The Whitman Revolution brings together a rich collection of Betsy Erkkila’s phenomenally influential essays that have been published over the years, along with two powerful new essays. Erkkila offers a moving account of the inseparable mix of the spiritual-sexual-political in Whitman and the absolute centrality of male-male connection to his work and thinking. Her work has been at the forefront of scholarship positing that Whitman’s songs are songs not only of workers and occupations but of sex and the body, homoeroticism, and liberation. What is more, Erkkila’s writing demonstrates that this sexuality and communal impulse is central to Whitman’s revolutionary poetry and his conception of democracy itself—an insight that was all but suppressed during the mid-twentieth century emergence of American literature as a field of study.
Highlights of this collection include Erkkila’s essays on pairings such as Marx and Whitman, Dickinson and Whitman, and Melville and Whitman. Across the volume, she demonstrates an international vision that highlights the place of Leaves of Grass within a global struggle for democracy. The Whitman Revolution is evidence of Erkkila’s remarkable ability to lead critical discussions, and marks an exciting event in Whitman studies.
“In this outstanding collection of essays, Betsy Erkkila situates Whitman within the global struggle for democracy, and confirms her place as the preeminent scholar of Whitman’s politics.”
—Kenneth M. Price, author, Whitman in Washington: Becoming the National Poet in the Federal City