The editors' introduction to Whitman begins by comparing him to Rousseau. Discuss parallels between Confessions and Song of Myself.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most striking similarity between both works is their emphasis on the personal.  Whitman is unabashed about his use of the subjective.  Rousseau's work is nothing but subjective.  Yet, I think that outside of this, there are some significant points of divergence.  Rousseau's exploration of the subjective is not done to immediately forget some social connection or weave a social fabric with others.  Rather, Rousseau simply sought to present himself with totality to all.  Whitman's use of the subjective is actually much more socially driven.  He seems to be using the subjective as a manner by which there can be a sense of the universal embraced and brought out.  It is here in which individuals can see the exploration of the subjective as a means to embrace the greater social democratic fabric that guides individuals and enables them to see themselves as something larger than simply the subjective.  In seeking to broaden the subjective experience into a democratic one, there is a definite difference from Rousseau. Whitman and Rousseau do see their own subjective as vitally important, but do so for different reasons.