ricominciano le storie e i viaggi – Il “Capitano” Whitman

Welcome home after your – and my – holiday time.

Let’s start again with our trips into the stories of the English speaking countries.

We are going to America, in the period of the Civil War. Over the course of the 19th century the country progressed (cambiò) from an agricultural economy concentrated on the Eastern coast to an industrialized nation all over (in tutto) the continent. This new situation provoked changes and the country faced (affront) the problem of creating its own literature based on American issues and imaginations.

A newspaper reporter and editor, Walt Whitman, in the early 1850s began experimenting with a mixture of the colloquial diction (linguaggio parlato) and prose rhythms (ritmi) of journalism; the repetitions and catalogues of the Bible; and the musicality and drama of popular opera. He wanted to write a democratic poetry, that gave voice to all the variety of 19th-century American culture.

In 1855 Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the book he will revised (revision) and expanded (ampliò) for the rest of his life. The first edition contained only 12 untitled poems. The longest poem, “Song of Myself,” is one of the most discussed poems in all of American poetry. In it Whitman constructs a democratic “I,” a voice that celebrates itself and its senses /sensi) experiencing the world. “I” represents the creative potential of every individual in a democratic society. Emerging from a working class family, Whitman was one of the first working-class American poets and one of the first writers to compose poetry that draws (trae) its energy from the busy (indaffarate ), crowded (affollate), varied streets of the city.

Whitman later added (aggiunse) poems about affection (relazioni) between men and about the experiences and sufferings of soldiers in the Civil War (1861-1865).

Whitman’s work was initially more successful in Britain than in the United States. An influential 1872 anthology, American Poems, published in England and edited by English literary critic William Michael Rossetti, was dedicated to Whitman.

Not only…I think you remember Captain, My captain!,  the way the teacher John Keating (Robin William) suggested his students to call him in Dead Poets Society a 1989 American drama film directed by Peter Weir. Well, “O Captain! My Captain!,” is the title of a Walt Whitman poem.