Just Another “Selfie” Help Book; Walt Whitman in the 21st Century

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2017

Faculty Sponsor

Jacky O'Connor


Although Walt Whitman’s complex use of language, natural didactic tone, and egalitarian values, for some, can feel far removed from our societal struggles, the question, “What is the self?” can be understood within the first fifteen sections of Song of Myself (1855). Occasionally, Whitman’s use of literary conventions to describe the physical, “I see, dance, laugh, sing;/ As hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps...and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy tread,/ Leaving me baskets cover’d with white towels,” leaves modern readers with veiled meanings which lack realistic perspective. What is lost on readers stems from their creations of self through selfies and sexuality through stereotypical manufactured messages of everyday life. As a modern society we struggle to grasp Whitman’s language of the self and his representations of sexuality in a tangible way; however, comprehending the Transcendental idea of selfhood, and comparing it to our own social agreement of what the self is, Song of Myself can offer readers the option to oppose our assumptions of American identity, and create equal understanding for real life.

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