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For Tuesday (3/13)

Several things for Tuesday:

1) Mass culture treasure hunt.  Your goal here is to find three examples of Walt Whitman’s presence within American mass (or popular) culture.  These should be instances where the figure of Whitman and/or Whitman’s poems are cited by and within mass (popular) culture after the last publication of Leaves of Grass in 1892.  The reference must be explicit – -e.g. no “like Whitman” or “related to Whitman.”  You can use: music, film, video, fiction, advertising, speeches, TMZ – – anything intended for a mass audience.  If possible, include the instances in your blog post.  And, comment a little bit about how this use of Whitman interprets or makes sense of Whitman and/or his poetry.  (NB: Dead Poets Society – – the movie – – is definitely excluded.  Though you may use interesting mashups or remixes of Dead Poets Society.)

2) Project development.  Look back over the half-dozen or so projects you’ve already blogged – – motif patterns, YouTube, Whitman’s peers, etc.  Pick one that you’d like to develop a bit more.  This could mean writing a bit more or revising a bit more seriously etc.  Come into class with the project you’d like to invest some more labor in and some ideas about what you’d like to do.

3) Tweet-of-the-week: “Martin F. Tupper, Proverbial Wisdom”

4) Browse through Specimen Days to find something interesting to blog about.

For Tuesday (3/6)


For our next virtual class – – let’s explore some of the ways that Whitman was “read” and “misread” by his contemporaries and by his contemporary culture.   We’ll never know exactly what Whitman “meant” to his contemporary readers.  However, looking at the reviews will help us to get a sense of how readers made (or didn’t make) sense of Whitman and his odd little book.  And, we might be able to use the reviews to glimpse a bigger picture of how and what the “literary” signified in 1855 –  –  and thus the extent of Whitman’s literary “radicalism.”

First, head over to the nice collection of reviews of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass at the Whitman Archive.

Browse through some of the reviews until you find three that strike you as particularly interesting.  Then use these questions to help read the readers:

How does each of these three “read” Whitman?  What do they notice about Leaves of Grass?  What don’t they notice?  What strikes them as most important about Leaves of Grass?  How do they define the importance – – negative or positive – – of Whitman’s volume? Are there any excessive moments – – e.g. over-reaction, over-focus, over-the-top reactions?

Building on these questions, and taking things a little deeper, what do the reviews tell us about the cultural assumptions that were brought to bear on Whitman’s text?  E.g. cultural assumptions about poetry – -what it is, what it isn’t;  cultural assumptions about the Poet – – what a poet is, what a poet isn’t; assumptions about the value and/or uses of poetry.  Do these assumptions seem to differ from or agree with our own?

For Tuesday (2/28)

1) For Tuesday (actually Wed.), we’ll be doing a little manuscript detective work.

First, note and read  the second poem – – titled there as “A Song for Occupations” – –  in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass.  Make a few notes about the poem:  what are the most interesting or important lines? how does this poem extend, develop, elaborate themes and/or lines in “Song of Myself.”

Then, proceed into the remaining six editions of Leaves of Grass.  Your goal is examine how this poem changes over the course of the rest of Whitman’s publishing career.  Where in the other editions does this poem occur?  How and where has it been re-titled?  Has Whitman made any significant edits to the poem itself?  What is significant about the way Whitman re-positions the poem in the remaining editions?  What is significant about the changing titles of the poem?

As you track “Song for Occupations,” think about how the shifting identity and situation of the poem reflect on the meaning of the poem and what these shifts might tell us about Whitman’s own changing understanding of Leaves of Grass.  Blog your reflections on your detective work.

I’m a day or so late on posting this – – so let’s move the due date for this post to 5 p.m., Wed., March 1.

2) Dont’ forget our tweet-of-the-week: Frances Wright. (Due: Thursday, March 2)

3).  Don’t forget to browse through Specimen Days and blog on an interesting entry.  (Due Thursday, March 2)

4) Make sure you check out the new “Teaching Page” I’ve created.  I’ve posted teaching groups and members.  If I’ve made mistake in your group preference, let me know.  If your name is not on that page, let me know.

