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Malaka
03-21-2010, 09:48 PM
Hey guys, this was kinda big and also I was kinda tired and lazy to go through and find the HW help thread but anyway, I have a research paper due and I have finished it up. It is is pretty big deal, and I am a little nervous so I just wanted to see some opinions good or bad. By the way it's like 8 pages im going to put it in spoiler form and feel free to just skim through it. Lastly, I am in 10th grade and this is my first ever research paper so there WILL be mistakes I do not expect perfection, but neither should you I am not doing a college paper, but do tell me if you think anything is bordering plagiarism. Ans thanks in advance guys!

Walt Whitman “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”:
The “Closet” Transcendentalist

“Whatever satisfies the soul is the truth”, was once uttered by Walt Whitman himself; there is no better way to understand him and his poems than his own words. To Whitman the soul and mind were much important aspects of life than the empirical. This was a basic concept of the transcendentalist philosophies he so zealously followed. This view of the life and the world can be seen in many of his poems. Since Whitman was a very complex individual there are countless devices that could have provoked his writing of “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, but none more so than transcendentalism.
Calculations, paradigms, diagrams, and equations cannot let you truly see and understand the universe for what it is; only your eyes and your mind can allow you to do that. Thus is the theme Walt Whitman tries to portray in “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”. He captures it vividly while portraying it as a simple man finding more fulfillment by seeing the cosmos for himself than through the facts of the “learn’d astronomer”. For instance, John Waters, in his analysis of “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, for Humboldt State University, reveals that from the beginning of the poem up until the speaker leaves the lecture room the vocabulary used is drab and exact due to his disinterest in the subject, it is only when the speaker has had enough and goes out to see the universe himself do we see a romantic tone appear. This is most apparent in the last line of the poem, when Whitman writes “look’d up in perfect silence at the stars” here we see how the speaker, alone, finds the perfect happiness and understanding of the universe: the simple beauty of it.
The American Civil War was an extremely important time in Walt Whitman’s life. Scott Trudell in Poetry for Students writes that, Whitman was a radical democrat who staunchly supported the Union and the equality of races. Poetry for Students, a book of poem analysis, also acknowledges that the war personally affected Walt; while working as a volunteer in a hospital, Whitman found his brother’s name on a casualty list to find him. The book remits that upon finding this, Whitman set out on an adventure deep into Confederate territory, Virginia, to find his brother. Thankfully, his brother only had minor wounds, but the trek itself allowed Whitman to witness some of the horrors of war first-hand, and probably had a huge influence on the rest of his life (“When I heard” 244).
Amid the bloody conflict that was the Civil War, Walt Whitman began a new collection of poems and expanded upon an old one. During the war he created a collection of poems called Drum Taps, and in 1865 he wrote “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” according to Poetry for Students (“When I Heard” 244). The poetry in Drum Taps mostly alluded to the war in most of its themes. A source from the Gale Virtual Reference library claims that Drum Taps was essential in turning Whitman into the face of American poetry and Romanticism during the time period. However, it also mentions that before Drum Taps Whitman had already established another collection of poems called Leaves of Grass which “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” would eventually be moved to (“When I heard” 243). This is significant because the poem had very little to do with the war as most of the other poems in Drum Taps did and as Trudell puts it,
But the context of the individual poem within Whitman’s unified work is vital to the chord that it strikes with the reader, and it is only from the wayside group of “Leaves of Grass” that “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer” achieves its full resonance as a mystical vision that is nonetheless a very real and specific commentary on the failings of contemporary science (253-254).
With this action towards the end of his life, we can see what type of poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” was to Walt Whitman.
Liberalism is a concept of wanting equality and freedom for all yet unity at the same time. Waters called Walt Whitman, extremely liberal and arguably a transcendentalist, in his analysis. The proof is evident everywhere throughout his life. For instance, his support of the Northern States and his desire for equality in North America can serve as an example. We can even bring his sexuality into the discussion. Betsy Eikkila, in a short biography of Whitman, goes as far as insinuating that Walt Whitman could have very well been homosexual or bisexual, in a time where your sexual orientation was nowhere near as nonchalant as it is today. As we look deeper into Whitman’s personality we can see more clearly that he was one of a kind in his era, and even today would probably be as left as a person could get.
