In his poetry Walt 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, for it places the poet securely within the political and cultural context of his age.
Combing through the full range of Whitman's writing, David Reynolds shows how Whitman gathered inspiration from every stratum of nineteenth-century American life: the convulsions of slavery and depression; the raffish dandyism of the Bowery "b'hoys"; the exuberant rhetoric of actors, orators, and divines. We see how Whitman reconciled his own sexuality with contemporary social mores and how his energetic courtship of the public presaged the vogues of advertising and celebrity. Brilliantly researched, captivatingly told, Walt Whitman's America is a triumphant work of scholarship that breathes new life into the biographical genre.
David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center and Baruch College of the City University of New York. He is the author of Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography, winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Ambassador Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books include Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville (winner of the Christian Gauss Award and Honorable Mention for the John Hope Franklin Prize), Whitman: A Very Short Introduction, George Lippard, and Faith in Fiction: The Emergence of Religious Literature in America. He is the editor of A Historical Guide to Walt Whitman, George Lippard, Prophet of Protest: Writings of an American Radical, 1822-1854, and Lippard’s The Quaker City; or, The Monks of Monk Hall by George Lippard. He is the coeditor of The Serpent in the Cup: Temperance in American Literature and George Thompson’s “Venus in Boston” and Other Tales of Nineteenth-Century City Life.
David Reynolds was born and raised in Barrington, Rhode Island. He earned the B.A. at Amherst College and the Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. He is married to the author and professor Suzanne Nalbantian. They live in Old Westbury and Sagaponack, New York. They have a daughter, Aline Reynolds, who attends Barnard College.
"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
"Exhaustive...fascinating...an evocative portrait." --Washington Post Book World
"Reynolds stands alone in showing, almost day by day, the finest roots of Whitman's genius...His scholarship lights Whitman from within." --Philadelphia Inquirer
WINNER Bancroft Prize WINNER 1996 Ambassador Book Award NOMINEE National Book Critics Circle Awards