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Walt Whitman and the Civil War: America's Poet during the Lost Years of 1860-1862 Hardcover – September 15, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520259068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520259065
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,818,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though now regarded as a forefather of modern American poetry, Whitman was once reviled by the New England literati. Editor and scholar Genoways (Walt Whitman: The Correspondence, Volume VII) begins his look at Whitman and the war with the efforts of publishers Thayer & Eldridge to promote the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass in the aftermath of radical abolitionist John Brown's execution. Quotes from editorials, journals and letters recreat the critical firestorm; biting witticisms parody Whitman's style and expose dated fears about women's consumption of "obscene" literature. The poet emerges as a witness in personal and public ways: as a spectator to one of Lincoln's pre-inaugural speeches, as the "Brooklyniana" essayist, and as a soldier's brother. Readers familiar with the collegial and sometimes fractious nature of editing and publishing are most likely to appreciate Genoways's research into Leaves of Grass's controversial reception, the subsequent failure of Thayer & Eldridge and the publishing industry's decline during the Civil War years, though general readers may find the narrative a bit slow-paced.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Genoways' account fills in a major gap in previous biographies of Whitman and rebuts the canard that Whitman was unaffected by the war and the run-up to it.”
(Jay Strafford Richmond Times-Dispatch 2010-01-17)

“A wonderful book.”
(Barbara Rich Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Va) 2009-12-20)

“Paints a vivid picture of an evolving America reacting to an internal conflict that virtually no one was prepared to address.”
(Foreword 2009-09-01)

“This compelling narrative will change the interpretation of Whitman and this time period. . . . Highly recommended.”
(Choice 2010-05-01)

“Fascinating. . . . Interesting and original information . . . [is] uncovered through Genoways’ original research.”
(Helene Littmann Journal Of Historical Biography 2012-10-17)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Dixon Jr. on April 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good account of Whitman's "lost years" -- the years before he arrived in Washington during the War and before he became an Icon of American literary history.

I especially appreciate Genoways's scholarship here. His discovery of where Whitman was and what Whitman did (particularly noteworthy is his unveiling of the "Ellen Eyre" incident!) really gives one insight into those days, so important on so many levels.

In my mind, there is no greater American poet than Whitman; Genoways does us a great service in bringing these years to light. I recommend the book to any fan of Whitman's or any Civil War buff, looking for more information on the "home front" activity during the early phase of the War.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sojun on September 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A well written book weaving the changing political landscape
of the time that led up to the civil war with the movements, known
and unkown, of Walt Whitman - creating a revealing work and an entertaining read.
A work that gets more revelatory with each turn of the page.
A recommended purchase.
Complementing the book - is the Leaves of Grass, 1860: The 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition (Iowa Whitman Series)
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Format: Hardcover
Extremely entertaining read exploring the beginnings of the American Civil War -- years which many have called "lost years" for Walt Whitman, who left behind little significant documentary evidence in this period. Genoways tracks down and dissects every extant piece of evidence from Whitman and his circle, including his family and his fellows at Pfaff's in New York. The author has discovered new information as well, including manuscript versions of poems, and puts new thought into largely ignored pieces of Whitmans output, including a newspaper series of "Brooklyniana". More than that, Genoways zooms away from Whitman to get a better understanding of the various events leading up to the Civil War. Some of these asides could be construed as distractions, but Genoways writes in such an entertaining and readable style that the reader might easily forget that Whitman hadn't been more than mentioned for a couple of paragraphs and, when you realize that's what's happened, you are instantly convinced the divergent stories were extremely important after all. The book dramatically ends right as Whitman has heard his calling as a volunteer nurse in Washington, D.C., a role which has been amply researched and studied, effectively putting an end those "lost years."
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Walt Whitman and the Civil War: America's Poet during the Lost Years of 1860-1862
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