Tuesday (2/21)

For our next virtual class:

Whitman didn’t so much produce a book of poetry, Leaves of Grass, as an ongoing iteration of a poem and book.  Leaves of Grass is more like a “versioned” text (LoG 1.0, LoG 2.0, etc.) than a stable, finished document.  Let’s explore a bit of this de-re-composing process.

For Tuesday:

1) compare the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass to the 1860 edition.  What significant changes to the whole volume – – the whole collection – – do you notice?  What do these changes tell us about how Whitman was rethinking his poems and his ambition?  Do you notice any significant changes to “Song of Myself”?

2) the “blue book” version of the 1860 Leaves of Grass is full of Whitman’s own annotations and emendations. Focusing on “Song of Myself,” look for several high activity zones – – places where Whitman is scribbling and striking out and adding a lot, pages full of pencil marks.  Having located a couple of high activity zones, take a look at the next edition of Leaves of Grass – – 1867.  What big changes – – additions, re-organzations – – do you notice to the new edition? Focusing on the zones you’ve discovered in the “blue book,” what’s happened to the changes Whitman pencilled in his previous 1860 edition?  Has he made all the changes he marked in the “blue book”?  What difference do these changes make to the 1867 version of “Song of Myself”?  How has the poem changed from it’s original 1855 version?

Blog your answers and reflections!

3)  don’t forget our tweet-of-the-week: “Bowery b’hoy.”  (Always available first through out tweetstream: #whitmansfsu. (Due Thursday, February 23)

4) check out the class wiki to discover the fantastic work your comrades, Erick and Mia.  I need a new secretary to digest the Oneida Community posts.  Volunteers?  Email me.

5) let’s take a break this week from Specimen Days.  E.g. no need to blog a Specimen Days entry this week.

Whitman YouTubed

Can you handle this Whitman remix?

Here’s a great YouTubing of Whitman:

And, another:

And, yet another, in a different style:

And, one more re-creative masterpiece:

And, here’s a more complete gallery of Whitman YouTubes.


For Thursday (2/16)

Happy Valentine's Day! (Annie Oakley's heart target)

For Thursday, we’ll talk a bit more about Whitman and his peers.  You might want to review your notes, annotations, or blog posts about Walt and his fellow poets.

More importantly, we’ll start on Thursday to explore Whitman’s poetic process.  Luckily for us, the Walt Whitman archive is a treasure trove of manuscripts, drafts, notebooks, etc.  Look over the 1860 “blue book” and note down anything you find interesting about Walt’s pencilled comments and notes.  And, take a look at Ed Folsom and Ken Price’s really fascinating introduction – – “Many Manuscript Doings and Undoings”: The Road toward Leaves of Grass” – –  to the making of the 1855 edition.

For Tuesday (2/14)

You’ll want to do three things for Tuesday:

1) look at Whitman’s personal copy of the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, known as the “blue book.”  In this copy, you’ll find a plethora of Whitman’s own notes, annotations, and revisions.  Browse through the book, paying special attention to the early pages and to his notes on “Song of Myself.”  Make a few notes on a couple of interesting things you notice about the blue book.  (You don’t have to blog these – – just jot them down for class on Thursday.)

2) don’t forget to browse through and comment on one of Whitman’s entries in Specimen Days.

3) you want to YouTube 15 or so lines from “Song of Myself” and post your video by Tuesday afternoon.  How do I YouTube a poem?  Click here.

For Thursday (2/9)

Sometimes – – if not always – – you can’t really judge or understand a poet’s value until/unless you understand the poetic context of his/her work.  For Tuesday, we’ll take a dip into the poetic waters surrounding Whitman.

