions–New York City College of Technology (CUNY), New York University, University of Mary Washington, and Rutgers University-Camden–in a concurrent, connected, semester-long inquiry into the relationship of Whitman’s poetry to local geography and history. During the Fall 2009 semester, each class will explore Whitman’s poetry at the same time as it researches Whitman’s relationship to a specific locale chosen for its relevance to Whitman’s life and career. In the New York location, for example, students from CUNY and NYU will explore Whitman’s connections to the Brooklyn Waterfront, Lower Manhattan, and Long Island, and will focus particularly on Whitman’s early work, including the landmark 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. At the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, students will consider Whitman’s mid-career experiences as a nurse in the Civil War, and will focus on his war-related writing of the 1860s. Students at Rutgers University-Camden will explore Whitman’s late career as they investigate the city in which Whitman spent the final decades of his long life. Each of these courses will concentrate on researching and disseminating the archival records unique to each location. Faculty members, working with historical societies, museums, and archives such as The Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and the Walt Whitman House, will identify and make available site-specific Whitman-related resources and research opportunities.
Funding and Support
This project has received generous funding from an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant, offered through the NEH Office of Digital Humanities in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We are grateful to the NEH and to the Office of Digital Humanities for their support, and we hope that this project can serve as an example for others interested in multi-campus educational projects.
We are also grateful to the colleges represented in this project for the generous support and encouragement that they have given to the participants. In particular, we 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
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