Title: Abraham Lincoln & Walt Whitman as Representative Americans
16 - January - Lecture
18 - January - Discussion
Lecturer: David Bromwich, Bird White Housum Professor of English

David Bromwich took his undegraduate and graduate degrees at Yale University, taught at Princeton University for eleven years, and has been a professor of English at Yale since 1988. He has written widely on poetry and prose of the romantic and modern periods, and on authors whose work belongs equally to literature and political thought, such as Edmund Burke and Abraham Lincoln. Among his books are Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic (1983; rpt. 2000), Politics By Higher Means: Higher Education and Group Thinking (1992), and Disowned by Memory: Wordworth's Poetry of the 1790s (1998). He recently edited a selection of Burke's writings, On Empire Liberty and Reform, published last year by Yale University Press."

Lecture Description:

Lincoln and Whitman were contemporaries. The great articulations of their genius began almost at the same moment--Lincoln in 1854 in the Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Whitman in 1855 in the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Looked at from a distance, their materials are vastly different. Lincoln is concerned with the survival of the nation and its system of freedom, Whitman with the imaginative experience open to "oneself" and open uniquely in democratic America. Yet both the great poet and the great politician write also as moral psychologists. To a surprising extent they share a vision of the democratic character. It is something new in the world, they think, and in their writings we find beautifully adequate descriptions of that newness. The character sketched by Lincoln and by Whitman is rooted in an experience of labor whose tendency is to become progressively more free--both in the individual workplace and in the geography of the nation. It is endlessly modified and shaped by exposure to human and social influences, not all of them agreeable. "Oneself" is by definition not a slave and not a master.

Copyright 2001, David Bromwich






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