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The works of Walt Whitman have been described as masculine, feminine, postcolonial, homoerotic, urban, organic, unique, and democratic, yet arguments about the extent to which Whitman could or should be considered a political poet have yet to be fully confronted. Some scholars disregard Whitman’s understanding of democracy, insisting on separating his personal works from his political works.
A Political Companion to Walt Whitman is the first full-length exploration of Whitman’s works through the lens of political theory. Editor John E. Seery and a collection of prominent theorists and philosophers uncover the political awareness of Whitman’s poetry and prose, analyzing his faith in the potential of individuals, his call for a revolution in literature and political culture, and his belief in the possibility of combining heroic individualism with democratic justice. A Political Companion to Walt Whitman reaches beyond literature into political theory, revealing the ideology behind Whitman’s call for the emergence of American poets of democracy.
John E. Seery is a professor of politics at Pomona College. He is the author of America Goes to College: Political Theory for the Liberal Arts; Political Theory for Mortals: Shades of Justice, Images of Death; Political Returns: Irony in Politics and Theory from Plato to the Antinuclear Movement; and coeditor of The Politics of Irony: Essays in Self-Betrayal.
Whitman is indeed one of the great theorists of democracy, but is not often taught as part of the canon of American political thought, an oversight that this volume goes far to remedy. -- George Shulman, author of American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture
This volume brings Whitman into conversation with political theory by way of examination of his major works. The authors, several of whom argue with each other, exhibit the wonderful diversity of contemporary political theory, moving from humanist to post humanist appreciations of Whitman, and from seeing him as a thinker of solitude committed to individual rights to one of erotic connection. This wonderful collection is a timely invitation to political and social theorists to take seriously this imaginative man who solicited us to think and sing democracy. -- Bonnie Honig, author of Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy
A Political Companion to Walt Whitman gathers an extraordinary group of scholars who, like Whitman’s leaves of grass are at once singular, remarkable, independent and beautiful in their unity. Like the poet it honors, the Companion (comrade, comarado) speaks eloquently of men, women and the mestizo, sun and warmth and sight, of work and friendship and love, of America and the democratic. -- Anne Norton, author of Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire
For so long we have reveled in the music of Whitman’s songs and the beauty of his language. Now we have the definitive political Whitman whose moral courage takes us into the heart of Democratic theory. These essays glisten in the Whitmanesque sun! -- Cornel West, Princeton University
Seery has assembled in this book a powerfully persuasive collection of essays showing that Whitman should be first and foremost understood as a philosopher of democracy. The essays deal with all aspects of Whitman and with all of his works. We have here not only a political companion to Whitman but a book showing us that Whitman is our political companion and that we do well to listen to his voices. -- Tracy Strong, University of California, San Diego
[E]xceptionally rich and intellectually exciting. -- Choice
A Political Companion to Walt Whitman has many strengths. Chief among these is its disciplinary focus, which results in a number of novel readings of Whitman's works. -- Journal of American Studies
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Walt Whitman, Political views, Social views, Democracy
Literature in English, North America
Seery, John E. and Shulman, George, "A Political Companion to Walt Whitman" (2010). Literature in English, North America. 72.