Study of Walt Whitman’s Mimetic Prosody. Free-Bound and Full Circle

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This work suggests that Walt Whitman, in Leaves of Grass, combines both free verse and traditional prosody in mimetic ways. This study follows the thought of Pasquale Jannacone’s 1897 work, Walt Whitman’s Poetry and the Evolution of Rhythmic Forms, a work not translated from the Italian until 1973, and thus highly ignored by American scholars. This study, however, is more in-depth in its use of the accentual-syllabic approach to prosody.


“….[I] remain consistently impressed by Doug’s ability to describe what metrically occurs in Whitman’s most familiar lines, and do too, I believe, will [his] readers. I have known few colleagues who can approach Doug Martin’s command of prosodic vocabulary or his subtlety of application….I was right when I told Doug that this would be an ambitious project. What I am delighted to see is that ambition so thoroughly fulfilled.” – William M. Decker, Oklahoma State University

“Doug Martin’s new book shows us Whitman’s radicalism in a refreshing new light by – somewhat paradoxically – revealing ways that the bard of Brooklyn carefully used, and even more carefully broke, traditional poetic forms. A distinguished poet in his own right, Martin brings a writer’s feel for language to Whitman’s work. And at a time when the technical understanding of prosody looks dangerously close to falling out of the critical idiom, Martin proves his bona fides as a critic with genuine, hard-won critical skills. [This book] combines a historical understanding of Whitman with a blow-by-blow account of the ways that Whitman uses standard meters to achieve mimetic effects. ….By showing how Whitman not only uses, but expands language in this way, Martin’s book helps do something more than just stoke Whitman’s critical reputation. It also helps clarify both the heritage, and the possibilities, for American poets working today.” – Blaine Greteman, University of California at Berkeley

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
1. “To Be In Any Form, What Is That?” – The Reaction to Walt Whitman’s New Prosody
2. Feudal but Free-Bound: The Early Poems and the Forward Prosody of the First Edition of Leaves of Grass
3. Sex-Prosody: Early Poems of the Body and Desire in “Children of Adam”, “Calamus”, and later works on Copulation
4. The Poetic Noise of War: Sound-Patterns in “Drum-Taps”
5. A Walking and Sea-Drifting Rhythm
6. Full Circle: The Conventional Metrics of Whitman’s Post-War Poems
7. Envoi

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