There are so many different themes and philosophies found in “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer” that all push the same end product: Romanticism. The mind, individualism, spiritualism, nature, and astronomy are all themes found in the poem. The one concept they all share is romanticism. The mysterious outdoor setting and fulfilling message of the poem can justify this. If merely one of his poems expresses such rampant romanticism, imagine Whitman’s other poems. Poetry for Students even adds that Whitman is “widely considered America’s greatest romantic poet” (243).
During the time of the Civil War, our country was a nation divided; everyone found themselves supporting a certain side and when the dust settled it was clearly the North versus the South. As for Whitman, the Gale Virtual Reference Library states that he was born several years after the War of 1812 in Long Island, New York. It also claims that by being born around this time, Walt was thrust into a jubilating nation filled with patriotism because they had beaten yet again their nemesis Great Britain. When the political turmoil that led up to the Civil War began; naturally, being from the north and a democrat he supported the Union. Furthermore, Poetry for Students also believes that Whitman aspired to be the voice of the nation and wrote many poems based on this sort of nationalism (“When I heard” 243-245). Trudell even suggests that Whitman’s support of the United States is connected to his belief in the unity of the self. Even though Whitman opposed the south; he was a big supporter of individualism which the rebelling south was full of, and so he sympathized with them in a few of his poems.
The American Civil War would leave a terrible scar on Whitman’s mind. Poetry for Students states that he worked as an army nurse in a hospital in Washington D.C and saw first-hand the malevolent fratricide of a nation imploding upon itself. His own brother was wounded during this time of terror (“When I Heard” 244). After seeing so much death and destruction in person, Whitman was a changed man. For instance, Timothy Jones in, “Science and Art in a Time of War”, states that Whitman was so awestruck with disgust that it changed his entire mentality on life as shown by his later poems.
Prior to the war, Whitman was a man filled with optimism. He embraced the aesthetic and physical. Jones also writes that “…Whitman’s enthusiasm for science is filled with ebullient optimism”. It wasn’t until after the war that Whitman truly began to develop highly transcendental philosophies. In essence, Whitman was a vibrant free spirit filled with the virtuous vigor of life; loving and caring for all having to do with the betterment and preservation of the now, the physical, and the controllable. However, this of course was before the bloodiest war in American history.
The day Fort Sumter took up arms against the U.S was the day Whitman’s life changed forever. Timothy Jones concluded that Whitman was severely perturbed and had rapidly become a vastly different person by war’s end. Undoubtedly, his poems had succumbed to change as well. Jones also notes that Whitman, after being so enthusiastic and filled with life, seemed to have slowed down, taking more time to analyze life and see things first hand. Nonetheless, Whitman still captured beauty in his poems only now in a more subtle way and pressing the point that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. He also thinks Whitman’s views of science changed as well, once embracing it; Walt’s feelings towards it become of fear and abhorrence after seeing what destruction it had caused during the war (Jones). “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer” is an excellent example of his poems’ transition. As Scott Trudell puts it “[the poem] not only does it hesitate to accept science, it warns that science is actually a distraction from the vital spiritual significance to be gained from the stars”. Written right after the war, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” seems to be the apex of Whitman’s discontent with his previous philosophies but also his new found comfort in spiritualism and transcendentalism.
The one philosophy that possibly inspired Whitman more than any other was transcendentalism. Although the article “Whitman and Transcendentalism” reveals that Whitman himself was never a true transcendentalist, it also specifies that most of his writings especially after the Civil War were very much in tune with the philosophy’s beliefs. According to the article on transcendentalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the beliefs are quite simple and similar to those of the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. The philosophy encyclopedia declares that transcendentalism is based heavily on English and German romanticism. The article’s base definition of the group was “Critics of the contemporary society for its unthinking conformity”, as well as always “operating with the sense that a new era is at hand” (“Transcendentalism”). Lastly, from the mouth of famous transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “[transcendentalists] urged that each individual find an original relation to the universe”; which means that everyone must find their own role in existence (qtd “Transcendentalism”).
