Walt Whitman: Sexuality Debate

Good Essays
Walt Whitman: Sexuality Debate

The debate of one’s sexuality has more commonly come into the picture of American society towards the very end of the 19th century. A captious discussion is the lifestyle of Walt Whitman: American poet, essayist and journalist. Though modern critics tend to debate his sexuality, there is great disagreement as to whether Whitman ever had sexual relations with men, expressed alongside his poetry. Walt Whitman was born on Long Island on May 31st, 1819, just thirty years after George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the newly formed United States of America. Whitman published his poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” as a patriotic rally call for the North. In 17th century America, it is a stretch to assert the historicity of labeling him as a homosexual, an identity that did not exist in his cultural context. Homoerotic relationships and men who engaged in them as a distinct class did not exist for Whitman or in his America. In August of 1890, Walt Whitman received a rather awkward and blunt piece of fan mail. “In your conception of Comradeship,” wrote British literary critic John Addington Symonds, “do you contemplate the possible intrusion of those semi- sexual emotions and actions which no doubt do occur between men?” Symonds, who later wrote about his own sexual experiences with men, must have been disappointed by Whitman’s response. “That the calamus part has even allow’d the possibility of such construction as mention’d is terrible”. He insisted that Symonds accusations were “morbid inferences- wh’ are disavow’d by me & seem damnable.” “Calamus” mentioned above is a cluster of poems in his major work, Leaves of Grass, written by Whitman that mention the “manly love of comrades”. It is difficult for some biographers to understand why Whitman would write about lying in another man’s arms and then proceeding to call homosexuality “damnable”. Whitman was concerned with politics throughout his whole life. He

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Powerful Essays

    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.…

    • 3844 Words
    • 16 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Whitman broke the taboos about writing on sexuality. Although he was sexually frank in his poetry, he was strongly against whatever merely pornographical. He asserted, “No one would more rigidly keep in mind the difference between the simply erotic, the merely lascivious, and what is frank, free, modern, in sexual behavior, than I would: no one” (Reynolds, “Why I Write Cultural Biography: The Backgrounds of Walt Whitman’s America” 389). “Indeed, given the contemporary resistance to any published utterance that included sexual overtones, it is remarkable that Whitman was able to carry out his poetic project at all” (Mullins 164). He included a cluster of poems called “Enfans d’Adam” in 1860 edition of Leaves. It depicted sexual love between…

    • 151 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Better Essays

    It is said that he embraced misogyny in the 50’s and though he admitted that he hated women, he did have some female partners. He fantasised making love to Neal and his wife Carolyn which he mentions in his ‘Love Poem on Theme by Whitman’ He had both male and female lovers who came together for the celebrated orgies at his apartment. In the beginning of 1955, he wrote to Jack telling him how he had come to enjoy the company of women too, “something great happens to me in Frisco. After girl now for first time in life boy” (25) Johan Raskin talks about Ginsberg’s liberated and ecstatic life in California, he says “California was dream-like not because he was writing great poetry, but because he was enjoying great…

    • 3061 Words
    • 13 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    In conclusion Walt Whitman is a daring poet. In two ways, one he is not afraid to talk about anyone or thing. Two he uses dramatic thing like death, and a confrontation to get his points across. Also he uses phrases or words that have deep literal meaning to make the think and…

    • 350 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife (1999) takes a very common relationship – that of man and wife – and presents a collection of poetic monologues from the perspective of the wife. Written on the pretext, ‘If his wife could speak, what would she say’, Duffy’s monologues gives a voice to women who are usually defined by their men. Thus we hear from the wives of famous, and infamous, men such as Mrs Darwin, Pilate’s wife, Mrs Aesop, Queen Herod and Frau Freud. Many of the poems in this collection offer an insight into heterosexual relationships often exposing the abusiveness (‘Mrs Quasimodo’), emotional aridity (‘Delilah’), cruelty (‘Mrs Pilate’), sexual immaturity (‘Pygmalion’s Bride’) and infidelity (‘Medusa’). With close reference to two poems from this collection; ‘Mrs Van Winkle’ and ‘Mrs Faust’, this seminar aims to explore how heterosexuality is represented by Duffy.…

