Sympathy and community in Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself

Marsden, Jill ORCID: 0000-0003-1669-3182 (2019) Sympathy and community in Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. In: Whitman 200: International Conference, May 24th-25th 2019, University of Bolton. (Unpublished)

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Whitman’s professed sympathy for a diverse range of individuals in Song of Myself has been the subject of much criticism. Some readers see his ambition to speak to and ‘for’ all others as an imperialist prescription of homogeneity between humans, an arrogation of agency and erasure of difference. I ask if there a way of mobilizing sympathy in this poem which does not rely on the assumption of a common humanity. Briefly situating Whitman in relation to the nineteenth century discourse of sentimentalism, I go on to explore how sympathy can be heard as a shareable material affect which exceeds the moral and humanist register. With particular reference to Whitman’s use of ‘catalogues’ I look at how Song of Myself creates a ‘community of those who have nothing in common’.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Bolton School of the Arts > English and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Tracey Gill
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2019 16:28
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2019 16:28

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