One of the most influential people in Whitman’s life was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Transcendental Legacy in Literature discloses that Whitman had many conversations and discussions with Emerson. Furthermore, it was written that Walt Whitman was very much inspired by the writing of Emerson and even strove to become the voice of America that Emerson was in search of in his 1843 poem “The Poet”. However, the article also implies that Whitman never became a full-fledged transcendentalist due to his openness about sex and the empirical so he grew farther apart from the group as he grew older (Whitman). Oddly enough, as Whitman grew further apart from the group itself, it seems the more his work became transcendentalist thanks in part to the war which had such a devastating effect on his mentality. It’s also possible his aging made him leave behind his young and arrogant thoughts of the body, though he always remained romantic he now instead chose to dive deep into the old grey ponderings of spirituality, personalism and the mind; that transcendentalists placed so much value on.
Romanticism is on display in almost all parts of “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”. For instance, the setting of the poem may start off in a glum closed-in lecture room but it ends in what Trudell considers the definition of a romantic scene: the great outdoors bursting at the seams with life and with a feeling of mystery conveyed by the thin yet incessant gaze of the moon’s light in the silent dark of night. Another example of romanticism is the tone; the speaker starts off tired and uninterested but when he ventures out into the world on his own, his tone changes right before our eyes. The speaker’s tone becomes filled with awe and satisfaction that it is his own eyes and mind that dissect the universe for what it is not the ramblings of an astronomer or scientist. Whether you interpret it as individualistic, personalistic, spiritualistic, or transcendental, they all are related to romanticism, which Whitman is able to portray convincingly.
In “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer” Whitman was gracefully able to convey many different themes into quite a short poem. John Waters elaborates that Whitman did this in free verse which is something he was well known for. The main theme would be personalism which is what Poetry for Students calls Whitman’s own brand of individualism. On personalism the article explains that the philosophy is one that believes individuals should lead their lives any which way they want to (“When I Heard” 246). This is expressed greatly in Whitman’s words “wander’d off by myself” as shown in Poetry for Students (“When I Heard” 247). That is where transcendentalism, spiritualism, and personalism as well, come in. All these themes are very closely linked. In essence, the message that Whitman tries to bring to light is that universe can only be understood from our own eyes not the facts of another.
All writers must go through criticism good or bad, and Whitman was no exception. Poetry for Students reiterates that though loved by so many during his time, Whitman was hated just as much if not more. The article also proclaims that Leaves of Grass was Whitman’s greatest and most controversial work; even before it he was a very controversial writer but only with his newest collection did he cause a raucous. They also add that some of the negative reactions were so harsh that Whitman even lost his government job at one point because Senator James Harlan discovered a copy of Leaves of Grass and thought it was “obscene” and a Boston District Attorney had it banned when Whitman refused to remove certain material (“When I heard” 249-250). Although he had his detractors, he did have his supporters, Poetry for Students claims that one was John Burroughs who considered Whitman to be a “unique and powerful American Poet” and he also received much support from the transcendental community in Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau (“When I heard” 250).
As many great artists and writers, it wasn’t until after Whitman’s death that he received genuine acclaim for his work. Gale believes that when he died in 1892, then and only then did the negative comments cease and from then on he became known the American Poet, a title he so ardently dreamt of. It also repeats that to this day Whitman is considered the greatest American romantic and the voice of his generation (“When I heard” 251). In “Talking Back to Whitman”, Ed Folsom of the university of Iowa believes Whitman’s themes of sexuality, the body, the mind, and the individual still find empathy in today’s readers, making his work timeless.
Today Whitman’s poetry leaves a lasting impression on us just as it did over a century ago. Folsom compares his influence to that of William Faulkner in South America, being world renowned and having had his poems translated in every major language except for Arabic. Folsom also claims that Whitman’s ideals have been used by various groups including extreme leftists like communists and even as far right as the German Socialist Party (Nazis), but mostly he inspires the writer and the thinker who are in search of beauty, power and knowledge of the self. He also says that Whitman’s ideals can be accepted by anyone who is true to themselves and can see beyond the conforming masses, to see things on their own.
In my eyes, Whitman truly became the poet that Ralph Waldo Emerson was looking for to rise up and be the voice of the nation. Although, he changed much during the course of his life he always stayed true to his philosophies of the self. His work in “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer” was short but sweet, he brilliantly expressed his belief in the individual and maybe unwittingly he showed his belief in transcendentalism. Whitman was the great American Romantic, and although he never was truly a part of transcendentalism he was still the great “closet” transcendentalist. What I see, what I hear, what I feel, and what I think is what I know and “Whatever satisfies the soul is the truth”.

