Song of Myself

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Divinity, Sexuality and the SelfThrough his poetry, Whitman's "Song of Myself" makes the soul sensual and makes divine the flesh. In Whitman's time, the dichotomy between the soul and the body had been clearly defined by centuries of Western philosophy and theology. Today, the goodness of the soul and the badness of the flesh still remain a significant notion in contemporary thought. Even Whitman's literary predecessor, Emerson, chose to distinctly differentiate the soul from all nature. Whitman, however, chooses to reevaluate that relationship. His exploration of human sensuality, particularly human sexuality, is the tool with which he integrates the spirit with the flesh.Key to this integration is Whitman's notion of the ability of the sexual self to define itself. This self-definition is derived from the strongly independent autonomy with which his sexuality speaks in the poem. Much of the "Song of Myself" consists of a cacophony of Whitman's different selves vying for attention. It follows that Whitman's sexual self would likewise find itself a voice. A number of passages strongly resonate with Whitman's sexuality in their strongly pleasurable sensualities. The thoroughly intimate encounter with another individual in section five particularly expresses Whitman as a being of desire and libido.Whitman begins his synthesis of the soul and body through sexuality by establishing a relative equality between the two. He pronounces in previous stanzas, "You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself," and, "Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest." Here, he lays foundation for the basic egalitarianism with which he treats all aspects of his being for the rest of the poem. This equality includes not only his sexuality, but in broader terms, his soul and body. In the opening to section five, Whitman explicitly articulates that equality in the context of the...
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