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"Poet of Democracy" Walt Whitman's Political Influence Explained in New Book Edited by Professor John Seery

Walt Whitman, often called America’s “poet of democracy,” is the subject of the book, A Political Companion to Walt Whitman (The University Press of Kentucky), edited by John Seery, Pomona College Professor of Politics. In A Political Companion to Walt Whitman, Seery has gathered a group of experts to examine the work of the famous poet through a political lens, specifically considering the extent to which Whitman’s writings should be considered political texts. 

Whitman, publishing his best-known works during and after the Civil War, used poetry to illuminate the turbulence of the times. His work not only examines questions concerning the self, but also how people can impact and shape the world around them. Whitman explored American consciousness and American potential, and his works continue to have resonance today.

“Many of our contemporary concerns seem to be echoic of Whitman’s stirrings: democracy’s discontents and aspirations; America’s boundaries; nationalism, transnationalism, postcolonialism and globalization; individualism versus aggregation; identity versus difference; gender, sexuality, race and class concerns; civic religion; war; postmetaphysics; the pluralized subject; cultural politics,” writes Seery.

Princeton University Professor Cornel West said of the book: “For so long we have reveled in the music of Whitman’s songs and the beauty of his language. Now we have the definitive political Whitman whose moral courage takes us into the heart of democratic theory. These essays glisten in the Whitmanesque sun!”

Seery is the author of America Goes to College: Political Theory for the Liberal Arts (2002) and Political Theory for Mortals: Shades of Justice, Images of Death (1996), as well as co-editor of The Politics of Irony: Essays in Self-Betrayal (1992).