bored of education
03-21-2010, 10:08 PM
Malaka when is this due?

Malaka
03-22-2010, 09:08 AM
Malaka when is this due?

It's due the 25th this is my final draft.

MichaelJordanEberle (sabf)
03-22-2010, 09:12 AM
I am also working on a research paper, due today at 6 pm ET. I'm 35 out of 1500 words through. I feel your pain and will try to give you some tips on yours when I'm done my assignments till next week.

mqtirishfan
03-22-2010, 09:31 AM
Quick correction: "To Whitman the soul and mind were much important aspects of life than the empirical," is missing the concept of more. Incorporate it however you see fit.

CJSchneider
03-22-2010, 11:58 AM
What is your thesis statement? Is it to prove that Whitman was a more of a transcendentalist than a realist? You picked a decent enough work to do so, but if you are looking to prove a point, comparing him to a known realist, say... Mark Twain may be a good thing to include.

Malaka
03-22-2010, 05:56 PM
What is your thesis statement? Is it to prove that Whitman was a more of a transcendentalist than a realist? You picked a decent enough work to do so, but if you are looking to prove a point, comparing him to a known realist, say... Mark Twain may be a good thing to include.

My goal or thesis is to show what influenced Walt Whitman to write "When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer".

I felt transcendentalism did this best, so I put emphasis on it, my teacher actually graded the intro to make sure things were going smoothly for everybody and I got an A (I guess she missed the more in the sentence too, but thanks mqtirishfan I will fix it) so more or less everything but the intro needs some going over, mostly for simple mistakes like plagiarism.

I know plagiarism is not a simple mistake but I mean ignorant plagiarism, like something stupid that I forgot to cite.

Please help me if you have the time CJ I know you're a teacher I'd really appreciate and value your analysis. (And you too SABF)

BaLLiN
03-22-2010, 06:25 PM
i gotz a research paper due next week, my teacher is ********, she essentially told us to write a persuasive essay.

CJSchneider
03-22-2010, 07:39 PM
Do not confuse plagarism with improper citing. At the HS level I doubt your teacher will gig you on this one. As far as Whatman's influences, allow me to expand. For as far as real influences, no doubt there were a multitude of astrological discoveries, mostly asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, during the 1860's - Neptune having been discovered in 1849. You are by no means wrong that this poem has a flare for the "transcendentalist" inside Whitman. More than anything, he was a realist and a romanticist. His description of the "mystical moist night air" gives some evidence of this; as if there is something almost "magical" in the natural world and discovery there in. As for stylistic influences, saying transcendentalism was it is by no means wrong. Let me be very clear about that. You provide a wealth of information and it shows you did your research. Your best point being "Lastly, from the mouth of famous transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “[transcendentalists] urged that each individual find an original relation to the universe”; which means that everyone must find their own role in existence (qtd “Transcendentalism”). "
What I think may help even more may be when you compare him tio some contemporary realists such as Mark Twain and Stephen Crane. A statement and/or small examination juxtapositioning that Whitman's poem seems to express an isolated personal opinion about established academia as opposed to a general way of life may be what's missing in order to fortify your paper's thesis statement.

