Walt Whitman and Expansionary Idealism

Supplementary Files

Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances


Walt Whitman

How to Cite

Rizzo, B. J. (2012). Walt Whitman and Expansionary Idealism. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, 8. https://doi.org/10.15695/vurj.v8i0.3526


Most literary criticisms of Calamus, often read as Walt Whitman’s most obvious display of homoeroticism, bring readers to a rather shallow conclusion — the restorative, transcendental power of personal, visceral connections that bridge the gaps between human beings dwarfs any inner turmoil resulting from uncertainties of life and pretenses of society. This shoddy analysis runs a delicate acknowledgement of homosexual love though the core vein of Whitman’s work. Brian J. Rizzo, a sophomore in the Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science, argues that these readings are myopic and limit Whitman to the realm of theory, failing to acknowledge the true purpose of his writing. Rizzo continues, maintaing that Whitman dismisses society’s narrow schemas of Americanism and homosexuality, renounces the singularity of these terms, and seeks to transition from American exclusivity to American inclusivity. Embarking on a rhetorical examination and eventual redefinition of the very terms Americanism and homosexuality, Walt Whitman expands America into a society where there are multiple normalities — both of sexuality and of personhood — as modes of human existence.