WebQuest: Walt Whitman and the Space and Place of Transcendentalism
Overview: In this WebQuest, you will explore not only Walt Whitman’s poetry but also his expansive view of American geography. You’ll consider the connections between this “poetics of space and place” and its connection to Transcendentalism.
2: Read the Whitman texts in the following order (and manner!).
look at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s response to this volume by an unknown poet.
Read his letter to Walt Whitman. Based on this
encouraging response, Whitman published Leaves of Grass again in 1856,
this time introducing the volume with an open letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
3: Visit the University of Virginia's Walt Whitman Hypertext Archive.
4: Now explore the ways in which Whitman moved from his city to the larger
Journal Prompt #1: Try writing a poem a la Walt Whitman. Start with “I am the poet of XXX” or “I sing the XXX electric,” or “I celebrate myself, and sing myself and XXX” or “John Doe, a cosmos, of [place name] the son/daughter.” Or choose any passage from Whitman’s poetry (or prose), and use it as a springboard to a journal entry or poem or drawing.
Journal Prompt #2: On your own commute to or from your daily life (whatever form that takes), think about your own experience of “crossing Brooklyn ferry.” Even if your commute is simply a walk from your residence hall to Knutti Hall, think about the people you encounter, the sights and sounds you experience, the ways in which you are alive in those moments. How does reflecting on your own “commute” help you to better understand what Whitman was thinking about during his daily travel?
Journal Prompt #3: In “Preface to Leaves of Grass,” Whitman says that the United States is the world’s greatest poem. What do you think he means by this statement? Find a passage in “Song of Myself” that reflects this idea. Copy and paste the statement into your journal – and then show how this passage reflects Whitman’s commitment to transcribing the world’s greatest poem.
“American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide” was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit “About This Site.” © 2003 Linda Tate.