Who Did Walt Whitman Influence

Walt Whitman has been acknowledged over the years as a major influence in literature and culture. His seminal work ‘Leaves of Grass’, with its unconventional and poetic style, was a major influence on American literature of its time. At the same time, Whitman has been credited with influencing a range of figures in the arts, from musicians to visual artists, and has left a lasting legacy that has inspired countless others.

Whitman’s influence is undeniable, but exactly who he has influenced and how is harder to pinpoint. Prominent figures from culture, literature and the arts have been greatly impacted by Whitman, and a number of famous individuals have sought to emulate or mimic the style of his works. From the late nineteenth century onwards, as Whitman’s influence spread across the literary world, famous people have been quick to acknowledge it.

One of Whitman’s most prominent followers was the poet and Bohemian icon Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg was famously inspired by Whitman’s poetic style and was known to have kept a copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ in his pocket. Ginsberg’s seminal poem ‘Howl’ was heavily influenced by Whitman, employing some of the same poetic elements. Other poets such as Langston Hughes and Robert Lowell admitted to being strongly influenced by Whitman. Hughes famously wrote that ‘ Whitman was more than a teacher to me. He was my guide and my inspiration.’

The extent of Whitman’s influence is not limited to poets and writers. Filmmakers such as John Huston and Ingmar Bergman have also been impacted by him, with elements of his work appearing in their films. Whitman’s influence can also be seen in the visual arts. Painters such as Emil Nolde, Wyndham Lewis and Mark Rothko have all been influenced by his poetic style and recurrent themes.

Whitman is also known to have impacted figures from music and popular culture. The Canadian rock band Rush have been greatly inspired by his work, in particular the song ‘Leaves of Grass’, which incorporates a line from Whitman’s famous work. Other musicians such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Tom Waits have also been clearly influenced by his work.

Whitman’s influence has, in many ways, become part of the American intellectual tradition and has had a lasting legacy on culture and the arts. He will continue to be an inspiration to many and his legacy will no doubt be seen in the works of future generations of writers, musicians, filmmakers and visual artists.

American intellectuals

Walt Whitman’s influence has included a number of famous American intellectuals, who have been profoundly impacted by the poet’s works. Prominent figures like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were among the first to recognize Whitman’s revolutionary poetry. Thoreau commented that he had ‘rarely seen anything” comparable to Whitman, while Emerson famously declared that he was ‘the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America had yet produced.’

The influence of Whitman’s poetry on American thinkers was further reflected in the works and writings of philosophers such as William James and John Dewey. Both men wrote extensively on the impact of Whitman’s works, particularly “Leaves of Grass”, and what it meant for American thought. Dewey in particular, who wrote in his book “Democracy and Education” that Whitman was “the greatest of all American prophets”, was greatly influenced by the poet.

Whitman also impacted legendary authors such as Ernest Hemingway, who famously said that he was “the most important influence in literature for all young writers.” Hemingway’s novels display a great likeness to Whitman’s works, with a similar style and structure, as well as recurrent themes. Whitman’s influence can also be seen in the works of authors such as Theodore Dreiser and William Faulkner, who were both heavily inspired by the poet.

The impact of Walt Whitman’s works on American intellectuals since the late 19th century cannot be underestimated. His writings have left a lasting legacy that continues to shape contemporary American thought.

Influence on other nations

Walt Whitman’s influence has not been limited to American thinkers and writers. His works have also inspired numerous authors, poets and thinkers from around the world. From Europe to South America, Whitman’s poetry has been a source of inspiration to many.

One of Whitman’s most famous foreign followers was the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore was deeply influenced by Whitman’s poetic works and declared him “the biggest democracy-lover in the world”. Tagore’s works, including the song-cycle “Gitanjali”, was heavily impacted by the poet and expressed admiration for Whitman’s revolutionary style.

In Latin America, figures like Rubén Darío and Octavio Paz are known to be heavily influenced by Whitman’s works. In particular, Paz wrote extensively of the poet’s influence with his book “Walt Whitman: The Poet of the New America”. Over in Europe, poets like Richard Dehmel, Gerhart Hauptmann and Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote of their admiration of Whitman, while the French poet Arthur Rimbaud incorporated elements of the poet’s style into his own works.

Although Whitman’s existance and works were little known outside of America during his lifetime, his influence eventually spread across the globe, inspiring generations of thinkers, authors and poets around the world.

Democracy and influence on politics

Walt Whitman’s influence on questions of democracy and politics has been widely acknowledged. His writing have had an immense impact on President Abraham Lincoln, who was famously known to keep a copy of “Leaves of Grass” in his pocket during the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman both publicly declared their admiration for Whitman, with the latter calling the poet “the Father of Modern Democracy.”

The influence of Whitman’s work on American politics can be seen in the writings of politicians such as Eugene Debs, who cited Whitman as one of his greatest influences in his 1908 campaign speech. Modern figures such as Edward Kennedy and Jimmy Carter also noted the poet’s influence in their own works.

Modern scholars such as Lawrence Buell and George Hutchinson have also written extensively of the poet’s influence on democracy and politics. Buell claimed that Whitman’s work cast “long shadows over twentieth-century liberalism” and was a major influence in shifting American attitudes towards democracy, while Hutchinson argued that the poet had a significant influence in the development of modern American politics.

Walt Whitman’s influence on democracy and politics is undeniable and will no doubt continue to be felt for generations to come.

Influence on civil rights movement

Walt Whitman’s influence on the civil rights movement can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, when he wrote passionately of the need for equality and justice. The poet’s writings on the subject can be seen in poems such as “To You” and “A Song of Joys”, in which Whitman criticized the racial divisions of his time and called for an end to slavery.

The poet’s influence in the civil rights movement can be seen in the works of figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., who cited Whitman’s poetry in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The influence can also be seen in the writings of James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, both of whom incorporated aspects of Whitman’s style in their works.

Modern scholars such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Arnold Rampersad have also acknowledged Whitman’s influence in the civil rights movement, emphasizing how the poet’s works laid the foundation for the movement. In particular, Rampersad argued that the poet’s works were a major influence in bringing to light the various injustices of American society at the time, as well as in helping to shape the idea of equality and justice.

The influence of Walt Whitman’s works on the civil rights movement can not be omitted, and is something that continues to be felt today.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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