Creating Democratic Culture: Identity, Political Renewal, and Internationalism in Walt Whitman's Political Thought Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Najdek, Carl
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • This study investigates Walt Whitman's democratic political theory. Contrary to prevailing interpretations that see him as an enthusiastic but relatively uncritical democrat, it reveals a thinker who used his artistic and intellectual talents to invigorate democratic thinking in response to the tumultuous events of mid-nineteenth century. Using Whitman's mature work beginning with his 1855 Leaves of Grass, it proceeds chronologically, investigating his thought as it developed in his later poetry and prose, especially his 1871 Democratic Vistas. Through a close reading of his political writings, correspondence, and unpublished manuscripts, the study examines three critical dimensions of his thought: identity, political renewal, and internationalism. Underpinning each of these themes is Whitman's depiction of democratic culture. Serving as a foundation for a shared national and ultimately international identity, he saw this culture as the affective glue that could hold democracy together, instilling democratic principles in the everyday practices of the people. With the expansion of modern democracy around the world, Whitman's political thought provides both insight and inspiration to democratic thinkers in our times.
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  • In Copyright
  • Lienesch, Michael
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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