Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-jlrq2 Total loading time: 0.337 Render date: 2022-11-27T20:28:51.474Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Article contents

Reproducing Walt Whitman: The Camera, the Omnibus and Leaves of Grass

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2009

Get access

Extract

We have thought of whitman as an urban poet for so long-noticing how integral his Manhattan is to the imagery of Leaves of Grass – that we have lost sight of the deeper structure of urban popular culture lying behind the poem. As Remy G. Saisselin has recently argued, the city in the nineteenth century transformed the eye of the observer, and new kinds of urban spaces and entertainments—like the arcade, the panorama, and the department store—were created to satisfy a growing population of consumers. Saisselin affirms, moreover, that an unprecedented variety of aesthetic observer evolved along with these changes in urban experience: No longer was he “the man of taste in contemplation before a picture or a landscape. … He was the flaneur in the modern city.” And he associates this new observer with the photographer, whose urban gaze was also ubiquitous, surveying urban types and spaces. Saisselin is speaking here primarily of the European city, of Paris especially, but his observations are valuable in considering anew the sources of Whitman's art, for they point to a relationship between poetry and the urban milieu that has been generally overlooked. More specifically, they lead us to see the invention of Leaves of Grass as a way of organizing and perceiving reality that was new in the arts of the nineteenth century, yet one that was rooted in the popular urban culture of the time.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1987

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

NOTES

1. Saisselin, Remy G., The Bourgeois and the Bibelot (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1984), pp. 2123.Google Scholar

2. Grier, Edward F., ed., Walt Whitman: Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts (New York: New York University Press, 1984), vol. 1, p. 277Google Scholar; see also “I Was Looking a Long While” (1860).

3. Sontag, Susan, On Photography (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977), pp. 27ff.Google Scholar

4. Whitman, later, in Democratic VistasGoogle Scholar, celebrated the artist's “imagemaking faculty, coping with material creation, and rivaling, almost triumphing over it.” He used the image of photography at that time derogatorily as a symbol of merely literal creation: The artist should make “no useless attempt to repeat the material creation, by daguerreotyping the exact likeness by mortal mental means”; instead, he urged the poet to work by “analogies, by curious removes, indirections.” Photography by then had come to stand for a kind of limited seeing, for the literalism of “realism” that Whitman associated with the materialism and commercialism of the country. We should note too the disappointment Whitman had expressed in Specimen Days that existing portraits of Lincoln-including photographs-had failed to capture the greatness of the inner man. All this is true, but the camera had by then already served its purpose in his development.

5. “Notes on the Meaning and Intention of ‘Leaves of Grass,’” in Bucke, Richard Maurice, ed., The Complete Prose Works of Walt Whitman, Camden edition (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902), vol. 9, p. 10.Google Scholar

6. See Orvell, Miles, “Reproduction and ‘The Real Thing’: The Anxiety of Realism in the Age of Photography,” in De Laurentis, Teresa et al. , eds., The Technological Imagination: Theories and Fictions (Milwaukee: Center for Twentieth Century Studies, 1980), pp. 4964.Google Scholar

7. “The Poet,” Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Atkinson, Brooks (New York: Modern Library, 1940), p. 340Google Scholar. Whitman does use the mirror in the 1855 Preface to conduct a self-examination, inviting the reader to do the same (“You shall stand by my side and look in the mirror with me”). See Preface, in Bradley, Sculley and Blodgett, Harold W., eds., Leaves of Grass: A Norton Critical Edition (New York: Norton, 1973), p. 719.Google Scholar

8. “Notes on the Meaning,” in Bucke, ed., Complete Prose Works, vol. 9, p. 21.Google Scholar

9. Hale, Edward Everett (anonymously), North American Review (January 1856), in Murphy, Francis, ed., Walt Whitman: A Critical Anthology (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1969), p. 45.Google Scholar

10. The daguerreotype process itself resulted in a unique image on a copper plate, but paper was also used in early photographic experiments and dominated the market in the late 1850s as the wet-plate collodion process replaced the daguerreotype.

11. “‘There Was a Child Went Forth,” in Bradley and Blodgett, eds., Leaves of Grass, p. 364Google Scholar. Future page references to Whitman's poems will be to this edition and will be incorporated into the text.

12. See Beaver, Joseph, Walt Whitman-Poet of Science (New York: King's Crown Press, 1951), pp. 6870Google Scholar, who takes these lines as a reference to the ether of interstellar space.

