Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The War on WordsSlavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Michael T. Gilmore

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226294131

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226294155.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

Whitman: From Sayer-Doer to Sayer-Copyist

Whitman: From Sayer-Doer to Sayer-Copyist

(p.140) Whitman: From Sayer-Doer to Sayer-Copyist
The War on Words

Michael T. Gilmore

University of Chicago Press

Free soil, free speech, free verse: though Leaves of Grass appeared under the shadow of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, it was the legislation that returned Lincoln to politics and Thoreau to public polemic. This chapter reviews Walt Whitman's poetic masterpiece and the battle over free speech, which was a key ingredient in the making of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. A reawakened belief in the might of words informs Whitman's outpouring, which simultaneously prophesies and brings into textual being its vision of an egalitarian republic. But despite the imaginative inclusiveness of 1855, Whitman, no abolitionist, harbored misgivings about agitation that ultimately resurfaced, and his conception of song as action did not outlast the Civil War. His ideological retreat—he evolved into a foe of black rights and a supporter of Andrew Johnson—played itself out on the level of language, subtly in Leaves of Grass, more obviously in prose pieces written during and after Reconstruction.

Keywords:   Walt Whitman, Free soil, free speech, free verse, Leaves of Grass, Kansas-Nebraska Act, black rights

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.