Spermatic Imagery in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

A R T L▼R K

51fN7qdcJZLOn the 26th of March 1892, American poet Walt Whitman died in Camden, New Jersey, aged 72. A humanist, whose work progresses from realism to transcendentalism, he is probably America’s best loved poet. His collection Leaves of Grass, which he published in 1855 with his own money, is an American epic dedicated to the common person, yet it was initially perceived as controversial. It was described as obscene for its overtly sexual language, even more so as it used free verse with a cadence based on the Bible.

While the poet’s own sexuality has been the subject of endless debate, Whitman explored this side of his human makeup fully in his work. He openly agreed with Swedish 18th century Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg who equated religious ecstasy with the desire to copulate. Equally, Whitman recurrently used orgasm as a metaphor for the divine act of artistic…

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