Kakos' 6th Hour

Reactions and comments from my sixth hour Honors American Literature class.

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My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Uncle Walt

Although Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are often paired together as "New" American poets--they were writing roughly around the same time, and they both broke away from the traditional meter embraced by the Romantics--they varied dramatically from each other in terms of personal and poetic style.

Think back to Emily Dickinson's photograph and her poetry for a moment. Then, click on the following link to browse pictures of Walt Whitman and to read his commentary on his own pictures: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/whitman/photos.htm

What can you infer about Walt Whitman from these pictures and captions? What questions do you have about him? How does he differ from Ms. Dickinson?

30 Comments:

Blogger Olivia C. said...

One can infer a large deal about Walt Whitman from the provided pictures. I certainly would not consider him a man of vanity however; he does take on a persona that might suggest that indeed. While Whitman was noticeably conscious of his appearance, he was largely concerned that others might consider him a man of anger or, violence, "The worst thing about this is, that I look so damned flamboyant--as if I was hurling bolts at somebody--full of mad oaths--saying defiantly, to hell with you!" In the midst of his seemingly vain words however, a bit of a partiality came upon me because for some reason he reminded me of a grandfather when he stated, “but it's not a face I could hate." Certainly Whitman has strong opinions and is not afraid to show them, although, I suppose this allows him to be more likeable from a reader’s perspective because we get to know him. Although Dickinson is interesting and altogether intriguing, I do not believe we get to know her as well through her picture. Whitman somehow emits his personally through his beards, facial mannerisms, etc. Dealing with questions that might arise, I suppose I would question where Whitman’s defensive nature comes from? Also, I would be interested to read more of his poetry and contrast those ideas with the ones expressed through the photography criticisms. He seems to be a very puzzling yet appealing man to study. I guess we could even consider him to be an extravert philanthropist? As a side note: I felt Ms. Kakos’ title was fitting because Whitman is so likeable that one could easily compare him to a close family member, thus the title ‘Uncle Walt.’

4:05 PM  
Blogger allison n said...

Whitman seems like the kind of man who would intimidate you at first, because it seems like he had a boisterous personality, but when you got to know him he was a very easy man to be with. The comments he made on his pictures don't seem to match the character of his poems, however, I have only read a few of them. I agree with Olivia that he probably isn't a vain man, but the comments he made suggest that. I find him worlds apart from Dickinson. He has obviously had many pictures taken of him whereas Emily only had one. I also couldn’t imagine her commenting on pictures taken of her. Whitman appears to be a man who would go out for an adventure and Dickinson was thought to be an agoraphobic.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Alexaaaaa said...

This collection of pictures tells me that Whitman's image was greatly restricted by what the public would accept. Some of the captions indicate that the public judged him unfairly on his pictures, but this doesn't seem to bother Whitman, only amuse him. These, in conjunction, tell me that people probably tried to edit Whitman's image to show what they wanted to see. Whitman is different from Dickinson in that he had many pictures and much publicity, while Dickinson only had one picture taken of her and recieved little public recognition. Whitman seems much more upbeat than Dickinson, and perhaps less cryptic, which explains in part why he was more accepted by the public. I want to read a piece of his poetry before I call him a "warm, grandfather figure", however. Even the lowliest drunkard can look like a grandfather if he grows a beard and takes a bath.

5:20 PM  
Blogger nicci c said...

Looking at the pictures of Walt Whitman gave me a very different view than what I infered from Emily Dickinson's photo. First of all, the fact that he actually publicized and commented on his pictures set him very far apart from Dickinson. He seems to be much more amused with life and people than Emily was also. While she hid from the world he was out there, not trying to escape. As most people have said before, he appears to be a fairly intimidating person at first because of how blunt he looks; there was also something slightly suspicious about him that kept me from going completely soft on him. However, from how he commented on himself, Whitman would appear to be an easy person to talk to and get along with.

6:21 PM  
Blogger ryanp said...

From the pictures of Walt, I infer that he is very confident with himself and is downright cockey at some times. The way he comments on his own appearance is very interesting because he sounds like he cares more about the public's ideas than what he truely thinks about himself. In the pictures, it almost looks like he is trying to model with the posing he is doing. Walt is almost the complete oppositte of Dickinson. It seems as though Walt focuses on himself and writes to gain attention while dickinson is just the average person who writes simply to put her ideas and feelings on paper.

