Egotism and Whitman

“I saw, from the time my enterprise and questionings positively shaped themselves (how best can i express my own distinctive era and surroundings, America, Democracy?) that the trunk and centre whence the anser was to radiate, and to which all should return from straying however far a distance, must be an identical body and soul, a personality — which personality, after many considerations and ponderings I deliberately settled should be myself, indeed could not be any other.”

i think the idea of “personality” is much more adequate than “ego” — the idea that whitman considered other personalities shows hesitation — for reasons of his “impure” ideology and sexuality, he perhaps hesitated because of his marginal position (how different is whitman’s “self promotional” urge from Cesaire’s aggression? or of the subaltern trying to speak?) — and his settling onto himself seen as a phenomenological maneuver rather than an egotism…??? “For the experience of each new age requires a new confession” (Emerson)

another from whitman:

“I have allow’d the stress of my poems…to bear upon American individuality and assist it…as counterpoise to the leveling tendencies of Democracy…I avowedly chant ‘the great pride of man in himself’…I think this pride not inconsistent with obedience, humility, deference, and self-questioning.
Democracy has been so retarded and jeopardized by powerful personalities, that its first instinct are fain to clip, conform, bring in stragglers, and reduce everything to a dead level.”

the personality as “enclosing” individuality that resists melting pot tendencies. Pride here is not egotism but protest — and more, it is not inconsistent with self-questioning (there sems to be such a strong deconstructivist strain in whitman) — we can read the “powerful, retarding personality” as Bush….so whitman’s “personality” is a resistance to Bush, not a confirmation of Bush (another subtlety that Heriberto Yepez fails to account for — a further crippling)

and another (i apologize):

“Leaves of Grass has mainly been an attempt to put a Person, a human being (myself, in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, in America) freely, fully and truly on record…No one will get at my verses who insists upon viewing them as a literary performance, or attempt at such performance, or as aiming mainly toward art or aestheticism.”

wow. leaves of grass as a socio-political protest (against Bush-ism) — an (auto)ethnographic post colonial project. notice how the “Person” is put before the “myself” (only a subaltern presence in the parenthetical). and not only performance or art, but historical “record” — “against forgetting” … truly, whitman foresees Fanon’s warning that “a national consciousness must become a social consciousness” …


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