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Winner of the Bancroft Prize
Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award
In his poetry Whitman set out to encompass all of America and in so doing heal its deepening divisions. This magisterial biography demonstrates the epic scale of his achievement, as well as the dreams and anxieties that impelled it, as it places the poet securely within the political and cultural context of his age. Examining the full range of Whitman's writing, Reynolds shows how Whitman gathered inspiration from every stratum of nineteenth-century American life, reconciling his own sexuality with contemporary social mores, and how his energetic courtship of the public presaged the vogues of advertising and celebrity. Brilliantly researched and captivatingly told, Walt Whitman's America is a triumphant work of scholarship that breathes new life into the biographical genre.
"Destined to become a classic of American cultural and historical study.... Unrivaled as the finest cultural history of Whitman and his times. It makes a powerful contribution to our understanding of the man and the myth."—Mason I. Lowance, Jr., University of Massachusetts, Amherst
"A major contribution to American cultural history, deep in its research, exact in its prose, and compelling in its interpretations."—Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
"Remarkably informative. . . . I marked on page after page things about Whitman and his America I never knew before."—Alfred Kazin, The New York Times Book Review