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Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography

by David S. Reynolds

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355256,314 (3.81)1
In his poetry Walt Whitman set out to encompass all of America and in so doing heal its deepening divisions. This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his achievement, as well as the dreams and anxieties that impelled it, for it places the poet securely within the political and cultural context of his age. Combing through the full range of Whitman's writing, David Reynolds shows how Whitman gathered inspiration from every stratum of nineteenth-century American life: the convulsions of slavery and depression; the raffish dandyism of the Bowery "b'hoys"; the exuberant rhetoric of actors, orators, and divines. We see how Whitman reconciled his own sexuality with contemporary social mores and how his energetic courtship of the public presaged the vogues of advertising and celebrity. Brilliantly researched, captivatingly told, Walt Whitman's America is a triumphant work of scholarship that breathes new life into the biographical genre.… (more)
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A fantastic look at America during Whitman's lifetime. Even people who aren't familiar with Whitman will find this engrossing. There is so much here it's hard to know where to start. But I know that Whitman makes alot more sense now that I've learned about all the science he was reading. Yes. Science. ( )
  evanroskos | Mar 30, 2013 |
David S. Reynolds excels in writing cultural biographies. I also enjoyed his biography of John Brown which covered some of the same era. From the early days in Brooklyn to the almost hagiographic vision of Lincoln late in Whitman's life Reynolds captures the growth and changes of the American poet. But he goes beyond the basic life of Whitman by integrating it with the broader culture and ideological movements of the era. The result is great biography and history all buttressed by the ideas that moved the nation in that era. ( )
  jwhenderson | Aug 16, 2011 |
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In his poetry Walt Whitman set out to encompass all of America and in so doing heal its deepening divisions. This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his achievement, as well as the dreams and anxieties that impelled it, for it places the poet securely within the political and cultural context of his age. Combing through the full range of Whitman's writing, David Reynolds shows how Whitman gathered inspiration from every stratum of nineteenth-century American life: the convulsions of slavery and depression; the raffish dandyism of the Bowery "b'hoys"; the exuberant rhetoric of actors, orators, and divines. We see how Whitman reconciled his own sexuality with contemporary social mores and how his energetic courtship of the public presaged the vogues of advertising and celebrity. Brilliantly researched, captivatingly told, Walt Whitman's America is a triumphant work of scholarship that breathes new life into the biographical genre.

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