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A Political Companion to Walt Whitman

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011


A Political Companion to Walt Whitman, a collection of essays edited by John Seery, is out.

Cover of John's new book.

Cover of John's new book.


A Political Companion to Walt Whitman is an edited volume of essays by prominent scholars covering Whitman from a political lens. It is part of a series, Political Companions to Great American Authors.

Here is the lowdown from the publisher:

A Political Companion to Walt Whitman

The works of Walt Whitman have been described as masculine, feminine, postcolonial, homoerotic, urban, organic, unique, and democratic, yet arguments about the extent to which Whitman could or should be considered a political poet have yet to be fully confronted. Some scholars disregard Whitman’s understanding of democracy, insisting on separating his personal works from his political works. A Political Companion to Walt Whitman is the first full-length exploration of Whitman’s works through the lens of political theory. Editor John E. Seery and a collection of prominent theorists and philosophers uncover the political awareness of Whitman’s poetry and prose, analyzing his faith in the potential of individuals, his call for a revolution in literature and political culture, and his belief in the possibility of combining heroic individualism with democratic justice. A Political Companion to Walt Whitman reaches beyond literature into political theory, revealing the ideology behind Whitman’s call for the emergence of American poets of democracy.

John E. Seery is a professor of politics at Pomona College. He is the author of America Goes to College: Political Theory for the Liberal Arts; Political Theory for Mortals: Shades of Justice, Images of Death; Political Returns: Irony in Politics and Theory from Plato to the Antinuclear Movement; and coeditor of The Politics of Irony: Essays in Self-Betrayal.

Blurbs from Back Cover:

“Whitman is indeed one of the great theorists of democracy, but is not often taught as part of the canon of American political thought, an oversight that this volume goes far to remedy. ”—George Shulman, author of American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture

“For so long we have reveled in the music of Whitman’s songs and the beauty of his language. Now we have the definitive political Whitman whose moral courage takes us into the heart of Democratic theory. These essays glisten in the Whitmanesque sun!”— Cornel West, author of Democracy Matters

“Democracy’s history, says Walt Whitman, ‘remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted.’ And yet political theorists have paid remarkably little attention to this great thinker and poet. Until now. This volume brings Whitman into conversation with political theory by way of examination of his major works. The authors, several of whom argue with each other, exhibit the wonderful diversity of contemporary political theory, moving from humanist to post humanist appreciations of Whitman, and from seeing him as a thinker of solitude committed to individual rights to one of erotic connection.”—Bonnie Honig, author of Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy

“A Political Companion to Walt Whitman gathers an extraordinary group of scholars who, like Whitman’s leaves of grass are at once singular, remarkable, independent and beautiful in their unity. Like the poet it honors, the Companion (comrade, comarado) speaks eloquently of men, women and the mestizo, sun and warmth and sight, of work and friendship and love, of America and the democratic.”—Anne Norton, author of Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire

“Seery has assembled in this book a powerfully persuasive collection of essays showing that Whitman should be first and foremost understood as a philosopher of democracy. The essays deal with all aspects of Whitman and with all of his works. We have here not only a political companion to Whitman but a book showing us that Whitman is our political companion and that we do well to listen to his voices.”— Tracy Strong, author of The Idea of Political Theory: Reflections on the Self in Political Time and Space

Essays included in the book:

Democratic Vistas Today
John E. Seery

Walt Whitman and the Culture of Democracy
George Kateb

Strange Attractors: How Individualists Connect to Form Democratic
Unity
Nancy L. Rosenblum

Mestiza Poetics: Walt Whitman, Barack Obama, and the Question of Union
Cristina Beltrán

Democratic Desire: Walt Whitman
Martha C. Nussbaum

The Solar Judgment of Walt Whitman
Jane Bennett

“Mass Merger”: Whitman and Baudelaire, the Modern Street, and Democratic Culture
Marshall Berman

Promiscuous Citizenship
Jason Frank

Walt Whitman and the Ethnopoetics of New York
Michael J. Shapiro

Democratic Manliness
Terrell Carver

Whitman as a Political Thinker
Peter Augustine Lawler

Whitman, Death, and Democracy
Jack Turner

Morbid Democracies: The Bodies Politic of Walt Whitman and Richard Rorty
Kennan Ferguson

Democratic Enlightenment: Whitman and Aesthetic Education
Morton Schoolman

Yep. You can get it at Amazon. And his other books are there, too.


John’s bio on Huffington Post, where he blogs on occasion.

John’s bio at Pomona College, where he teaches.

Announcement of winning national Phi Betta Kappa Award.

If you are into Whitman, here’s Amazon’s Complete Selection of Whitman’s Books.

If you are really really into Whitman here’s a couple cool items on Amazon: one-of-a-kind jewelry with Whitman inscription “We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we two,” or canvas art of Whitman.


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