Whitman among the Bohemians

Whitman among the Bohemians

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For several years just before And just after his 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass appeared, Walt Whitman regularly frequented Pfaff 's beer cellar in downtown Manhattan. The basement bar was the very center of mid-nineteenth-century American bohemian activity and was heavily patronized by writers, artists, musicians, actors, intellectuals, and radicals such as free-love advocate Henry Clapp, Jr., and Broadway succes de scandale Adah Isaacs Menken. Numerous creative and political ventures emerged from this environment, and at least two bohemian literary weeklies, The New-York Saturday Press and Vanity Fair, shared origins around the tables at Pfaff 's.In this milieu, Whitman found sympathetic supporters of his poetic vision, professional connections, rivals, romantic partners, and close friends, and left a lasting impression on poet and critic Edmund Clarence Stedman, an erstwhile bohemian who later in the century emerged as a tastemaker of American poetry. Yet for many years, the bohemians associated with Pfaff 's have served merely as minor background characters in Whitman scholarship. Whitman among the Bohemians corrects that by exploring in depth the connections Whitman made at Pfaff 's and the impact they had on him, his poetry, and his career. In telling the story of these intersecting social and professional links that converged at Pfaff 's in the late 1850s and early 1860s, the essays in this volume powerfully demonstrate just how much we can learn about Whitman and his work by viewing him within the context of American bohemia.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 276 pages
  • 152.4 x 228.6 x 19.05mm | 453.59g
  • Iowa, United States
  • English
  • 1609382722
  • 9781609382728

Review quote

"Incisive in argument and rich in historical detail illuminating the material, social, and cultural conditions of the poet's authorship, Whitman among the Bohemians tells us of advertisements, puffery, parodies, controversies both ginned-up and real, factions and flub-drub and feuilletons, modern technology and German beer, presses and publics and the Fred Gray Association. A terrific, stimulating collection of essays."--Daniel Cottom, author, International Bohemia "Walt Whitman had an enormous creative surge just before the Civil War, composing many of his greatest poems. During the same period, he was also frequenting Pfaff's, a beer cellar in lower Manhattan that was home to a raffish crowd of artists, actors, writers, and drinkers. We've long needed a study that places Whitman within this bohemian context; thanks to Joanna Levin and Edward Whitley's collection, we at last have one. Whitman among the Bohemians is filled with theoretically sophisticated essays that offer important new interpretations not only of Whitman's poetry, but also of the culture of American bohemianism."--Michael Robertson, author, Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples
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About Edward Whitley

Joanna Levin is an associate professor of English at Chapman University, USA. She is the author of Bohemia in America, 1858-1920, winner of the 2010 Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award. She lives in Tustin, California, USA.Edward Whitley is an associate professor of English at Lehigh University, USA. He is the author of American Bards: Walt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet and the co-editor of The Vault at Pfaff 's, a digital archive about the bohemian writers and artists of antebellum New York. He lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA.
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