"Word over all, beautiful as the sky" : a Hegelian interpretation of Walt Whitman's Drum-Taps.

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Date
1984
Authors
J{breve}amil, Adil
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Middle Tennessee State University
Abstract
The purpose of this study is to explain the effect of Hegel's motifs on Whitman's Drum-Taps. This effect is traceable in the thematic structure of the collection as a whole and in the design of several individual poems. The study is divided into three chapters and a brief conclusion.
Chapter I is subdivided into three sections preceded by a brief introduction of the manner and circumstances in which the poet produced his poems. Section one reviews the ideas of Whitman's major critics in relation to Drum-Taps, his actions and attitudes during the Civil War. Sections two and three attempt to resolve the controversy over Whitman's early initiation into Hegelianism. Section two introduces various external evidences that suggest Whitman's familiarity with Hegel's philosophy during the 1850s. Section three introduces internal evidences found in Whitman's early poetry indicating his faith in Hegel's Absolute Idealism and arguing against the skeptical attitudes of others towards the poet's Hegelianism before the Civil War.
The threefold movement of the logical technique postulated by Hegel is followed by Whitman in his structuring of Drum-Taps. Therefore, Chapter II is subdivided into three sections: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The thesis section discusses the poems which carry the call for war, the patriotic flush of the North, the rebellious spirit of the South, and the zeal for fighting. The antithesis section discusses the theme of self-negation and the realistic description of war as devastating in its effect on mankind. The synthesis section explores Whitman's reformulation of the thesis of war and his reconciliation of the polarities he cultivated in the thesis and antithesis poems, such as peace and war, life and death, Nature and city, and Northerners and Southerners.
Chapter III investigates the effect of Hegel's motifs on the design of four poems whose themes, images, and structures are clearly imitations of the same logical technique. The final chapter summarizes the conclusions reached in this study, which strongly support the assumption of Whitman's early Hegelianism and indicate the great impact of the logical technique on Drum-Taps.
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