Archive for January, 2013


Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I know we were assigned to read the introduction starting on page 17 but I also read the very beginning of the introduction. On page 6 it refers to him enrolling as a graduate student in philosophy (interesting) at Harvard. Then a line or two down it says that he took courses which led him to create some of the images in the Wasteland. I know the poem contains several images like water and death but how do the courses relate? I could understand some type of religion class perhaps or maybe one or two philosophy classes but I am just curious what he is describing here. If anyone knows? 🙂 thank you!

p.s. If this is confusing I can try and re-word it!

ALSO, I wish we could just like things like fb haha

The Waste Land Interpretive Art Day

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
One of the best classes ever that led to some awesome discussion of a rather difficult, yet significant, poem by T.S. Eliot.

One of the best classes ever that led to some awesome discussion of a rather difficult, yet significant, poem by T.S. Eliot.

“Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper”

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Come on, Lorentzenites, explain this post title.

In class I mentioned quickly at the end that I had found a website from the University of Toronto that is using digital technology to analyze the voice(s) of The Waste Land.  The site has clear info about its approach, and you can see how the class identified the voices, can see the results of their computer algorithm (what?! crazy idea) and can even identify and name the voice(s) yourself.  It’s interesting to poke around on, but this last feature is my true interest and I’d love to see any of you who are interested have a go at it.  If you do it, annotate your own text also so you can share with us (I’m especially curious about the “naming” aspect).  Might be fun to do with a classmate or friend also.

For those who don’t have The Annotated Waste Land

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Hey guys
I just found this online and thought it would be helpful for anyone who doesn’t have the specific book.
It is the complete book with the introduction by Rainey.

Hope it’s useful!

Katherine’s Bridge to the Blog

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

As students when we read literature we often look for allusions to past literature that we have read. Traditions are common allusions that students find when we read poetry or prose. Tradition can be an aspect of the ancient Greek culture of the epic or religious traditions that have impacted Dante in his Divine Comedy and some even reference Dante  in long poems like Eliot. However, Walt Whitman takes on the challenge of creating a new tradition by merging the old with the new together.

Today in class many of my peers discussed the idea of Whitman’s sense of Tradition. Miller, in his article, mentions the idea of a Supreme Fiction where many writers, like Walt Whitman, want to make an American epic through the long poem. Miller describes a Supreme Fiction as “a particularly American way of conceiving or perceiving or receiving the world” (Miller 16). I believe that the concept of a Supreme Fiction or epic might not be achieved with the American Long Poem, because I agree with Poe’s interpretation of the Long poem. Poe believes that the long poem can’t have a stable intensity through hundreds of pages.  In the case of Walt Whitman, I find the intensity to lull a bit, but where the point really drives a point it can have the desired stable intensity.

Besides tradition, whether being merged together with old and new, as a style or form of Whitman’s Song of Myself, there seems to be an undetermined definition of what style of poetry it is. Even though, I tell my mother that it is a lyrical rant about the idealized or romanticized American individual, our class really couldn’t agree to one term or even come up one central idea pertaining to what Song Of Myself was really about. Why would someone not be able to pin-point a definite answer when it comes to style, form or about-ness in this particular long poem? Or is it that the long poem, as Professor Scanlon asked in class, a failure to meet the expectations of an audience? Walt Whitman would think that we were doing what he said by trying to find out we are suppose to find out with in the poem.

While Whitman might say that, we are still in the position of struggling to find the answer, which could be the one thing that poetry doesn’t want us to do. Isn’t poetry about how you feel when you finish reading it? And if that feeling is confused, isn’t the reason that you are feeling that way is just as important as why it makes you feel that way?

“Be curious, not judgmental.” — Walt Whitman

Mysterious Walt Whitman Syndrome (MWWS)

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

No, there isn’t really a Mysterious Walt Whitman Syndrome (MWWS).  I just made it up, if that was not already glaringly apparent.  Well, I don’t know, it has a nice ring to it.  Maybe you totally thought Mysterious Walt Whitman Syndrome (MWWS) is a real, totally serious affliction.

In a way it is.  Whitman was kind of a sneaky bastard.  He knew that anyone who chanced to read “Song of Myself” could easily get entranced by his hippie propaganda, his transcendental lyricism, his flamboyant and garish charm, his very David-Bowie-foreshadowing ideas of free love.  Clearly this was just part of Whitman’s scheme to continue writing poetry once deceased, by channeling himself through centuries of poets to come, mostly idealists.

I am speaking as a new victim of Mysterious Walt Whitman Syndrome (MWWS).  When I initially sat down to write an Informative and Insightful blog post, this poem appeared instead.  It was really weird.  I’m afflicted.

Elegy for a dock no longer there
Whether or not it was the wine
I drank before I slept, before they woke me
at three or two, the shadow of morning cast,
pulled from bed, from a dream
to something of a similar sensation,
doubtless there was something of magic
in drifting out of doors, the way the lamplight lit the mist.
And they brought me to a ground living dock
where we sat rooted before a bay of living grass,
the scattering of stars so stunning
we pressed our backs to the wood,
our retinas waded the abyss,
and it was just one of those nights
when life deafens us to everything
and beauty falls upon us like spring rain.
I found it on my own once, one day,
the field where we once found ourselves,
instantly to find no trace of the dock
I sought in silent prayer, since then
now gone and so a living dream,
so it may stay forever
flowing in its form,
electricity crackling through beaded mist,
the incantation of beauty.

