Course Name: Walt Whitman and his American Vision
Instructor: Maurice Manning
In 1850 Walt Whitman published his first version of Leaves of Grass, a project he was to enlarge and enrich for the next 40 years. As Whitman continued his work he matched it with the development of America, through the tumult of the Civil War and beyond. What was Whitman’s vision of America?
What factors informed his vision and has that vision been realized today? How is the Self connected to, and dependent on, the communal? These are open-ended questions, to be sure, but worthy questions to consider. The ideal version of the United States of America is still forming; perhaps that is part of our national design. Whitman recognized this fact and built it into his aesthetic. In this course we will read Leaves of Grass, attempt to articulate Whitman’s vision of America, and study how that vision has been realized or not. We will endeavor to determine where we are now in that rich and rigorous vision. One may consider Whitman’s vision from a host of perspectives, including individual, communal, social, cultural, philosophical, mythic, economic, political, environmental, and spiritual. Whitman covered a lot of ground; this course will be an endeavor to recognize the range and the wisdom of his vision.