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The Structure of Leaves of Grass

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by Thomas Edward Crawley
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The Structure of Leaves of Grass by Thomas Edward Crawley

Modern critics and contemporary readers familiar with the field of Whitman criticism may find surprising an analysis of the structure of Leaves of Grass that concerns itself with Whitman as the poet-prophet and the identification of Whitman (or of his persona in the poem) with Christ. Early twentieth-century criticism has tended to exalt the early Whitman at the expense of the later one and to regard as poetically inferior the image of the national and democratically prophetic Whitman as expressed in the later editions.

Thomas Edward Crawley, in full knowledge of the contemporary currents of Whitman criticism, chooses to revert to this older view, through which he sheds new light on Whitman's artistic achievement.

The basic premise of this study is that Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is a unified work, lyrical, yet epic in quality, design, and spirit. Crawley's purpose is to demonstrate the basis of this unity: its origin and operation and the nature of its realization. He demonstrates that an aesthetically maturing Whitman, in this work, was finally able to harmoniously bring together his individual and social subject matter.

Crawley defines the unifying spirit of Leaves of Grass in terms of Whitman's concept of the poet-prophet and the poet-reader relationship. This concept is conveyed primarily through the development of the Christ- symbol, the dominant image in the poem. Through a careful analysis of Whitman's handling of the simultaneous development of the poet-prophet and the nation, his masterful fusion of the personal element and the national element, an understanding of the complex structure of Leaves of Grass emerges. Crawley presents an analysis of Whitman's final and carefully arrived at grouping of the lyrics in the 1881 edition according to a definite, distinguishable pattern-a pattern revealed in Whitman's use of allusions, in his transitional poems and passages, and, most important, in his thematic handling of imagery. The cumulative effect of these devices is emphasized.

The organic development of Leaves of Grass, made possible by Whitman's faith in and careful adherence to his concept of the organic theory of art, is substantiated. Crawley concludes his analysis with a detailed examination of the growth of Leaves of Grass as reflected in the various editions leading up to the 1881 volume, the last to be revised and published by Whitman.

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Ebook Details
Size: 1.9 MB
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Date published:   2014
ISBN: 9780292766204 (DRM-EPUB)

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This product is listed in the following categories:

Nonfiction > Literary Criticism > Poetry
Nonfiction > Literary Criticism > American

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