Study Questions for Section One

I. Compare and contrast Whitman's conception of the poet in the pages of his notebooks with one or more of the following other texts:
  • Whitman's conception of the poet from the 1855 "Preface"
  • Whitman's 1856 letter to Emerson
  • Emerson's essay "The Poet" (1844)
  • W. C. Bryant's Lectures on Poetry (1826)
  • Wordsworth and Coleridge, "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads (1798)

    II. More broadly, one might place Whitman's understanding of poetry into the context of the Western tradition of the ars poetica, the justification and explication of poetry's place in the world. Compare, for example, Horace's Ars Poetica from antiquity, or the Renaissance poet Sir Phillip Sydney's "Defense of Poesie" (1595).

    III. Can you place the trinity these manuscript pages set up--poet, priest, physician--into the historical context of the United States approaching the mid-nineteenth century? What research might one need to do in order understand how the conception of the poet and of poetry on this page draws upon and/or diverges from mid-nineteenth-century understandings of physicians and priests? A place to start might be the 1855 "Preface" to Leaves of Grass, which would seem to owe a great deal to this manuscript page; in the latter text, Whitman famously declares: "there will soon be no more priests" (p. xi).