Rocznik Komparatystyczny

ISSN: 2081-8718     eISSN: 2353-2831     DOI: 10.18276/rk.2017.8-04
CC BY-SA   Open Access 

Lista wydań / 8 (2017)
The Polylingual Meat and Bones of Whitman’s American Language Body

Rok wydania:2017
Liczba stron:23 (79-101)
Słowa kluczowe: komparatystyka literacka Walt Whitman amerykańska odmiana angielskiego Źdźbła trawy kosmopolityzm nacjonalizm polilingwizm
Autorzy: Marina Camboni
University of Macerata


In the same years in which the first three editions of Leaves of Grass were published, Whitman invested a conspicuous part of his energies in the study of language, a commitment he would continue with varying intensity for the rest of his life. By the time he published the third edition of Leaves of Grass in 1860, he had come to believe that the English language in America should be transformed into a hybrid world language, capable of condensing the Kosmos, the world-nation he thought his land had become. He estimated that through a number of lexical and idiomatic graftings from the native and romance languages English could enrich the people who used it with a wider range of human and social experiences and feelings. In this way, American English could become a really democratic language where each different, gendered individual would have equal representation and visibility. This essay explores the connection between the finished text of the Leaves and its author’s search for an American language by focusing on the metaphor of “embodiment” and on the poem’s hero, Walt Whitman, in the different but mutually interchangeable roles he plays. It argues that, by offering Walt’s self as the connecting link between speaker and addressee, Whitman draws his reader into the common terrain of the mirror-language of the text. It argues, as well, that the outbreak of the Civil War quenched Whitman’s experimental enthusiasm. Almost overnight, Whitman transformed himself from a cosmic and cosmopolitan poet to a nationalistic shaper of new and old myths for the United States.
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