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Whitman at the American Literature Association 2017

The 28th annual American Literature Association conference will take place from May 25-28, 2017, in Boston, MA. For more information about the ALA 2017 conference, including information about registration and hotel reservations, see the conference website.

The Whitman Studies Association will sponsor two Whitman panels.

1. Walt Whitman in/and the Digital Humanities

Whitman’s life and writings have been the focus of digital humanities projects and the subject of massive open online courses. News of the discovery of a previously unknown journalistic series by Whitman recently went viral shortly after its publication in an online, open access journal. Digital approaches to reading and studying Whitman’s vast body of work are reshaping our interpretations of his poetry and prose and significantly changing what we know about America’s poet. This session seeks papers that highlight the application of digital humanities methods to the studying or teaching of Whitman’s writings and/or that consider the impact of digital access and/or digital publishing on the field of Whitman Studies.

We are especially interested in papers that: (1) Utilize any digital humanities methodology (topic modeling, TEI/XML, GIS/Mapping, data visualization) to offer new ways of seeing, reading, and understanding Whitman’s work; (2) Utilize any digital humanities methods or tools (including the production of digital media by students) in the teaching of Whitman’s life and writings; (3) Analyze any digital project devoted in part or in whole to Whitman’s life and/or work; (4) Consider the impact of digitization, open access, or virality on Whitman scholarship and the future of Whitman Studies.

Please send one-page abstracts electronically no later than January 9, 2017, to Stephanie M. Blalock (stephanie-blalock@uiowa.edu).

2. Walt Whitman and Reconstruction

One hundred and fifty years ago, the nation began the still ongoing process of reconstructing itself after the devastating Civil War. Whitman’s involvement in and reactions to Reconstruction were complex and long-lasting. During the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877), he began his own reconstruction of Leaves of Grass, working to absorb the war into his lifelong book project. During the Reconstruction period, too, he worked in Washington, D.C., and dealt directly with many Reconstruction issues as a clerk in the office of the Attorney General. This panel will be dedicated to examining any aspect of Whitman and Reconstruction. Please send one-page abstracts electronically no later than January 9, 2017, to Ed Folsom (ed-folsom@uiowa.edu).

The William Carlos Williams Society will sponsor one Whitman-related panel:

Panel on “Williams and Whitman”

Williams’s “An Essay on Leaves of Grass” was published in a centennial volume issued by Stanford University Press in 1955, where it headlined a symposium of academic critics introduced by Milton Hindus. In the essay, Williams creates a genealogy for Whitman in the American tradition, placing him at once as originator and as one immobilized and unable to make “further progress as an artist” though Whitman “continued to write with diminishing effectiveness for the rest of his life.” If simplicity is often a strength in Williams’s writing, simplification can sometimes be a cause for extenuation.

Looking back to this relatively powerful moment in the writing of American literary history—with Williams in the company of distinguished of academic critics—what are we to make of the assertions and possible contractions of them implicit in subsequent history?

“From the beginning Whitman realized that the matter was largely technical….”
“He never showed any evidence of knowing [that poems are made out of words not ideas] and the unresolved forms consequent upon his beginnings remained in the end just as he left them…”
“The man knew what he was doing, but he did not know all he was doing….”

Against these statements regarding Whitman’s limitations, Williams is also fervent to prove his centrality to the opening of American poetry to new possibilities inherent in the simultaneous breaking out of a context and reaction against a context.

Rereading the essay on Leaves, from 1955, how does it further inform our reading of Williams’s pronouncements elsewhere on the evolution of an American idiom in poetry, a new world idiom? What are we to make of its religious tenor “He has seen a great light”? Of its engagement with apocryphal story of the “beautiful octoroon” and Whitman’s supposedly compensatory “later rebellion in verse” and the invocation of “the example of Thomas Jefferson to drive him on”? And, not finally, but also, what of the echo of Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis in assertions that “American had been discovered and the world could not get much larger” and “Further expansion, except in a limited degree, was unlikely, so that the poet was left free to develop his world of detail, but was not called upon to extend it…” so that “if there is no room for us on the outside we shall, in spite of ourselves, have to go in….”

What to make of Williams’s essay now?

Send abstracts or drafts by January 15, 2017 to:

Stephen Hahn
Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and
Professor of English
100 Raubinger Hall
William Paterson University
Wayne, NJ 07470
Email: hahns@wpunj.edu

MOOC on Whitman and the Civil War

The University of Iowa's International Writing Program is launching a new massive open online course (MOOC), “Whitman's Civil War: Writing and Imaging Loss, Death, and Disaster,” on July 18, 2016. The course will run until September 5, 2016, and will focus on Whitman's writings about the American Civil War, including Drum-Taps and Memoranda During the War. The instructors are Whitman scholar Ed Folsom, the Roy J. Carver Professor of English at the University of Iowa, and poet Christopher Merrill, the director of the International Writing Program and a Professor of English at the University of Iowa. Each week, starting July 18, the instructors will post a new video class. There will be opportunities for students to discuss the readings, respond to instructors' questions, and to complete weekly creative assignments and receive feedback on creative projects.

This course is free; there are no registration costs or required costs. No previous experience with creative writing, Whitman's work, or literature is required. All participants are welcome! If you would like a certificate of completion, The University of Iowa offers this option for a fee.

To register and to learn more about the course, visit the MOOC's sign up page.

Whitman Making Books / Books Making Whitman available

Ed Folsom’s catalog/commentary for the Whitman Making Books / Books Making Whitman symposium and exhibition held at The University of Iowa in 2005 is now available for purchase from WWQR. The book is 80 pages, with over a hundred full-color illustrations of Whitman’s books. Folsom’s commentary explores Whitman as a bookmaker, as someone fully invested in the creation of his books. Tracing Whitman’s career as a printer and bookmaker from his early years in New York to his final years in Camden, New Jersey, Folsom has created what Joel Myerson in a review has described as “much more that the record of an exhibition—it is a biography of Whitman that will stand the test of time.” “Reversing [the] usual perspective,” writes Myerson, “Folsom focuses on Whitman’s print career to tell us about his life, both internal and external,” and, “in so doing, he overturns many critical assumptions about Whitman’s writings.” The book was published by The University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and a limited number of copies are available for $15 (includes shipping). Checks should be made out to "WWQR" and sent to: Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, 308 EPB, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1492.