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Myself: Walt Whitman's Political, Theological Creature

Beatrice E. Marovich


Examining Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” (from his 1855 collection Leaves of Grass), this article expounds upon the subject formation contained within it: the self. This self, developed through a variant of creation myth, is inflected with both political and theological agendas. The complex democratic negotiation of these poles places Whitman’s poem in the realm of political theology. The first half of the essay traces the theological inflections in the poem: the impact, in other words, of the name of God on the formation, development, or thriving of the self. It also sketches the contours of Whitman’s political context and lays bare some of his political agendas. The latter half of the essay speculates on some potential consequences of the development of this self and raises the question: How deeply is it already embedded in American democratic subjectivity?

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