6:35 PM  
Blogger LindsayS said...

I agree that the pictures have a rough look at first yet they hold a relative like quality. I think the main difference between Walt Whitman's pictures and Emily Dickinson's one is that he seems much more relaxed and like someone who would approach. Emily's picture gave off a cold sense and made her seem like a very unfriendly person while Whitman seems nice and caring, more of a people person.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walt Witman seems like a guy who would be fun to hang out with. Some of his pictures are stern and serious but most are playful and fun. He seems very different from Emily Dickenson because, after reading her poems, Dickenson always seemed to write depressing poems that didn't look favorably on the world. Though I have never read any poems by Witman I would infer, from his pictures, that he wrote much more uplifting poems than Dickenson did.

Also just FYI the sub told us that we didn't need to blog tonight because she didn't think you were going to post a topic.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Andie R said...

Walt Whitman immediately struck me from the first photo as a man with a sense of humor, though it may be a wicked and mischevious sense. His personality shows through in his pictures, and I feel that he added some personality to each picture (such as when he tilts his hat)so that he isn't another withdrawn and stoic poet. Looking at his comments, I don't see vanity, but rather get the sense that he likes himself and isn't looking to improve himself. He is different from Emily Dickinson because I believe he is able to look beyond the fact that death is looming and life will inevitably end. I think he is able to look at the world with a sense of humor and explore its quirks, and that he would enjoy being around other people. Emily Dickinson was the traditional dark and sensitive poet who looked at everything critically, and I don't get that sense at all from Walt Whitman.

8:09 PM  
Blogger brianc said...

Walt Whitman seemed to me to appear very different then Dickinson if you look just at the pictures. First off, Walt had a strong sense of confidence that seemed to just be overflowing out of him. In some of the pictures it looked as if he was actually modeling and cared deeply about his appearance and how good he looked. Not to say that he is self absorbed, but I do believe that he has a smug, almost cocky attitude that generates a lot of character. While Dickinson was agorophobic, Walt seemed to be outgoing and one who would even like a nice adventure or challenge.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Alexandra H said...

I agree with Brian C that Walt Whitman has mroe confidence than Emily Dickison. He is much more gruff and sure of himself. He seems like the type of person who would rely on himself more than other people, while Emily Dickinson would look to others for help and support.

8:47 PM  
Blogger corey c said...

I wish I had a beard, anyway Walt Whitman seems to have a completely different attitude and view on life than Dickinson, he seems to be open to the world and I think his peotry will difer a lot from Dickinson because he was not just writing poems for himself, he knew he was a poet. He seems outgoing and willing to be in the world and not hide himself from it, like Dickinson. I wonder if his life was similar to Dickinsons? Although the two poets wrote at the same time and strayed from the meter it does not mean they are the same style, I guess I will just have to wait and see! I think that Whitman differs greatly from Dickinson, he doesn't hide in secrecy, he shows who he is and I like his sense of humor in the photos. I am interested to read his poetry.

8:50 PM  
Blogger rbeckett said...

I inferred from the picture and text that Walt Whitman was a more self confident and outgoing person than Emily Dickinson. He not only had many pictures taken of himself, compared to Dickinson's one, but he also commented on them, something Dickinson never did. As well, Whitman appeared to be comfortable and social with others while Dickinson was agoraphobic.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Hannah S said...

I agree with the people about me that Walt Whitman had more confidence that Emily Dickinson did. He seems as though he is much more carefree and accepts life as it is. I also agree with the people above me who said that he did comment on his pictures, unlike Dickinson. Whitman really dominates the picture, whereas Dickinson kind of blended in with the backround.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Christine D said...

I agree that Walt Whitman seems to be more out going than Emily Dickinson. Unlike the portrait of Dickinson, Whitman was smiling in a couple of his. A smile really can mean many words and it can make a difference in how people approach you. Also, in one of the captians of the pictures it mentioned how Whitman's friends did not "share his enthusiasm for the image". Not only did Whitman have friends, but also had to face some criticism which, to me, makes him seem more of a real human being, not just a person in history who we have to learn about. While some people take criticism personally, i agree with Brian C that Whitman seemed to like a challenge and may have been set on proving his critics wrong. Whitman liked his image and, unlike Dickinson, he was not afraid to show it.

9:31 PM  
Blogger KristinC said...

