Monday, July 04, 2005

Whitman's Democratic Vista ... Outside of the occasional English professor, until quite recently few people probably realized that today marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

Since the book launched American literature, the anniversary more than merits the celebration it's receiving. As Verlyn Klinkenborg has noted, when it comes to Whitman's perception, "There is no catching up with him. He is always ahead of us."

So with public attention currently focused (however marginally) on Whitman's writing, I figure now's about as good a time as any to mention that the title of this site owes to Whitman's great essay on American culture, Democratic Vistas. The essay is all but impossible to summarize briefly, but suffice it to say that Vistas accomplishes in prose form all that Leaves of Grass achieves in its poetry: namely, it articulates with exuberant lucidity the countless triumphs and challenges and contradictions of American life.

I'm a little surprised -- and ashamed -- that I haven't gotten around to explaining 'Democratic Vista' until now, but there you have it.

Have a great Independence Day, everyone. And be sure to check out some Whitman, should you get the chance.


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