WALT WHITMAN RECONSIDERED by Richard Chase

WALT WHITMAN RECONSIDERED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is a felicitous reappraisal of Walt Whitman, which coincides with the centuary of the Leaves of Grass, by Richard Chase who is already well known for his more extended studies of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson Falling midway between biography and critical exegesis, this book has the better qualities of both. Its main theme is incontestably right, that Whitman dear to the transcendentalists of his own period, and equally dear to the radicals of the twenties, has fallen into disrepute- or perhaps innocuous desuetude-in the later decades. He failed to speak to the so-called economic realists of the 30's and to the exponents of the 30's and 40's he also had little to say. His free-flowing optimism, even his elegiac quality, and certainly his loosely strung verse forms are almost antipathetic to the closely wrought work of the Eliot- Pound school. Chase feels that ""under the impact both of overpraise and underpraise we have been in danger of losing sight of what is vital and enduring in the author"". But he also believes that since Whitman's poetry stems from the vital energies and dilemmas of life and is committed to the radical literary and cultural values of its time, there can be no question of its immortality.... Literary criticism which within its restricted circle should place highly.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1955
Publisher: Morrow-Sloane