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David S. Reynolds

Forfatter af Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography

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Om forfatteren

David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include Wait Whitman's America, Waking Giant America in the Age of Jackson, John Brown, Abolitionist, and Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and vis mere the Battle for America. vis mindre

Includes the name: David S. Reynolds

Image credit: © 2004 Aline Pansoy

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Associated Works

Novel History: Historians and Novelists Confront America's Past and Each Other (2001) — Bidragyder — 135 eksemplarer, 1 anmeldelse

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Thought it had far too many needless details and redundancies. I loved that it painted a rich, complex portrait of a radically anti-racist, and to some degree, feminist man. There were also troubling ways the author wrote about Black people, such as the use of the term "quadroon" to describe someone. Obviously, in the 1800s that was the way many people spoke and wrote about Black folks. But we don't have to continue that racist framework.
 
Markeret
fivelrothberg | 7 andre anmeldelser | May 28, 2024 |
An exceptionally good biography.

In the first section, Reynolds introduces us to a pretty standard birth-and-growth story of Whitman. This section annoyed me somewhat, I'll admit, because occasionally Reynolds' own desire to be a poet - describing Whitman's Long Island with something approaching purple prose - overrode the point of the work. But overall, it also confirms his admirable journalistic aims. Like Shakespeare, Whitman is a man with a lot of question marks in his early history, and Reynolds takes the best middle-of-the-road approach: he never accepts a piece of Whitman mythos without applying rigorous detective work, but also he never denies even the most outrageous story (including those told by Whitman himself) completely. By providing a great amount of space to covering Whitman's early journalistic and personal writings, we also get a sense of the poet's development, and of many of the questions that linger about his youth.

The second section may be the most testing for some readers wanting a stock-standard biography, but it's also the one that delighted me the most. It gives the book its subtitle, "A Cultural Biography". Over numerous, bulky chapters, Reynolds explores the America that Whitman came of age in: that of the '40s and '50s. One of the most trying times in American history, Reynolds explores the cultural, political, religious, philosophical, sexual, ideological and social attitudes of a time (Whitman himself argued that no work of art could really be understood without this kind of knowledge about its context). He is able to raise serious doubts about some of the generally-accepted approaches to Whitman and other artists of the period, but also to explain - or at least elucidate - many of the ambiguities. Whitman's approaches to sexuality, to race relations, to capitalism, to deistic religion: all of these changed over time, but some of them are whitewashed today. Reynolds instead attempts to create a portrait of the multivaried America of the age. The best element is, if a particular chapter isn't interesting to the reader's aims, it can quite easily be skimmed.

(A note: lest I sound like an unapologetic fanboy, I recognise that this is a specific type of biography, but I think it's an important one for a poet who is often grandly declaimed without actually being read.)

(A second note: I was endeared to Reynolds in the prologue, where he took the time to explain the various types of square brackets he uses when presenting direct quotations. It may seem like a little thing to those of us who grew up in the academic spectrum, but it amazes me how often I read books that would confuse the hell out of a layperson, all because at no point does the writer explain what - for instance - "[N]ow" means!)

The final chunk of the book is a decent biography of Whitman's life from "Leaves of Grass" in 1855 to his death in 1892. People wanting an in-depth study of certain elements of the poet should be directed to the bibliography but, again, Reynolds does a lot of good work here. By stripping away some of the Whitman myth, particularly, and by allowing us to see both sides of Whitman. (We often take for granted the poet's claims he was much neglected throughout his career, but Reynolds shows how this was an exaggeration, to say the least.) It's a thoughtful approach to the man and his complex views on life.

Overall, I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about Walt Whitman the man, and - as much as I may have earlier besmirched Reynolds' own poetic aspirations - it's great to see that this biography also functions as a bit of a primer on Whitman's poetry as well. Reynolds' knowledge and approach are wide in scope, but detailed in design.
… (mere)
 
Markeret
therebelprince | 4 andre anmeldelser | Apr 21, 2024 |
David Reynolds's richly brilliant biography is the first to portray Walt Whitman in the fu social, political, and cultural context of his day -- the first to do justice to the vital interaction between the great American poet and his America. - from book jacket
 
Markeret
PendleHillLibrary | 4 andre anmeldelser | Apr 2, 2024 |
An authoritative new examination of John Brown and his deep impact on American history by a Bancroft Prize-winning cultural historian.
 
Markeret
PendleHillLibrary | 7 andre anmeldelser | Mar 31, 2024 |

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Værker
14
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1,621
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#15,882
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ISBN
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