Leaves of Grass

Whitman’s Utopia and Ginsberg’s Dystopia: The American Dream Reimagined College

Both Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg reimagine what America could be in their poetical and literary endeavors, and Whitman’s influence on Ginsberg runs infinitely through our culture, shaping the fabric of America. Whitman wrote, “I celebrate myself…for every atom belonging to me as good as belongs to you” in Leaves of Grass and invites us to look inward to find the divine and the extraordinary. The Beat writers, and Ginsberg in particular, submit themselves to this message, as if their poetical works intertextually weave into Whitman and his notion of selfhood. The simultaneous breakdown of the two writers’ ideas allow for a transcendental breakthrough — to a state of visionary illumination. A new vision of America is established through poetry: Whitman and Ginsberg explore ideas of otherness and homoeroticism, modernity and the double, and Whitman’s utopian vision of America with the duality of Ginsberg’s satirical humour as a means of criticism and prophecy.

Whitman existed in 19th century America where polarities were stark and society was quick to adhere to a larger construction of heteronormative behaviors. Whitman’s dualities were considered not only outside of this hegemonic construction, but also transgressive in the...

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