By David S. Reynolds
In his poetry Walt Whitman got down to surround all of the US and in so doing heal its deepening divisions. This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his fulfillment, in addition to the goals and anxieties that impelled it, for it areas the poet securely in the political and cultural context of his age.
Combing during the complete variety of Whitman's writing, David Reynolds exhibits how Whitman accumulated suggestion from each stratum of nineteenth-century American existence: the convulsions of slavery and melancholy; the raffish dandyism of the Bowery "b'hoys"; the exuberant rhetoric of actors, orators, and divines. We see how Whitman reconciled his personal sexuality with modern social mores and the way his lively courtship of the general public presaged the vogues of advertisements and famous person. Brilliantly researched, captivatingly informed, Walt Whitman's America is a victorious paintings of scholarship that breathes new lifestyles into the biographical style.
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Extra info for Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography
53 In the case of The Queen's Majesty's Passage, city interests sought to categorize the new queen 36 Elizabeth I through the metaphoric domestic roles that her predecessor, Mary Tudor, helped develop as the means to connect herself with them. In deploying and developing these categories, the merchants' entertainment of Elizabeth helped construct their authority through representations of the city as her father, husband, and even schoolmaster. Elizabeth, however, gained ground in this situation because the merchants' entertainment situated her within a sign system that assumed, even required, her legitimacy.
As language and performance explored the religious, political, and economic questions Who Represents Elizabeth? 19 of the day phrased explicitly or implicitly as questions of gender, they recreated spectacles of authority and dominance stemming in part from the varying social and political relations contested through Elizabeth's image. Thus the struggle for the queen's iconography formed a crucial part of the semiotic system from which much of our literature and even the idea of literature are drawn.
Unity is an impossible achievement for any text, since all writing—especially authoritative writing—summons the very inconsistencies, anxieties, and doubts that it attempts to quash. For example, the customary genealogical tableau tracing Elizabeth's lineage featured a family tree representing the generational connections affecting the new queen's claim to the throne. Through the crowned figures representing Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn seated on a stage above them and Elizabeth above them, the device represented Elizabeth as their unquestioned heir, "so that unitie was the ende wherat the whole devise shotte .