Concept/Vocabulary List from Keller: A Summary in Fragments

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

All of the following are quotations or ideas from Keller’s “The Twentieth-Century Long Poem.”  Feel free to add, comment, annotate, question.

“desire to reclaim for poetry the range and significance it had ceded to the novel”

“reach beyond the inward perspective of the postromantic lyric to include sociological, anthropological and […] historical material”

“collage epics”

“lyric sequences”

“poetic meditations”

“continuous verse narratives”

“cinematic montage”

“musical form”

“Indeed, the lack of restrictive generic conventions is crucial to the identity and coherence of the long poem.”


“poem-as-process” can “incorporate private and public statement, individual self-construction and communal identity, social criticism and nationalistic celebration, epic breadth and lyric intensity”

Juxtaposition “without connective material”

“reinterpret inherited myths”

“symbolic patterns”


“epistolary, dramatic, and essayistic forms”

“lines developing with apparent spontaneity in response to immediate apprehension and […] extended forms with no predetermined shape”

“the hero […] is in part the poet himself and in part a mythicized aggrandizement”

“didactic intellectual exploration”


“lyrics can accumulate without any fixed end”

“diary or notebooklike forms”

“meditative, apolitical uses of the long poem to record acts of the mind”

“experimental vehicles”

“revived interest in narrative”

“incorporation of found documents”

“the tendency toward change essential to the American long poem’s paradoxical tradition of innovation”

“revisionary mythmaking”

“fusing its predominantly Anglo-American traditions with forms and languages distinct to particular minority cultures”

“arbitrary structuring systems” and “nondiscursive patterns”

“a liberating mixture of genres”

Jen’s Bridge to the Blog 1/24/2013

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Although I am a reader who does not typically give an unnecessary amount of attention to authorial intent, I have concluded that one cannot read “Song of Myself” without understanding the historical context in which Whitman wrote, as well as giving thought to his political and social agenda. As with most literature, “Song of Myself” is a response to historical events. As we have discussed in class, Whitman was writing during a time in which the union was being threatened—people were forgetting about the democratic values on which the country was founded and society was increasingly plagued by evils like slavery and “the mania of owning things” (line 688).

I believe that Whitman thought it was his duty as a poet to address these social ills, rectify the material body and the spiritual soul, and bring society back to a state of faith. In class, we have talked about Whitman as a prophet-like figure who brings a spiritually important message to the American people. In this way, “Song of Myself” becomes what we learned is referred to as a “jeremiad,” a long work that laments society’s wrongs named for the prophet Jeremiah. When pointing toward his society’s verge of spiritual collapse, I think that Whitman makes it clear that his message is about egalitarianism and democracy, values which he saw as the unifying forces needed to mend the ever-thinning ties that held the nation together. In fact, in a very prophetic moment, Whitman says, “I give the sign of democracy;/ By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on/ the same terms.” As we discussed today, his message of equality can also be seen in his use of parataxis in listing the “common” people of America. In all, there seems to be strong evidence for this theory of Whitman as prophet.

However, we have also gone further and touched on the idea of Whitman as a Christ figure, especially when he refers to his own “crucifixion and bloody crowning” (960). When Dr. Scanlon asked us at the end of class about our thoughts on Whitman’s repetition of the “I am…” mantra (beginning with “I am the hounded slave…” in line 834), I immediately thought of the phrase as an allusion to Christ’s frequent use of the phrase to describe both his humanity and divinity (e.g. “I am the Bread of Life.” “I am the Way”). In addition, according to Christian tradition, “I Am” was the first name of God. However, I wonder if Whitman, in light of his democratic message, wants to highlight the divinity of one man or entity. Instead, his message often seems to be that of pantheism—the belief that God is found in all people and things and that everyone and everything are equally divine. Thus, there definitely seems to be some tension between Whitman’s desire to be prophetic and reformist and his simultaneous desire to reinforce the values of American egalitarianism. Essentially, this is my question: How can Whitman claim to have this sense of prophetic or divine authority without subverting his own argument that no one person should be subordinate to another?

Whitman Making Books

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

As a visual artist, I have a fascination with typography and book making. I was interested to learn that Walt Whitman (a journeyman printer since his teenage years) was intimately involved in the actual design and making of Leaves of Grass. The topic came up today in class, during our discussion about his ‘catalog’ of Americans in Song of Myself that begins on line 257 and continues to line 325.  While we were sharing our opinions on the length and breadth of this section, I couldn’t help thinking about the tedious work involved in typesetting just one line of text— let alone an entire collection of poetry— and how Whitman must have felt a strong attachment to each and every line in this long, paratactical list (and to this long poem). Imagine the time it took to bring this book to life, in print.

I found this article at the Walt Whitman Archive website— a commentary entitled, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman, which discusses Whitman’s relationship to books as both a writer and printer. There are several photos—among them one I’ve included here, showing clips from two different printings of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, pointing out that there was a period punctuating the end of Song of Myself. You can barely see it in the top example, because it’s positioned too close to the “you” at the end of the sentence:


*   *   *

I found another interesting tidbit in my typesetting treasure hunt. It’s not necessarily Whitman-related (I’m not even sure if it would have been used in the 19th century) but he might very well have used this printmaking reference in a poem:

In typesetting, the phrase widows and orphans is defined as “words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph, which are left dangling at the top or bottom of a column, separated from the rest of the paragraph”.

snow delay

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The university is closed until 10 today.  I will begin class at 10; please use caution in deciding if you are able to make it in today if it would mean driving on snowy roads.