I agree with Corey, not about the beard thing though, that Whitman wrote poetry for the pleasure and comfort of other people which is why his poetry was published in his lifetime. Unlike Dickinson who seemed to write for her own emotional relief. Whitman has this boyish confidence in many of his pictures and seems to say " just try me," and has this vibe that makes him seem more welcoming. While Dickinson is more reserved and it is much harder to tell what she is thinking making her difficult to understand more difficult to relate to. I want to know who the rest of the class finds more appealing. Who are you drawn to more and why?

11:46 AM  
Blogger AArensdorf said...

I agree with Brian C. Whitman has a certain cockyness in him that Dickinson lacked. From the captions below his picture, I would go so far as to say that he seems to be obsessed with his looks. History has remembered quite a few quotes of Whitman commenting on his own portraits, and since they were taken so long ago, It gives the impression that Whitman talked about his appearance a lot. I would like to know why he talked about his appearance so often, and whether or not he was really as self-absorbed as he appears. It may be that Whitman was just self assured and outgoing, and he was not arrogant at all, but I can't be sure by looking at the photographs and the captions. To answer Kristin C.'s question, I am more drawn to Whitman because he seems to be more personable than Dickinson. Although I am not sure that I would like his personality, I would probably be able to relate to Whitman much easier than Dickinson, whose personality seems to contrast mine more than Whitman's does.

3:24 PM  
Blogger matt l said...

The thing that stuck out to me the most from the pictures of Walt Whitman was the attitude he conveyed. Whitman seemed to have a cocky and elitist attitude about himself. He was obviously engrossed in his physical appearance, and was much more of a "people person" than Dickinson was. I agree with what others have said about Whitman writing for others while Dickinson wrote for herself. I haven't read much poetry from either Whitman or Dickinson, but from seeing pictures of both poets, I believe Whitman's poetry will be much more uplifting and joyful, whereas Dickinson's poetry is depressing and almost evil.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Tori S said...

I agree with Lindsay in that he looks much more approachable and loving than Dickinson. While both poets have the same plain, worthy look about them, Whitman looks much more lively. like he has had fun in his life and wasn't shut up in a room. He looks more like he has seen the world and is proud of it while Dickinson wanted to be away from the world.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Michelle S said...

Like many commenters said, from what I can infer from Whitman's pictures and his quotes is that he had an air of arrogance, although it is impossible to tell for sure just by looking at the pictures. He certainly seemed to be more social than Dickinson was, but also more self-possessed. Like ryanp said, Whitman seemed to almost care more about what the public thought of his image than he himself did. Seeing how many more pictures there are of Whitman than Dickinson, it seems that Whitman preferred social contact more than Dickinson did. Although I believe Dickinson wrote some poems, indirectly, about herself, she focused more on her virtues and personality traits than on her physical appearance. In answer to kristinc's question, I am personally more drawn to Dickinson's poetry. Although it is cryptic, for me it is a puzzle, and I admire how her writing fits so much detail and imagery in very few words. Whitman's poetry is similar in some ways, but it is often longer and, I think, not as intriguing.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Amy O. said...

Emily Dickinson is quite different from Walt Whitman, and one could infer that by looking at their pictures alone. Emily Dickinson went to extremes to be less and less noticable, seldom leaving her home and refusing to publish her poems. Walt Whitman willingly submits his own opinions of his many photos and has a large section of poetry about himself. He was obviously more focused on himself than Emily Dickinson. In response to what Tori said, I fully agree that a main difference between the two poest was that Emily Dickinson tried to keep out of the world while Whitman seemed to embrace it.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Ryan S said...

Walt Whitman seems to be more candid and more friendly to be around. Emily Dickinson always looked very proper and high class. Walt seems more like a homeless man because of his long hair and beard and he looks very ungroomed. He looks like a man you would be temporarily frightened of but once you talked to him he would seem so nice. I wonder what his personality was really like and whether he was depressed and disliked people much like Emily Dickinson.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Aubry P. said...

Whitman seems very comfortable with himself and his surroundings. He seems a little cocky in some of his pictures whereas Emily seems a little unsure and out of place. Whitman seems very outgoing and Emily very introverted. Walt Whitman seems like he could make anyone feel comfortable and at home and Emily could barely make herself feel at home just by herself.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Thomas_N said...