    • 1708 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Porfirio Barba Jacob Bio

    • 290 Words
    • 2 Pages

    But his defenders admire his abandonment to passion, his lyrical raptures, his penetration into the darkest aspects of human pain, his brave attitude of remaining open keeping his sexual orientation while living in a puritanical society, and, above all, his artistry: the musical quality of his poems and, being a perfectionist who kept revising, their reflexive, beautiful, symmetry: the lustrous, burnished surface hiding the smoldering fervor behind…

    • 290 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Spirituality is a mixed bag for Walt Whitman. While he takes a great deal of material from Christianity, his conception of religion is much more complicated than the beliefs of one or two faiths mixed together. He is a true Transcendentalist in this sense, having his own specific outlooks on spirituality and what it constitutes. Whitman seems to draw from the many roots of belief to form his own religion, putting himself as the center. When considering “Song of Myself”, it is clear that Christianity is a big influence on Whitman, who makes multiple references to the Bible and basic Christian beliefs.…

    • 870 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Whitman writes, “How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over upon me, And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart, And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my feet”. Whitman is describing lying in the grass together on a “transparent” or clear and beautiful summer morning. He is becoming in touch with himself and his soul that is moving around his body in a pleasant and warming way. His beautiful souls starts feeling his way around him wanting to give his body this biggest kiss to himself ever imaginable. His soul goes to his waist and his hips and then simply and gracefully moves around to his tailbone, then goes up to his heart finishing this soulful kiss that arises…

    • 579 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    In the poem by Whitman, writes about pleasures and “passionate love.” This was unheard of in his time as sex was usually not written about. He expresses his emotions like no other writer before him. The line, “I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man, (Baym, 1038).” This is also extremely original…

    • 386 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    In “Song of Myself” Walt Whitman is trying to see self as a whole. He wants to find strength and beauty as to make self whole and to be unified with humanity and nature. While people are condemning him, because the expression of a sexual content and a connection that makes use body and soul as well as the shock value. Whitman’s friend Ralph Waldo Emerson decides to back him in his writing. Emerson’s letter to Whitman calling Leaves of Grass "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed" saved Whitman 's self-published first edition from sinking into obscurity. Yet even more important, Emerson 's work as a whole helped to prepare readers for the liberal, post-Christian spirituality that pervades Leaves of Grass. (Insert my source). Whitman wants to bring…

    • 3042 Words
    • 13 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Sexuality was redefined in France through what Historians and Sociologist considered then “The Sexual Revolution.” In recent years, historians have begun to emphasize the gradual nature of the sexual revolution that took place in the West from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Deeming it the “long sexual revolution,” they deemphasize the significance of any single event or moment in favor of a longer view that recognizes a slow and steady process of change. The Long Sexual Revolution is the change in sexual appearance, predominately, a women appearance through the course of many significant events, such as May 68, and with the influence of media. The Journal of the History of Sexuality is a multi-volume series…

    • 524 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Explains Ginsberg’s background and education, and also about the impact of his homosexuality on his poetry…

    • 281 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Walt Whitman was a great american poet that wrote about the CIvil War and life in general. In 1886, at the young age of 17, he became a school teacher and later became a journalist just five years later. In 1855 Whitman made Leaves of Grass, his first step toward poetry. He wrote this book of twelve poems and published it himself. Walt Whitman made, edited, and published many great american poems, including O Captain! My Captain! and Song of Myself, that he often included his views about transcendentalism and realism.…

    • 626 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Whitman admired and defended President Lincoln with every fiber of his being. His poem was said to take you on a roller coaster of emotions from extreme grief from loss to regret of no chance for reconciliation. It has been deemed almost theatric with its dramatization of emotion. Nonetheless it went on to touch many with its ability to overwhelm people with their emotions by contributing to their already misery over the presidents demise.…

    • 522 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Richard Rodriguez wrote the essay Late Victorians to inform readers of the complexities and tragedy in the San Franciscan gay community, while exploring his own place in it. He is most personal and appealing to the reader’s pathos when he describes the death from AIDS of his friend Cesar, near the end of the essay. In order to make the reader empathize more readily, he first spends a paragraph making Cesar relatable.…

    • 376 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays