Transcendentalism Leaves Of Grass Essay Research Paper

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Transcendentalism Leaves Of Grass Essay, Research Paper Walt Whitman: Transcendentalism By the late 19th century, Walt Whitman had become positioned at the forefront of the American cultural lexicon. His poetry was at once brash, dissonant and resoundingly erotic. His raw, unabashed poetry flew in the face of the prevailing ideals of his time. Whitman s greatest literary accomplishment, Leaves of Grass, had set the ideas of divinity, the hierarchy of the holy trinity, and the ethereal perfection afforded these things into turmoil. What he did was take the theologian ideas of perfection and divinity and juxtaposed them onto mankind and the world around him. This theology of transcendentalism was the cornerstone theme throughout all of Whitman s writing. Throughout Whitman s

poetry, there exists several major themes. First, the idea of the Holy Trinity of father-son-holy spirit is taken from a heavenly, theological realm and brought into the present. Second, there is the idea of the Adamic myth of America, whereupon mankind has found a temporal Garden of Eden in which to recreate himself and the world around him. The final theme is that of the perfect order of the cosmos as the stage for which these things can happen. Whitman makes the case that each individual, each “leaf of grass” has its own place within nature. Up until the time of Whitman, the prevailing religious dogma of America had been one of strict adherence to traditional values and beliefs. Approaching the turn of the century, however, sentiment for an alternative path had begun to

grow. Thus came the age of the Great Awakening. The idea of a spiritual equality amongst all people had begun to spread across the country and Whitman was one of the biggest proponents. What made Whitman controversial was not so much his embrace of an alternative religion, but how he took the Christian ideals of otherworldly reverence and planted himself firmly on the middle. The idea of the Holy Trinity in theology is that of the father-son-holy spirit. This idea of each part of the triangle being one and the same is a major ideal throughout Christianity. Whitman took the old ideas of divinity and perfection and placed them upon his own ideas of the universe. Indeed, Whitman often puts himself squarely in the middle of the trinity, “Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy

whatever I touch or am touched from”. While he himself is part of the New Trinity, as I shall refer to it, his is just that, a part. Whitman recognized that man is god in and of himself. Man exists in the natural earth and the earth as part of the cosmos which exists in and of itself. Through his poetry Whitman effectively creates this new trinity of god, mankind and nature. He uses them interchangeably with each other. By taking ethereal ideas of heavenly bodies and pushing it onto mankind, Whitman was defiantly creating a world where man didn t need to look to the heavens for answers. Whitman felt that that everything around him was for him. The trees, the wind, the sun. Everything that encompassed the idea of being was a part of that being. No part could be greater than the

sum because the parts were constantly working on behalf of the whole. Each ant, each flower, each person had a reason for their existence, “They are but parts, any thing is but a part.” Whitman further extended this idea of the new trinity to that of nature. What had commonly been viewed in a utilitarian manner was now being put on the same level as God. Instead of His creation, nature was an indelible and inseparable part of the reality of existence. Nature existed alongside man and the heavens, not subservient to it. In fact, Whitman believes that the worthwhile man is the kind who spends his time with nature, exploring nature. Nature is seen in just as a divine a sense as the heavens. “The earth never tires, The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is