Malaka
03-22-2010, 07:58 PM
Do not confuse plagarism with improper citing. At the HS level I doubt your teacher will gig you on this one. As far as Whatman's influences, allow me to expand. For as far as real influences, no doubt there were a multitude of astrological discoveries, mostly asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, during the 1860's - Neptune having been discovered in 1849. You are by no means wrong that this poem has a flare for the "transcendentalist" inside Whitman. More than anything, he was a realist and a romanticist. His description of the "mystical moist night air" gives some evidence of this; as if there is something almost "magical" in the natural world and discovery there in. As for stylistic influences, saying transcendentalism was it is by no means wrong. Let me be very clear about that. You provide a wealth of information and it shows you did your research. Your best point being "Lastly, from the mouth of famous transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “[transcendentalists] urged that each individual find an original relation to the universe”; which means that everyone must find their own role in existence (qtd “Transcendentalism”). "
What I think may help even more may be when you compare him tio some contemporary realists such as Mark Twain and Stephen Crane. A statement and/or small examination juxtapositioning that Whitman's poem seems to express an isolated personal opinion about established academia as opposed to a general way of life may be what's missing in order to fortify your paper's thesis statement.

Very interesting point CJ, I hope I can find a way too add that comparison in somehow, I might have to dig up some new sources though. I thought this particular poem showed the transcendental side of Whitman which in its own right is a "romantic" philosophy. This is why I put the Closet Transcendentalist as my title, although he was never a true transcendentalist its obvious he was at the very least influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson who was a transcendentalist. I actually hoped for a better word than closet because I thought she might get mad seeing as Whitman has been thought to be *** or bisexual.

Aside from that, honestly I messed up my rough draft and was "plagiarized" because I didn't cite enough, things like his birthday andmea D for the rough draft only because of that, she didn't read the thing just looked over works cited and such. She told me she knew I was a good student and made an honest mistake and promised that if I had a killer paper she'd change the grade to an A. Honestly, as it stands do you think the work I have done is deserving?

CJSchneider
03-22-2010, 08:08 PM
I actually hoped for a better word than closet because I thought she might get mad seeing as Whitman has been thought to be *** or bisexual.

Honestly, as it stands do you think the work I have done is deserving?

I like the title. As far as a grade that is dependent on what ever grading criterea your teacher is using. As I said in the rep comment, I. for one, like your paper.

Malaka
03-22-2010, 08:18 PM
I like the title. As far as a grade that is dependent on what ever grading criterea your teacher is using. As I said in the rep comment, I. for one, like your paper.

Well I must thank you again CJ you have been a huge help and have calmed my nerves a bit. Lastly, I'll leave you with one more question: throughout the poem was there anywhere that might need citing and I forgot, I have a feeling she will ride me hard for it.

CJSchneider
03-22-2010, 08:30 PM
Not that I saw. I love this line of your paper by the way. It shows you "get it".

"here we see how the speaker, alone, finds the perfect happiness and understanding of the universe: the simple beauty of it."

I can hear it being said by the late Carl Sagan himself.

The_Dude
03-22-2010, 08:33 PM
damn cj, you are one helluva guy.... i struggle to correct stuff at work much less during my online "social life". :D

Malaka
03-22-2010, 08:38 PM
Not that I saw. I love this line of your paper by the way. It shows you "get it".

"here we see how the speaker, alone, finds the perfect happiness and understanding of the universe: the simple beauty of it."

I can hear it being said by the late Carl Sagan himself.

Well thank you very much CJ :D I hope my teacher feels the same way.

CJSchneider
03-22-2010, 08:42 PM
damn cj, you are one helluva guy.... i struggle to correct stuff at work much less during my online "social life". :D

I do what I can.