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Specters of DemocracyBlackness and the Aesthetics of Politics in the Antebellum U.S.$
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Ivy G. Wilson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337372.001.0001

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Black and Tan Fantasy

Black and Tan Fantasy

Walt Whitman, African Americans, and Sounding the Nation

(p.80) 4 Black and Tan Fantasy
Specters of Democracy

Ivy G. Wilson

Oxford University Press

By asking what happens to our understanding of Walt Whitman and his cultural project if we turn to the question of sound, this chapter considers the nuances, inflections, tenor, idiosyncrasies, and cadences of his poetry to disclose a particular rhetoric that is attempting to constitute itself as a national idiom. Examining three different emanations of sound in Whitman's poetry—his use of anaphora; his reference to the Yankee fife; and his staging of black dialect—the chapter contends that Whitman uses different sonic forms in Leaves of Grass to enunciate a person's relationship to the nation. It argues that Whitman's preoccupation with the audible—as the most basic unit of the sonic field upon which the poems and songs are built—shapes his poetics and politics of Leaves of Grass.

Keywords:   sound, Walt Whitman, autochthonic song, audible, sonic productions, social meanings, emanations of sound, duet, contrapuntal exchange, national idiom

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