The pictures of Walt Whitman look as though he is trying to pretend that he does not care what people think about him. From the pictures he comes off as being kind of ignorant but at the same time he still cares about his image. It seems like he would be the type of person that wants to have fun and looks at the bright side of things. Dickinson and Whitman seem vary different, Dickinson seems like she would be secluded and more of a loner while Whitman looks like he wants to be with people.

5:34 PM  
Blogger katie_r said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:01 PM  
Blogger katie_r said...

From Whitman's pictures, and the comments he had about himself, it seems like he is a very self absorbed person. He worries what people think about him, and he is never really 100% satisfied with his pictures. With Dickinson, it was kind of like one against the world, and with Whitman, it's more like one apart from (above) the world. Many people have been saying that they see him as a people person, and I don't really see that, unless by that they mean he likes to be around people so that they can admire him. Dickinson only had one picture taked of herself, and granted she didn't really like people, anyone who has that many pictures taken of themselves and comments on them all for everyone to see and read, is very into themselves. Maybe I'm way off base, but it seems to me like his poems are going to be a lot about him and what is happening to him, about him, and what he is doing, and Dickinson's poems are going to be more about the world, and what is happening out there with out her, while she locks herself up inside.

7:02 PM  
Blogger AaronW said...

I believe that Walt Whitman's personality has qualities of narcissism that Emily Dickinson did not have. Seriously, why would anyone care that much about their looks? Dickinson obviously didn't since she basically just lived in her house. No one ever saw her, so she didn't have to worry about that. Whitman also has documented comments on his pictures. That is basically the most self absorbed thing I have ever heard. These things also translate over to their poetry. I think Whitman writes much more confidently, while Dickinson has poems that seem almost suicidal and depressing.

7:22 PM  
Blogger A_Nielsen said...

Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson differ in several different ways. Emily Dickinson's appearance is very plain,depressed and unhappy. Her poetry reflects her personality coincidentally perfectly. Her poetry is about life but presented in a very gloomy way. Whitman's appearance personifies a concited man. His poetry maginifies this concitedness through poetry related to himself. Yes, his poetry isn't as gloomy as Dickinson's but can be a bit weird in a way.

8:13 PM  
Blogger christineT said...

The appearances of the two poets differ greatly. Emily Dickinson looks very proper and put together. Whitman appears scraggly and messy, like he doesn't care about his appearance. Because of this, I think that Whitman may have had a more, laid-back attitude on life and his poetry reflects this while Dickinson's serious appearance is reflected in her poetry. Dickinson writes about serious things such as life, death, nature, and love and she uses very high level vocabulary throughout every line and stanza symbolizing her extreme passion for poetry. Whitman's poetry seemed much different as he wrote about things much more carefree and about a wider variety of things. I think that Dickinson may have taken life too seriously and thought it only appropriate to write about those things, while Whitman wanted to write about all aspects of life, using a very different tone.

9:35 PM  
Blogger anam said...

From the pictures of Walt Whitman on the link, it appears that he is very into himself because he has several pictures that are just of him and many of his personal captions revolve around his appearance in the pictures. His comments are about how he does not like how he looks because he seems “flamboyant” or how the original picture looked better because it was not as faded as other ones, etc. He also comments on what other people have said about his pictures, often arguing what they have stated about the images. I wonder if Walt Whitman new that he came off of as an egotistical male or if he was completely oblivious to it? Was Walt Whitman married throughout his life time? If so, did he have any children? I think that a huge difference between Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman is the way that they see themselves: on one hand, Dickinson seemed as though she down played her looks compared to the beauty of mother nature, while Whitman thinks very highly of himself and his appearance.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Sarah S. said...

I agree with those who have posted before me with the idea that Walt Whitman comes off as a very self-absorbed, even egocentric person, as he seems to take great (excessive, maybe?) pride, or at least concern in his appearance. As I was absent, and have yet to read any of his poetry, it would be interesting to see if his seemingly self-focused attitude is portrayed in his work, and the differences that would exist there between himself and Dickinson because of their different attitudes.

From the pictures, Whitman also doesn't seem quite as 'aloof' and unapproachable as Dickinson does. I wonder if this 'approachability' translates over into his poetry; because he seems like the kind of person who is concerned - even preoccupied with what other people think of him, his poetry might be more 'accessible' than Dickinson's.

7:40 PM  

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