Walt Whitman and the Civil War: America's Poet during the Lost Years of 1860-1862

Walt Whitman and the Civil War: America's Poet during the Lost Years of 1860-1862

by Ted Genoways
     
 


Shortly after the third edition of Leaves of Grass was published, in 1860, Walt Whitman seemed to drop off the literary map, not to emerge again until his brother George was wounded at Fredericksburg two and a half years later. Past critics have tended to read this silence as evidence of Whitman's indifference to the Civil War during its critical early…  See more details below

Overview


Shortly after the third edition of Leaves of Grass was published, in 1860, Walt Whitman seemed to drop off the literary map, not to emerge again until his brother George was wounded at Fredericksburg two and a half years later. Past critics have tended to read this silence as evidence of Whitman's indifference to the Civil War during its critical early months. In this penetrating, original, and beautifully written book, Ted Genoways reconstructs those forgotten years—locating Whitman directly through unpublished letters and never-before-seen manuscripts, as well as mapping his associations through rare period newspapers and magazines in which he published. Genoways's account fills a major gap in Whitman's biography and debunks the myth that Whitman was unaffected by the country's march to war. Instead, Walt Whitman and the Civil War reveals the poet's active participation in the early Civil War period and elucidates his shock at the horrors of war months before his legendary journey to Fredericksburg, correcting in part the poet's famous assertion that the "real war will never get in the books."

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Editorial Reviews

Richmond Times-Dispatch - Jay Strafford

“Genoways' account fills in a major gap in previous biographies of Whitman and rebuts the canard that Whitman was unaffected by the war and the run-up to it.”
Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Va) - Barbara Rich

“A wonderful book.”
Foreword

“Paints a vivid picture of an evolving America reacting to an internal conflict that virtually no one was prepared to address.”
Choice

“This compelling narrative will change the interpretation of Whitman and this time period. . . . Highly recommended.”
Journal Of Historical Biography - Helene Littmann

“Fascinating. . . . Interesting and original information . . . [is] uncovered through Genoways’ original research.”
Publishers Weekly
Though now regarded as a forefather of modern American poetry, Whitman was once reviled by the New England literati. Editor and scholar Genoways (Walt Whitman: The Correspondence, Volume VII) begins his look at Whitman and the war with the efforts of publishers Thayer & Eldridge to promote the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass in the aftermath of radical abolitionist John Brown's execution. Quotes from editorials, journals and letters recreat the critical firestorm; biting witticisms parody Whitman's style and expose dated fears about women's consumption of "obscene" literature. The poet emerges as a witness in personal and public ways: as a spectator to one of Lincoln's pre-inaugural speeches, as the "Brooklyniana" essayist, and as a soldier's brother. Readers familiar with the collegial and sometimes fractious nature of editing and publishing are most likely to appreciate Genoways's research into Leaves of Grass's controversial reception, the subsequent failure of Thayer & Eldridge and the publishing industry's decline during the Civil War years, though general readers may find the narrative a bit slow-paced.
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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520259065
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
09/15/2009
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Genoways' account fills in a major gap in previous biographies of Whitman and rebuts the canard that Whitman was unaffected by the war and the run-up to it."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"A wonderful book."—Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Va)

"Paints a vivid picture of an evolving America reacting to an internal conflict that virtually no one was prepared to address."—Foreword

"This compelling narrative will change the interpretation of Whitman and this time period. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Fascinating. . . .
Interesting and original information . . . [is] uncovered through Genoways' original research."—Journal of Historical Biography

Meet the Author


Ted Genoways is the editor of Walt Whitman: The Correspondence, Volume VII and the series editor of the correspondence for the online Walt Whitman Archive. He is also the author of two volumes of poetry and the editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

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