Sing Body Electric Essay

Whitman’s responses are immediate, bold, and unapologetic....

Whitman’s egalitarianism is a particularly important aspect of this poem, for it allows him to argue against the kind of valorization of the body implicit in slavery.Even Whitman supporter Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly advised him not to include the poem (or the sexual and homoerotic “Calamus” poems) in the 1860 edition, but Whitman held to his artistic vision. A few years later, Whitman was fired from a government post after a superior read the sexual poems.Whitman presents his glimpses of the body almost as quick snapshots, and he is both observer and participant in the scenes and experiences. I don’t remember if I watched it in the theater, but I must have — because the music has run through my brain all my adult life. But the music of the movie touched my life like few things have.This kind of extreme valuation of the body would seem to be the extreme case of the kind of body-centrism Whitman advocates. For Whitman, the body has primacy in its ability to generate experience, which can be compared metaphorically to the generation of children.The body can connect both erotically and spiritually with the bodies of others.The lists alternate with anecdotal and propositional sections, which allow Whitman to work out some of the issues surrounding the body.This makes “Body Electric” one of his more highly structured poems.The final stanza of the poem gives a catalogue of body parts, both the poet’s and others’.The parts listed have functions, of course, but they also provide the raw materials for poetry: “these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul.” The body becomes sacred through its linkage with the soul; while it is only the soul’s helper or accomplice, it nevertheless does not deserve second-rate status, for it enables not only spirituality but also poetry.

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  1. The Historical Dissertations and Theses collection provides digital access and preservation of the full text of more than 7,700 dissertations and theses submitted by LSU graduate students between 19.