Introduction



I created this project in November and December of 1997 as part of my work for the American Studies MA I am pursuing in the English Department of the University of Virginia. It is intended to supplement Henry Nash Smtih's The Virgin Land. It is my hope that this project will provide the reader not only with a better understanding of The Virgin Land, but also of Whitman's poetry. This understanding need not be limited to the poems I discuss and reproduce here, and I have tried to present a framework which will fit - if awkwardly - over most of the Whitman corpus.

I hope as well that my readings of Whitman are sophisticated enough to contribute to contemporary Americanist scholarship and are accessible enough to be of use to the lay-reader. I am specifically interested in the projects utility for educators who teach (or will teach) Whitman at the secondary level. I have attempted to make connections between Whitman's poetic work and the culture in which he wrote, and I would encourage (and likewise be encouraged by) any use of this project as a teaching tool in American history and American literature classes attempting to bridge the shrinking gap between them - and to bridge the too slowly shrinking gap between the humanities classroom and the new information technologies which have become ever more clearly a permanent part of the ways we learn.