Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Describe Whitman’s conceptions of the soul and the body, and the relationship between the two. Which is more important, in his view?
2. How do you account for the eroticism in Whitman’s poetry? Does he use homosexual eroticism differently from heterosexual eroticism?
3. What kinds of structures does Whitman use in his poetry? Why might he be using these rather than traditional structures like rhyme?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Describe Whitman’s diction. What kind of language does he use? Does this have implications politically? Poetically?
2. Discuss the relationship of the poems in Leaves of Grass to one another. Are they intended to be read together or separately? Do they form one larger document? What about the different editions of Leaves of Grass? Why did Whitman keep revising this work?
3. How does Whitman handle modernity and technological change? What kinds of landscapes do we see in his poetry? What role does the city play? What role does nature play?
4. What is uniquely American about Whitman’s poetry? Consider both substance and style.
5. How does Whitman incorporate current events into his poetry? What about the Civil War?
6. What, in Whitman’s view, is the function of poetry? Does it have a public or ceremonial role?
7. Describe Whitman’s account of his development as a poet. What experiences were important, and why?
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!