Sex & Sexuality in the Poetry of Walt Whitman

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Sex & Sexuality in the Poetry of Walt Whitman

By | May 2006
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"I have not gain'd acceptance of my own time,
but have fallen back on fond dreams of the future"
(by Walt Whitman, qtd. in Miller, Sex and Sexuality)

SEX AND SEXUALITY IN THE POETRY OF WALT WHITMAN

Perhaps, in the following essay I put a quart into a pint pot, because I intend to puzzle out, or rather, find and give a deeper insight into Walt Whitman's sexuality that is still a question on agenda. There are readers and critics who state that it is a shame to humble his poetry to this level, but I think that he was homosexual in his era the topic cannot be left untouched, because therefore this factor was very influential on his everyday life, thinking and hence on his poetry, too. His only volume, Leaves of Grass – that was published several times – was first published at in 1855 Whitman's expense. As it can be easily foretold, there was and there continues a huge debate about Whitman's homosexuality, or to say, his sexual identity. There are readers who resist to accept and affirm that he was homosexual or even bisexual. The attitudes toward his sexuality has changed and supposedly are changing, and there are critics, who tinge their opinions and for example Gay Wilson Allen - who wrote a biography about Walt Whitman applying the title "The Solitary Singer" – says that his "sexual emotions were stronger for men than for women"(qtd in Miller, ex and Sexuality) . Above this, according to other critics, Whitman himself wrote openly about this issue in his letters and prefaces; he sought the ways of expressing it, to communicate his homosexuality to his readers. It was most common in case of Peter Doyle who was ex-Confederate soldier who became Whitman's intimate friend till Whitman's death. Whitman wrote to Peter Doyle often when on leave from his Washington civil service work, as in this August 21, 1869. Whitman discusses his friend's health problems and refers to a misunderstanding between them but includes an array of affectionate terms. In...

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