13. Grier, , ed., Notebooks, vol. 1, p. 58.Google Scholar

14. Brooklyn Eagle, 09 15, 1855.Google Scholar

15. This strategy of converting a mechanical process into an organic one has been observed by Roy Male with respect to typography, whereby Whitman uses type to regain the oral tradition. See Male, Roy, “Whitman's Mechanical Muse,” in Zimmerman, Lester F. and Weathers, Winston, eds., Papers on Walt Whitman (Tulsa: University of Tulsa Press, 1970), pp. 3543.Google Scholar

16. Grier, , ed., Notebooks, vol. 1, p. 233.Google Scholar

17. Traubel, Horace, With Walt Whitman in Camden, (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914), vol. 3, p. 553Google Scholar. The passage was cited by Trachtenberg, Alan, “The Photographic Portrait as Cultural Artifact,” American Studies Association Convention (Minneapolis), 09 28, 1979.Google Scholar

18. Newhall, Beaumont, The Daguerreotype in America (New York: New York Graphic Society, 1961), pp. 8081Google Scholar; Rudisill, Richard, Mirror Image: The Influence of the Daguerreotype on American Society (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1971), pp. 164–66Google Scholar. Also see Trachtenberg, Alan, “Brady's Portraits,” Yale Review 73 (Winter 1984): 230–53.Google Scholar

19. See Reisch, Marc S., “Poetry and Portraiture in Whitman's ‘Leaves of Grass,’” Walt Whitman Review 27 (09 1981): 113–25.Google Scholar

20. Root, Marcus A., The Camera and the Pencil (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1864; rpt. Pawlett, Vt.: Helios, 1971), p. 165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

21. Furness, Clifton Joseph, eds. Walt Whitman's Workshop: A Collection of Unpublished Manuscripts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1928), p. 65CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Whitman clearly knew what the conventions were and in 1890 gave us a good generalized portrait of the genteel poet in his normal habitat: “Longfellow, reminiscent, polish'd, elegant, with the air of finest conventional library, picturegallery or parlor, with ladies and gentlemen in them, and plush and rosewood, and ground-glass lamps, and mahogany and ebony furniture, and a silver inkstand and scented satin paper to write on.” (Whitman wrote this during his Camden years, when visitors to his Mickle Street house were struck by the extraordinary clutter of manuscripts, books, newspapers, magazines, and photographs littering his simply furnished rooms.) See Stovall, Floyd, ed., Prose Works 1892, 2 vols., New York University Press edition of The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1963), vol. 1 (Specimen Days), p. 285.Google Scholar

22. N.Y. Tribune, 07 23, 1855Google Scholar, quoted in Adimari, Ralph and Holloway, Ralph, eds., New York Dissected (New York: Rufus Rockwell Wilson, 1936), p. 154.Google Scholar

23. Anon., from the Critic (London), in Murphy, , ed., Walt Whitman, p. 58.Google Scholar

24. Anon., from the London Leader, ibid., p. 62.

25. Allen, Gay Wilson, A Reader's Guide to Walt Whitman (New York: Noonday/Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1970), p. 49.Google Scholar

26. Bradley, and Blodgett, , eds., Leaves of Grass, p. 712.Google Scholar

27. Erikson, Erik, Childhood and Society, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1963), p. 285.Google Scholar

28. Leaves of Grass was first sold at Fowler and Wells, a phrenological bookstore, which coincidentally was located in the same building as the country's largest seller of photographic supplies, Edward Anthony. Whitman's own exhortation to the reader-“Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded” (p. 35)-went beyond such phrenological tracts as Combe, George's, The Constitution of Man (1834)Google Scholar, which counseled that we must exercise our bodily organs and external sense.

29. Zweig, Paul, Walt Whitman: The Making of the Poet (New York: Basic Books, 1984), pp. 88100Google Scholar. See also Hungerford, Edward, “Walt Whitman and His Chart of Bumps,” American Literature 2 (05 1931): 350–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Wrobel, Arthur, “Whitman and the Phrenologists: The Divine Body and the Sensuous Soul,” PMLA 89 (01 1974): 1723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

30. Lavater, John Caspar, Essays on Physiognomy, Designed to Promote the Knowledge and the Love of Mankind, trans. Hunter, Henry (London: John Murray, 1789), vol. 1, p. 20.Google Scholar

31. From “The Toilet,” Godey's Lady's Book, 62 (05 1861): 460–61Google Scholar, quoted in Halttunen, Karen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830–1870. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), p. 83.Google Scholar

32. See Halttunen, , Confidence Men, pp. 4850.Google Scholar

33. See Arnheim, Rudolph, “On the Nature of Photography,” in Petruck, Peninah, ed., The Camera Viewed (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1979), vol. 2, p. 149Google Scholar: “The I was fully authorized to stare at the Thou as though it were an It.”

