Walt Whitman: Poems

The Universe According to Whitman: Unity through Disjunction

Walt Whitman’s poetry contains many basic elements that come together to characterize his own stance in 19th century social and political thought. An analysis of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric” specifically highlight Whitman’s concern with the human body. Through these poems, the human body is continually glorified and eroticized by Whitman. However, Whitman’s focus on the body runs deeper than a physical infatuation, as these poems also establish the body’s connection to one’s soul. Another major characteristic in Whitman’s concern with the human body in these poems is his ability to universalize the human image, bringing the reader and poet into a single entity. This paper seeks to demonstrate how Whitman’s union of these highly connective representations of the human body allow readers a circuit to understanding Whitman’s own response to the social and political separatism that characterized 19th century thought. Writing in an era of radical inequality, Whitman’s characterization of the body in these poems serves to promote a larger message of social and racial equality in a time period that worked to largely suppress both.

Upon initial analysis of Whitman’s focus on the human body in “Song of...

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