Here’s a pop-up anthology of Whitman’s poetic peers.  Let’s all take a look at the first poem, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Village Blacksmith.”  After that, you’re on your own.  Select two other poems from the anthology to read.

A couple of things to pay attention to: 1) “content” – – do you see any thematic connections to Whitman?  If so, what differences and similarities between Whitman and his peer(s) do you notice?; 2) “form” – — do you see any formal (rhyme, rhythm, meter, diction, etc.) connections to Whitman? What differences and similarities do you notice between Whitman and his peer(s)?

Blog your comparison of Whitman and his peers.  No more than a couple of paragraphs of reflection to gather your thoughts before class.

Questions? Email me.  Or, stop by my virtual office hour tomorrow at 11 a.m. on google+!

Other things . . .

1) don’t forget our tweet-of-the-week.  You can find it by searching on Twitter via the hashtag – – #WhitmanSFSU.  The tweet isn’t due until next Thursday, Feb. 9.

2) our Whitman lexicon.  Have you come across an odd Whitmanian or 19th century word?  Find the definition and post it to our lexicon – – with images if possible!

3) read an entry from Specimen Days, comment, and post it to your blog by Thursday.

4) don’t forget our virtual office hours on Mon. and Wed. at 11 a.m.  To find the our google hangout, enter your google+ and look for the link.  I’ll also tweet the hangout when I create it, and I’ll send out invites (to those who have added me in google+)  when the office door is open.

For virtual class on Tuesday (2/7)

We had a really wide-ranging discussion on Thursday.  One thing I tried to point to throughout the discussion was Whitman’s use of motifs.

Motifs are repeated elements of a poem or narrative – -images, words, phrases, scenes, etc.  As these elements are repeated they emphasize and elaborate meanings and help to connect the scattered parts of a long poem like “Song of Myself.”

One obvious motif in “Song of Myself” is “grass” – – Whitman repeatedly invokes the word and image throughout the poem, sometimes directly and at other times more indirectly.  As a motif proliferates across a text it not only consolidates or builds meaning, it also develops new meanings.  You can think of the use of a motif as the creation of a poem’s vocabulary and lexicon.

In her blog post, Alejandra commented on the grass, but she also pointed to another, less-noticed motif in the poem – – the “child.”  We talked about some of the ways this motif fits into Whitman’s larger arguments about epistemology, authority, and hierarchy.  In his post on Specimen Days, Max pondered the image of the bird and how the bird mediates between earth and sky, a kind of analogy for Whitman’s position and movement within the poem.

Your goal for Tuesday is to explore Whitman’s use of motifs in “Song of Myself” to build up rich contexts of meaning.  How will you do this?

First, find a motif that you like or think is important to the poem.  (“Grass” is, unfortunately, off limits – – as we’ve discussed this and it’s a bit too obvious.)  There are so many motifs to choose from in the poem: rooms, song/singers, trees, flowers, native americans (including native american-inspired words), the sea, etc.  Select a motif that occurs at least several times throughout the poem.  The motif can occur directly, as in a mention of a “room,” or indirectly as in the description of actions in a room or houses (e.g. think the 29th bather).

Second, track the motif.  Collect all the instances of the motif, all the lines where the motif occurs.  Copy and paste these into your blog post.

Third, explicate the motif.  Don’t paraphrase the line or lines which contain the motif.  Instead, explain its significance in each instance and context.  If you’ve found four instances of the motif, you’ll need to explain its particular significance in each of these instances.  If you’ve found more than four instances, cite as many as you can but comment on no more than four.

Fourth, reflect on the meaning of the pattern created by the motifs.  How does the motif help Whitman to articulate his ideas about nature or the self or the poet?  What meanings does he use from the motif to elaborate or develop these kinds of larger ideas?

Fifth, sum up what the motif shows you and your blog reader about Whitman’s poem and his aspirations.

Blog all of this by Tuesday morning!

Questions? Email me or stop by the virtual office hour on Monday at 11 a.m.