34. Rodgers, Cleveland and Black, John, eds., The Gathering of the Forces, 2 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1920), vol. 2, pp. 113–14.Google Scholar

35. Nye, Russel Blaine, Society and Culture in America 1830–1860 (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), p. 166.Google Scholar

36. Rudisill, , Mirror Image, pp. 156–57.Google Scholar

37. “A Backward Glance,” in Bradley, and Blodgett, , eds., Leaves of Grass, pp. 566–67.Google Scholar

38. Grimsted, David, “Melodrama as Echo of the Historically Voiceless,” in Hareven, Tamara K., ed., Anonymous Americans: Explorations in Nineteenth Century Social History (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1971), p. 94.Google Scholar

39. On the catalog form, see Coffman, Stanley K. Jr., “‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry’: A Note on the Catalogue Technique in Whitman's Poetry,” Modern Philology 51 (05 1954): 225–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Buell, Lawrence, “Transcendentalist Catalogue Rhetoric: Vision Versus Form,” American Literature 40 (11 1968): 325–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Chari, V. K., “The Structure of Whitman's Catalogue Poems,” Walt Whitman Review 18 (1972): 317Google Scholar; Mason, John B., “Walt Whitman's Catalogues,” American Literature 45 (03 1973): 3449CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Reed, Michael D., “First Person Persona and the Catalogue in ‘Song of Myself,’” Walt Whitman Review 23 (1977): 147–53.Google Scholar

40. Atkinson, , ed., Selected Emerson, pp. 323, 327.Google Scholar

41. Leaves of Grass, 2nd ed. (Brooklyn, N.Y., 1856), pp. 378379Google Scholar. On Tupper's influence, see Stovall, Floyd, The Foreground of Leaves of Grass (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974), pp. 255–57.Google Scholar

42. Bradley, and Blodgett, , eds., Leaves of Grass, pp. 728, 711.Google Scholar

43. Kaplan, Justin, Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), p. 153Google Scholar. See also Zweig, , Walt Whitman, pp. 174, 204.Google Scholar

44. Rudisill, , Mirror Image, pp. 8993.Google Scholar

45. On the invention of the panorama by Robert Barker in Edinburgh (1788), see Sternberger, Dolf, Panorama of the 19th Century, trans. Neugroschel, Joachim (1955; rpt. New York: Mole Editions, 1977), pp. 185ffGoogle Scholar. Also see Altick, Richard, The Shows of London (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1978)Google Scholar; Marsh, John L., “Drama and Spectacle by the Yard: The Panorama in America,” Journal of Popular Culture 10 (Winter 1976): 581–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rinhart, Floyd and Rinhart, Marion, The American Daguerreotype (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981), pp. 233ff.Google Scholar

46. Rudisill, , Mirror Image, p. 139.Google Scholar

47. Kouwenhoven, John, The Columbia Historical Portrait of New York (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 194Google Scholar, quoted in Kaplan, , Walt Whitman, p. 113.Google Scholar

48. Christman, Henry M., Walt Whitman's New York (New York: Macmillan, 1963), p. 19.Google Scholar

49. See Marsh, , “Drama and Spectacle,” p. 588.Google Scholar

50. Quoted in Novak, Barbara, Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting, 1825–1875 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 27.Google Scholar

51. Bodgett, and Bradley, , eds., Leaves of Grass, pp. 711, 713Google Scholar. Although we have no record of Whitman's having seen panoramas, his writings contain abundant references to them. See Zarobila, Charles, “Walt Whitman and the Panorama,” Walt Whitman Review 25 (06 1979): 5159.Google Scholar

52. Bode, Carl, The Anatomy of American Popular Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959), pp. 130–31Google Scholar; Nye, , Society and Culture, pp. 280–81Google Scholar; Rosenberg, Nathan, Technology and American Economic Growth (White Plains, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1972)Google Scholar, chs. 1–4.

53. Bradley, and Blodgett, , eds., Leaves of Grass, pp. 714; 738–39.Google Scholar

54. The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Gilman, William H. et al. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960), vol. 9, p. 498Google Scholar, quoted in Kasson, John F., Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America, 1776–1900 (New York: Viking, 1976), p. 131.Google Scholar

55. Bradley, and Blodgett, , eds., Leaves of Grass, pp. 279, 713.Google Scholar

56. Murphy, , ed., Walt Whitman, p. 31.Google Scholar

57. Silliman, B. Jr., and Goodrich, C. R., eds., The World of Science, Art, and Industry Illustrated from Examples in the New York Exhibition, 1853–54 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1854), pp. 10, 1516.Google Scholar

58. Holloway, Emory and Schwarz, Vernolian, eds., I Sit and Look Out (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932), pp. 129–30.Google Scholar

59. Quoted in Zweig, , Walt Whitman, p. 171.Google Scholar

60. Benjamin, Walter, “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” Reflections (New York: Harvest/HBJ, 1979), p. 82.Google Scholar

61. Stovall, , ed., Prose Works, 1892, vol. 2, p. 681Google Scholar, quoted in Allen, Gay Wilson, The Solitary Singer (New York: New York University Press, 1967), p. 120.Google Scholar

1
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Reproducing Walt Whitman: The Camera, the Omnibus and Leaves of Grass
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Reproducing Walt Whitman: The Camera, the Omnibus and Leaves of Grass
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Reproducing Walt Whitman: The Camera, the Omnibus and Leaves of Grass
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *